Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Part 2)

walking-with-god-through-pain-suffering-social-mediaIn the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.

God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”

God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.

God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.

Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.


Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Part 1)

walking-with-god-through-pain-suffering-social-mediaStarting with this post I will be sharing a four part series on walking with God through pain & suffering. Two things prompted this series of posts. First, Tim Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. I read that book recently during a season when my wife and I were walking through a very painful time in our life and marriage. Second, at the time of writing this series of posts I am teaching a series by the same title to our middle and high school students. I’m taking those sermons and condensing them into a series of posts. I hope you find them encouraging and challenging as you walk with God through the pain and suffering this life throws at you.

In this first post I want to share three truths Christianity gives us in regards to pain and suffering. All religions say something about pain and suffering. However, Christianity gives the best answer and the most hope in times of pain and suffering.

Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering. Christianity doesn’t ignore, explain away, or excuse pain and suffering. In fact, Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering as something we all experience in this fallen world. Job 14:1 says, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” Even Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33 NLT). Throughout the Bible we encounter men and women who went through tremendous pain and suffering. The Bible doesn’t skip over it or glamorize it. Instead it shows us the reality of it. It’s important to note as well that most of the people who experienced pain and suffering in the Bible were people who loved and followed God. This reminds us that Christians don’t get a pass on experiencing pain and suffering. Many times being a Christian means we experience more pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is real and no one escapes it.

God is sovereign over pain and suffering. This is where it gets tricky. Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering but it also gives us a God who is above it and more powerful than it. One of the clearest examples of this is found in the book of Job. In Job 1:6-12 we see Satan coming to God in order to get permission to put pain and suffering into Job’s life. R.C. Sproul sums it up like this: “Satan can do only what the sovereign God allows him to do.” This exchange in the book of Job is very important because it shows us that pain and suffering cannot enter into our lives without first going through the hands of our Lord.

God has a purpose behind pain and suffering. That last point can be hard to swallow. But the truth is in God’s sovereignty He has a purpose behind the pain and suffering He allows. He doesn’t just allow it into our lives for no reason. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 don’t let us off the hook and give us a pass from pain and suffering, but they both remind us that God has a plan and purpose behind it. These two verses also remind us that sometimes to experience God’s divine purposes we have to go through the fires of pain and suffering.

Below is the sermon where I preached the content above. In the next post I will share some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives. I hope you come back to check that post out as we continue this series about walking with God through pain and suffering.

Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

Recently, we just finished up a series called Get Real in our middle school ministry. During the series we addressed major questions many people, including Christians, ask about Christianity. For example, “How do we know God is real?” or “If God is so loving than why is there so much suffering in the world?” The question I tackled a few weeks ago was “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” I want to share the main ideas from that talk in this post and hope to share why we can believe that Jesus really is the only way to God.

A popular belief in our culture is that all religions are equal. Not only are they equal, but they all lead to the same place. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what religion, or path, you take, we will all end up in the same place. Some people may choose Christianity and if that’s works for them then it’s all good. Or some people may choose Islam, or some other religion, and if that’s best for them then it’s all good. We call this belief “religious pluralism.” You see this kind of thing pop up in things like the coexists bumper stickers. You know, those stickers that spell “coexists” with the symbols of different religions. As good as all this sounds, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus makes a claim that goes against any claim that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims that there is only one way to God and that’s through Him. How do we know that’s true? Let me share with you three other things that support Jesus claim that He is the only way.

1. Jesus is the only way God provided. In Matthew 26:36-44 we read about Jesus going to a garden to pray before He would be betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew He was about to be beaten, spit upon, and murdered on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In complete agony He prays to the Father and asks Him if there is another way to do this. He asks God that if it would be His will, could He get out of doing this. But we see Jesus complete surrender and determination to follow God’s will. Jesus goes to God three times and basically asks Him if there is another way. And three times God doesn’t repond. There is no other way. The death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was the only way. God’s silence screams this truth from the pages of Scripture! Think about it, if God had another way would He really send His only Son to be nailed to His death on a cross? This sacrifice only makes sense if what we believe is true-Jesus is the only way!

2. Jesus is the only way that fixes our problem. Everyone enters this world with a common problem called sin. All religions recognize this is some way. They may not call it sin, but they realize this world is broken and things are screwed up. So all religions, or paths to God, try and fix this problem. Some try and say that all we need to do is be better, try harder, and hope our good outweighs our bad. Sadly, all religions, except Christianity, just puts a band-aid on our problem. Only Jesus actually fixes the problem. How does He do that? He becomes a curse for us and take our sin upon Himself. In exchange we get His righteousness which means we continue as if we have never sinned. We are justified and stand before God perfect because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this great exchange to us.

3. Jesus is the only way transforms our life. No one actually experiences life change outside of Christianity. All other religions don’t change a person. In actuality all they do is become an “add on” to someones life. But Jesus comes and gives us a new start. The Bible calls this being “born again” or the “new birth.” We literally go from death unto life and experience a whole new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No other religions can make that statement. In their book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington tell a story about a situation the famous evangelists Dr. Ironsides found himself in. At a Salvation Army event, Dr. Ironsides was called to the platform to share a few words. On his way up, a outspoken atheists started making remarks and yelling at him. The atheist called Ironsides out for a debate between Christianity, which he claimed was false, and atheism. Ironsides looked at the man and said this: “Yes, I will debate you this Saturday morning. But there is one condition. You bring one person whose life has been transformed by the power of becoming an atheist and I will bring fifty ex-alcoholics and fifty ex-prostitutes whose lives have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. And then we will debate.” Christianity is the only religion that has to power to change a life.

All religions, or paths, to God are not the same. There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. That is the only way God provided, fixes our sin problem, and brings transformation. No other ways to God claim those three things.

Click here to view my speaking page where you can hear the audio of this sermon as well as other sermons I have preached in the past.

Guest Post: Does Theology Really Matter in Youth Ministry?

theology-matters“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.

The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.

Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.

I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?

This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.  

What the Virgin Birth Shows Us

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to speak at The Grove Student Ministry for their “Christmas at The Grove” service. The Grove is the student ministry at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. Josh Evans is the student pastor and has a great blog where you can find great posts on student ministry and leadership. I wanted to summarize the message I gave and share it here on my blog.

After much prayer and study, I decided to speak to the students about what the Virgin birth shows us about God and His Son Jesus. I believe the Virgin birth shows us three important truths that can be seen in Luke 1:35 which says,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God.”

Gods Power. The first thing we see from the Virgin birth and this verse in particular is that God is powerful. The phrase “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” shows us that the Virgin birth was something planned and carried out by our sovereign and all-powerful God! A virgin giving birth to a child is impossible, but our God is the God of the impossible. We are reminded of this when the angel tells Mary this in verse 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Christ Sinlessness. We see the word holy in this verse which means  pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. It carries the idea of being totally set apart from sin. One of the reasons Christ had to be born of a virgin was because He had to be sinless. If He would have come through the normal means of birth He would have inherited the sinful nature we are all given because of Adam’s sin in Genesis. Christ would not have been able to be the sacrifice for our sins if He had a sin nature. He had to be sinless in order to die for our sins in our place. Being born through a Virgin and by God’s power, Christ came into the world sinless. He then lived a perfect, sinless life in order for His righteousness to be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). I wrote a blog called “What the Layaway Angels Teach us About Christ” that talks more about this truth, check it out!

Christ Humanity. Christ was fully God, but also fully man. We don’t understand this, but we know it is true because God’s Word teaches it. This is why the Virgin birth is so amazing! Christ, even though fully, came down to earth and walk among us a man. The verse above ends with the phrase Son of God. This title of Christ shows us His deity as well as His humanity. This was Christ very title of Himself and used it the most Himself. He wants people to understand He is fully God, but also embraced humanity. This should encourage us because He can understand and sympathize with us as we go through life. The beginning of Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” Christ, our high priest, can sympathize with us, how encouraging! The ends of this verse says, “…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Christ was sinless, He still faced temptation as we do. We see this clearly in Luke 4:1-12. The reason Christ came as a human was ultimately to die on the cross for our sin and giving us a way to have a relationship with God (Philippians 2:5-8; John 14:6).

I hope this Christmas didn’t pass you by without taking a time to think about the Virgin birth of our Savior. He came through God’s power for you! He was sinless so He could die for you and give you His righteousness! He embraced humanity so He could sympathize with you! Christ came into this world for you and for me. Have we let that truth seek in this Christmas?

I hope to have the video of this sermon on here soon. Until then feel free to check out some of my other sermons I have preached over the past year on the “Preaching and Teaching” page here on my blog.