Starting 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.
This past weekend we had Student Ministry Sunday at our church. This is a special Sunday we do every year where our student ministry staff, leaders, and most importantly students take over the Sunday worship services and leads the rest of our church in worship. Our high school ministry band leads worship, students run all the media/tech, students greet people at the doors, students take up the offering, we have a student host, and more. You can click here to see some pictures from the morning.
Each year for Student Ministry Sunday I get the privilege to preach. This year Student Ministry Sunday landed on a Sunday between sermon series so I had the chance to pick what topic or passage I wanted to preach on. After praying for God’s direction and talking with our pastor I decided that to preach on the topic of worry from Matthew 6. The video of the sermon is below. I hope it encourages you and helps you in times of worry.
A few weeks ago we had Student Ministry Sunday at Christ Community Chapel (Stow Campus). This is a Sunday where our students takeover our worship services and they lead and serve our congregation. It’s aways a blast! You can click here to read more about what we did.
One of the things I get to do each year when we do Student Ministry Sunday is preach. I love speaking to our students on a weekly basis but it’s always a joy and honor to preach to our whole congregation. We have been in a series called “Story Teller God” where we are looking at some of the parables Jesus taught. I preached on the two debtors from Luke 7:36-50. Below is the video of this sermon that you can watch. Also, click here if you want to check out other sermons from this series.
The Wonder Working God by Jared Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed Wilson’s books so I was excited to read this one. In this book Wilson dives into the subject of miracles and helps the reader understand what miracles are all about. Wilson says, “Miracles do not serve so much to prove that there is a God but that the Lord is God and we are not” (page 13). Throughout this book Wilson discusses various miracles Jesus performed and helps us understand what they reveal about Him. Many of the miracles that are discussed in this book are ones I have heard, read, and even studied many times, but I seemed to learn something new about each one of them from this book. I look forward to hopefully reading Wilson’s book The Storytelling God soon, in which Wilson talks about the parables of Jesus.
The 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible by Andy Blanks. This is a book that has been on my shelve for a while. I try and read as many books on teaching and preaching as possible. Before taking this book off my shelve it had been awhile since I read a book on specifically teaching the Bible to teenagers. Since I do that on a weekly basis I’m always willing to learn more and sharpen my skills. In this book Blanks shares (you probably already guessed it from the title) seven best practices to help you become a better teacher of the Bible to teenagers. Teaching the Bible to teenagers is not an easy task and to do it well is even harder. In this book Blanks shares tons of practical advice and insights to help you become a better teacher. I’d encourage anyone who teaches the Bible to teenagers, whether that’s a full-time student pastor or a volunteer leader, to do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s a good, simple read that will help you tremendously.
Better Safe Than Sued by Jack Crabtree. Student pastors and youth workers don’t always like the word “safety.” It’s an area that is often times overlooked for the sake of a crazy game or thrilling activity. Crabtree says, “Safety is one of the last concerns discussed as youth activities are planned and implemented” (page 13). However, one of our top priorities in student ministry should be the safety of the students God has placed under our care. We know the top priority is helping students come to know Jesus and grow in a relationship with Him, but another serious priority is keeping those students we are trying to reach safe. Crabtree says, “In addition to the important job of communicating the Christian message to young people, a youth ministry leader must also provide a safe, responsible environment” (page 20). In this book Crabtree helps student pastors understand the importance of safety and helping them stay away from any form of lawsuit or negative experience because safety was not a concern. I liked the wide range of topics regarding safety Crabtree covers in this book. Everything from driving and using vans and buses to sexual misconduct is discussed in this book. Also, there are some great chapters on safety regarding mission trips, retreats, and seasonal sports. There is also a very helpful chapter on bullying. This is one of those student ministry books that I believe every student pastor should read. It will make you a better student pastor and will help you create a ministry that is not only fun (which we all want), but also safe.
Up next on my reading list is Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels and A Fresh Look at the Book of Jonah by Greg Laurie. I also plan to finish Seven Men by Eric Metaxas and The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer soon.
I love seeing students coming to Christ! It’s why I do what I do. I love it! But when a student comes to Christ, that is only the beginning. Yes, it’s awesome and should be celebrated, but we must then start the process of making sure that student get discipled and they learn the basics of walking with Jesus.
There are tons of great resources out there to help youth pastors and youth workers do this important task. However, I have yet to find one I am 100% sold on. Not that they are not good and helpful, but I just haven’t been able to stick to with one resource. So I figured I would make my own. I sat down and asked myself, “What are the basic topics (or conversations) I would have with a student who has just come to Christ?” What I came up with was eight conversation topics that I believe are vital for a student who has just come to Christ to have with another believer.
I don’t claim to have the best resource for discipling students who have just come to Christ, but I have been seeing it work in my context. It’s simple and easy to use. I also don’t claim to be that good at graphics so don’t expect anything to flashy with the look of this resource. Just a simple, easy to use resource to help youth workers disciple students. Click the link below, download it, and use it if you’d like. If you do use it, I’d love to hear what you thought so feel free to leave a comment below.