Farquhar's Midweek Message 7th April 2021
Relying on the One who raises the dead
Midweek Message – 7 April 2021
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!I enjoyed the chance this past Sunday to share again the events of that first Easter morning. While I knelt beside that empty cave on the farm I loved gripping those rocks and thinking of how they were sitting there at the very same time as God the Son walked this earth as a man. Those rocks are as real as those of the tomb where they laid Jesus dead. And Jesus’ resurrected body was no less real either - able to be seen and touched.
Once we grasp that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a historical event (not just a nice metaphor, as some would like to portray it), then we realise we’re dealing with a God who has the power to raise the dead, a Saviour whose every word has been vindicated and who longs to unite us to himself in his resurrection life! This should impact every area of our lives. One of those areas is that of suffering.
I know we’ve just finished 4 weeks of reading Jeremy Marshall’s terrific booklet, Hope in the Face of Suffering, but I’m not sure we can ever have too much teaching on how to faithfully respond to and endure suffering. So, I hope you’ll allow me to share something from Scripture that I’ve found helpful to me in recent weeks. It’s what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:
(v8) We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. (v9) Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
We don’t know exactly what hardships and pressures Paul is specifically referring to. They were certainly intense to the point where he ‘despaired even of life’ (v8c). He did say in his first letter that in Ephesus he ‘fought wild beasts’ (1 Cor 15:32) so that may have been what he was referring to. But we know too that he faced real hostility from many different groups as he proclaimed the news of the risen Christ in that city for two years. He also suffered from a chronic health condition. Furthermore, he taught constantly and must have been pastoring new believers and on top of all that making tents as a source of income. So there are many things that could have led him to feel ‘under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure (v8b)’.
Paul says ‘Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.’ (v9a). So why would a loving God allow one of his faithful followers to go through these sufferings and the associated heart-wilting experiences of fear and despair?
Well Paul discovered the answer to that question: ‘But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead’ (v9b).
He recognised that God was using these sufferings to stop him relying on himself and to give him an ever-greater trust in God. As Jonathan Lamb says in his book, Strength in Weakness:
‘In desperate times we learn to hold him fast. God’s purpose in our lives is not to bypass difficulties but to transform them. He does not magically remove us from the pressures, but instead uses those very events to expose our complete inadequacy and demonstrate his complete reliability. If we fail to learn these lessons, then the real tragedy of Christian suffering is the wasted opportunity.’
Whatever suffering you or I are going through right now, or will face in the future, it is a God-given opportunity for us to turn from our self-reliance and our need to be in control and to hand over everything to the powerful and compassionate One who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. Easier said than done, I know! But by faith we’re united to Christ in his resurrection power and are given the Spirit who enables us daily to rely on God not ourselves.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Love to you as we seek to live in the light of the resurrection,
Farquhar's Midweek message 17 Mar 21 'Lifting up our eyes'
Lifting up our eyes in suffering
Midweek Message – 17 March 2021
(1) that ‘Christians should expect to suffer’ (p22); all Christians will find a ‘crook in their lot’ (p18).
(2) when we do suffer we can be sure that God is still on the throne (p20) and ‘uses our crooks to draw us to Himself’ (p18).
When we grasp these two truths, then life for Jesus-followers (whatever our age) is no longer a game of who can dodge-the-suffering, but involves preparing our hearts for suffering; persevering and praising God as we suffer; and encouraging our fellow-believers as they go through suffering.
I have a Beyond Suffering Bible with notes and devotions written by Joni & Friends and I came across something in it this week that amplified this hard but glorious truth: that suffering helps us turn our eyes away from the temporary things of earth and to God and our eternal hope. I attach her message below for your encouragement.
Whatever we’re going through today, may we set our minds on things above.
What God Wants
by Joni Eareckson Tada
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."
This is what God wants -- hearts burning with a passion for future things, on fire for kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants His people aflame with His hope, a "consider it a pure joy" outlook which affects the way we live on earth. God wants us to be "cities on a hill" and "lights on a lamp stand" so that everyone around us will be encouraged to look heavenward (Matthew 5:14-15).
A perspective like this doesn't happen without suffering. It is affliction which fuels the furnace of heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a buy-and-sell agreement -- place your sins on the counter and get an asbestos-lined soul. Once that's taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual -- dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.
But suffering obliterates such preoccupation with earthly things. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, "Look this way!" Once heaven has our attention, earth's pleasures begin to pale in comparison.
What has suffering taken away from you? What has it diminished or robbed? Don't allow your heart to dwell on earthly disappointments. God permits suffering to draw our attention on heaven where that which was lost -- and more -- shall be restored. Suffering forces us to look forward to the day when God will close the curtain on all disease, death, sorrow and pain. Until then, we have work to do! John 9:4 says, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work."
Lord of heaven, turn my heart toward You this day. I set my mind right now on things above.