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Suffering and the Goodness of God on Trackback Thursday

9781581348590This week’s trackback Thursday is Suffering and the Goodness of God—from Crossway’s Theology in Community Series.

When believers face suffering and hardships, the question they most often ask is, Why? Editors Morgan and Peterson offer biblical truths about suffering and challenge believers to promote justice in the harsh, unsure world, that we might emulate God’s grace as we minister to those who are suffering.

A reminder of how Trackback Thursday works: Simply link to the blog post from your blog, leave a comment on Crossway’s Facebook Page, or re-tweet Trackback Thursday on Twitter @Crosswaybooks. Winners are picked on Friday morning.

THINGS THAT DON’T HELP
What not to say to those who are suffering

Excerpt modified from chapter 10 by John Feinberg:

  • There must be some great sin you committed; otherwise this wouldn’t be happening to you. This was the reaction of many of Job’s miserable comforters. Scripture is clear that sometimes the ungodly prosper and the righteous suffer. The truth is that in most instances we don’t really know whether someone suffers as a righteous person or as a sinner.
  • Focus on the loss of things rather than on the loss of people. People could miss the opportunity to minister in times of crisis and hinder rather than helping the healing process.
  • People try to comfort us by convincing us that what has happened spares us from other problems.
  • I know how must feel at a time like this. One problem is that it isn’t true and the sufferer knows it. Hence it sounds phony when you say it. Even if you think you know how I feel and even if the same thing happened to you, you don’t. Now, it may be, especially if something similar has happened to you, that you tell me this because you think I might be encouraged by seeing that others have suffered greatly and yet have survived it. What helps is not knowing you feel like I do, but knowing that you care.
January 21, 2010 | Posted in: Books,Loving Others,Suffering | Author: Crossway Staff @ 7:51 am | (2) Comments »

God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering

9781433511851“It is overwhelming to consider the suffering of those in Haiti today and in the days to come—those suffering painful injury with little care available, those sorrowful over the death of someone they love, those suffering the dismal living conditions of Haiti made even worse by the results of the earthquake,” expresses Nancy Guthrie. “To suggest that Christ is sovereign over this, and can be a source of comfort to the thousands who are hurting in this seems strange to the world. But it is true.”

Guthrie is editor of a new book releasing from Crossway in February, Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering. Included in this compilation are these thoughts from Jonathan Edwards, never more true or more needed than now:
(*Learn more about Nancy Guthrie’s story and ministry here and here).

There is in Christ rest for God’s people, when exercised with afflictions. If a person labour under great bodily weakness, or under some disease that causes frequent and strong pains, such things will tire out so feeble a creature as man. It may to such an one be a comfort and an effectual support to think, that he has a Mediator, who knows by experience what pain is; who by his pain has purchased eternal ease and pleasure for him; and who will make his brief sufferings to work out a far more exceeding delight, to be bestowed when he shall rest from his labours and sorrows.

If a person be brought into great straits as to outward subsistence, and poverty brings abundance of difficulties and extremities; yet it may be a supporting, refreshing consideration to such an one to think, that he has a compassionate Savior, who when upon earth, was so poor that he had nowhere to lay his head, and who became poor to make him rich, and purchased for him durable riches, and will make his poverty work out an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

If God in his providence calls his people to mourn over lost relations, and if he repeats his stroke and takes away one after another of those that were dear to him; it is a supporting, refreshing consideration to think, that Christ has declared that he will be in stead of all relations unto those who trust in him. They are as his mother, and sister, and brother; he has taken them into a very near relation to himself: and in every other afflictive providence, it is a great comfort to a believing soul to think that he has an intercessor with God, that by him he can have access with confidence to the throne of grace, and that in Christ we have so many great and precious promises, that all things shall work together for good, and shall issue in eternal blessedness. God’s people, whenever they are scorched by afflications as by hot sun-beams, may resort to him, who is a shadow of a great rock, and be effectually sheltered, and sweetly refreshed.

Jonathan Edwards: Christ is a Sufficient Remedy from Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering
January 14, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,Life & Doctrine,Suffering,The Christian Life,Trials & Suffering | Author: Crossway Staff @ 2:15 pm | 0 Comments »

Trackback Thursday on Suffering (Available for Free on Kindle)

1581348096Why does suffering exist? How does it advance the mission of the church? How does God’s grace enter suffering? What is the role of hope when things look utterly hopeless?

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God is written to the white-robed army of martyrs “…until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete.” Editors John Piper and Justin Taylor along with a number of contributors deal with the issue of human suffering as it relates to God’s sovereignty.

Here’s a reminder of how the contest part works:  Simply link to the blog post from your blog, leave a comment on Crossway’s Facebook Page, or re-tweet Trackback Thursday on Twitter @Crosswaybooks. There will be three winners picked on Friday morning, one drawn from each medium. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God is also available for free this month on the Kindle.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find:

“But when God chooses to overcome our rebellion and Satan’s resistance, nothing can stop him. And when God overcomes him and us, we repent and Satan’s power is broken. Here it is in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.” (Piper, 28).

“The mystery of why God has ordained the evils he has is as deep as the mystery of the evils in our hearts. And just as only God can plumb the depths of our hearts, so only God knows how the hurts we do to each other and to ourselves figure into his loving cure of us who shelter ourselves under the blood and righteousness of his Son.” (Talbot, 77).

“In the life and death of Jesus Christ, suffering finds its ultimate purpose and ultimate explanation: suffering exists so God might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering. Everything—everything—that Christ accomplished for us sinners he accomplished by suffering. Everything we will ever enjoy will come to us because of suffering.” (Piper, 87).

“If we are going to emulate our Savior, we have to identify with the people to whom we take his good news. I don’t advocate that we look for suffering; life brings enough on its own. But what I do advocate is that suffering is an important prerequisite to ministering to hurting people. Christ took on our likeness and subjected himself to the suffering that plagues us.” (Saint, 121).

“So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is Why me? If all that God promises only comes true, then why not me?” (Powlison, 172-173).

“Our fears, anger, doubts, and everything else we feel in our pain don’t make God nervous or uncomfortable with us. God still loves us, and he is still for us.” (Shramek, 189).

August 13, 2009 | Posted in: Books,Suffering,The Sovereignty of God | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:39 am | 1 Comment »

An Interview with Ajith Fernando

9781581348880-11Join us as Ajith Fernando discusses A Call to Joy & Pain, a 2008 Christianity Today Book Award winner in the category of Church/Pastoral Leadership.

This book’s topic and title speak to what you call “one of the paradoxes of Christianity.” Why not just write about joy or suffering separately?

It is not possible to know real joy unless we also associate it with one of the indispensable features of life—suffering and frustration. The happiest people in the world are not those who have no suffering, but those who are not afraid of suffering—those who know that they can experience what one writer calls “winter sunshine.”

Your ministry has included grassroots work with the poor and with drug addicts and counselors—all in the warring country of Sri Lanka. How has exposure to such human devastation influenced your perspective on both joy and suffering?

We have had some really difficult times in our country. I have had many opportunities to leave Sri Lanka over the years, but my wife and I felt convinced that God had called us to live and work and die in Sri Lanka. Many of our friends have left because of their children. During one of the bleakest times in Sri Lanka we asked, “What is it that would make staying in Sri Lanka worthwhile for our children?” We decided that it would be a happy home. So we set about to have a happy home amidst all of the strains of life and ministry. I believe our children do not resent the fact that we stayed on in Sri Lanka. In fact, both of them have responded to the call to ministry in Sri Lanka.

You say that one of the weaknesses of the church and individual Christians is “the lack of a theology of suffering.” What are the greatest dangers when we don’t have such a theology, and how does it affect us?

We will not have the ability to face suffering biblically if we do not have a theology of suffering. Because of their problems, some move away from their call and end up missing God’s best for them. Others remain in their place of suffering, but do so with anger, bitterness, deep discouragement, or even depression. A theology of suffering provides a base upon which we can build healthy attitudes toward difficult circumstances, so that we can always live joyfully.

You mention wanting to help people develop an approach to life that “refuses to look upon suffering as a big deal.” How can this be possible when we inherently view suffering as being a very big deal?

If we realize the great wealth of a life of godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:16) and the great wealth of our riches in Christ, then we are able to put suffering in perspective and look at it in relation to the greatest things in life. Then the sting of suffering is reduced. Our theology tells us that even suffering will work out for our good (Rom. 8:28). We realize that suffering is less significant than the love of God for us and in us (Rom. 8:31-38) and the deep joy of the Lord in us arising from the fact that God loves (1 John 3:1) and delights in us (Zeph. 3:17).

So suffering is a reality that we need to come to grips with. In my book, I recommend the discipline of lament as a way of coming to grips with suffering. The joy of the Lord is greater than suffering because the Lord is greater than suffering.

What strikes you about Jesus as our model of this call to joy and suffering?

He was such a liberated person. He was afraid of no one! He was so confident as he rode along to Jerusalem knowing that it would lead to his death. Yet he was so human—lamenting, weeping, yearning in prayer for weaker people, and then even asking that the cup would pass away. Then we find him with his good friends just before experiencing the greatest agony that any human could face—the agony of bearing on his sinlessly pure self the sins of the world. And what does he tell his disciples? “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). How on earth could we have fullness of joy by taking on the joy of one who was just about to suffer more than anyone has suffered in history? That was Jesus—one who really knew the meaning of joy!

What is your hope for readers of this book?

I hope that they will be challenged to follow Christ in more radical obedience and service, knowing that the inevitable suffering they will encounter will not take away their happiness. I hope they will realize that the things that give true happiness are not the things that the world associates with happiness. Many people have rejected the gospel in the west and many don’t know about the gospel in the east. In both the east and west, people would be truly challenged by the winsome witness of joyous Christians who adopt a servant lifestyle in order to love their neighbors. It is the joy of the Lord that gives strength for such a lifestyle (Neh. 8:10). I hope my readers discover this strength afresh.

Key Crossway Titles for ETS

Many Crossway authors and staff members are attending the ETS meeting mentioned in the previous post. We always look forward to this annual opportunity to gather with and learn from evangelicalism’s best scholars, and we can’t help but thank God for the contributions that Crossway authors are making in this forum. Here’s a sampling of the authors and titles that we are blessed to offer to ETS members:
The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority

G. K. Beale

Greg Beale’s sturdy, convincing, and courageous defense of the accuracy and inerrancy of Scripture bolsters our assurance that God’s Word is true. Praise God for this scholarly and spirited defense of the truth of Scripture.”
Thomas R. Schreiner,
James Buchanan Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“At last, a leading biblical scholar has produced a full-blown defense of biblical inerrancy in a user-friendly style. This is just what is needed in the current debate, and Beale has provided it magnificently.”
Gerald Bray, Research Professor, Beeson Divinity School

Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?

Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger

“Dr. Köstenberger gives us a here a solid, sad, scrupulously fair case study of ideology deflecting exegesis over an entire generation. She shows conclusively that the attempts of a long series of scholars to find Jesus affirming women’s leadership in some way have entirely failed. Surely this is an important cautionary tale for our times.”
J. I. Packer,
Professor of Theology, Regent College

“Margaret Köstenberger succeeds at bringing historical perspective to bear on feminist understanding of Scripture and Christ. Her analyses of radical, reformist, and evangelical wings of this movement are methodical, clear, thorough, and mature. Her findings are highly significant. They force the question: Is Jesus Lord over Western culture’s ideologies or their servant? Today a new generation stands poised to replace the aging leaders who ushered feminism into our churches. Köstenberger points the way to honor their concerns while avoiding their unjustified concessions.”
Robert W. Yarbrough, Associate Professor of New Testament and New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Is Rome the True Church? A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim

Norman L. Geisler and Joshua M. Betancourt

“While not declaring the Roman Catholic Church apostate, Norman Geisler and Joshua Betancourt address the doctrines that evangelicals find problematic in Catholicism. The work is irenic in tone, meticulous in examination, and extensive in sourcing and foot noting. Highly recommended.”
Ralph E. MacKenzie, co-author, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences; Director, San Diego Christian Forum

Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (3rd Edition)

William Lane Craig

“It is hard to overstate the impact that William Lane Craig has had for the cause of Christ. He is simply the finest Christian apologist of the last half century and his academic work justifies ranking him among the top 1 percent of practicing philosophers in the Western world. Besides that, he is a winsome ambassador for Christ, an exceptional debater, and a man with the heart of an evangelist. I know him well and can say that he lives a life of integrity and lives out what he believes. I do not know of a single thinker who has done more to raise the bar of Christian scholarship in our generation than Craig. He is one of a kind and I thank God for his life and work.”
J. P. Moreland
, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

“Craig’s work is philosophically and theologically first rate, though accessible to the educated layman. All Christians—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—can gain so much from reading and mastering Craig’s 3rd edition of Reasonable Faith.”
Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University; Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow (2008-2009), University of Notre Dame

Suffering and the Goodness of God

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, editors

“The skeptic chides: ‘If God is good, he is not God; if God is God, he is not good.’ With Scripture to answer the pain of real life questions, and with real life pain to question Scripture, these theologians address the hardest questions with honesty, tenderness, and deep truth.”
Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Seminary

“Those who read this book will thank the gifted team of authors for their careful biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical engagement with the problem of suffering and evil. This timely book addresses these crucial and challenging issues with clarity, conviction, and pastoral sensitivity. Readers will be strengthened, edified, and encouraged. I highly recommend this most important book.”
David S. Dockery, President, Union University

For more information on these titles, visit Crossway’s booth at ETS or www.crossway.org.

November 19, 2008 | Posted in: Apologetics,Faith,Inspiration & Inerrancy of Scripture,Suffering,Theology,Women, Wives, Mothers | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:54 am | 0 Comments »