Sunday, July 01, 2007
The Pain and Power of Suffering
Rev Ong Hwai Teik was our speaker this morning and he spoke about the inevitable topic of suffering, its pain and its power. The text is from 1 Peter 2:13-3:2 but the sermon is based on the outline of the entire epistle.
For one, love and suffering comes hand in hand: there can be no true love without suffering, and at the same time there can be no true suffering without love. Think about suffering within a family unit and this rings so, so true.
Two, there are 2 components to suffering: pain and power. As much as there is pain in suffering, we might not realise that there is power in it too. I wonder if you agree that in suffering, we become good witnesses for Christ - that is, when we endure and depend on his all-sufficient grace. Or do we come off as people who just can't seem to get things right? I don't know. I still wonder.
Three, there are 3 key words to look out for from 1 Peter: holiness, obedience and Christlikeness. We are a holy people, a royal priesthood called to obedience and to be like Christ. The most difficult test of obedience is suffering; it is not all that easy to love God (cf. that though with Matt 11:28-29).
Rev Ong gave one interesting note on 1 Peter 2:21. In context:
1 Peter 2:20-24 (ESV)
20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
His point is for those who preach the wealth and health gospel, the prosperity gospel, the name-it-and-claim-it gospel. This verse is dead smack clear, how can one miss it: for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps, i.e. to suffer graciously.
And finally, Rev Ong shared with us the 3 types of suffering that is most probably the most difficult to bear: (1) suffering for the sake of righteousness, (2) suffering unjustly or undeservedly and (3) suffering on behalf of others.
Suffering is a call in our walk with God but it is not an end but a means to an end. Pain is not the final word, Christ is!. For he conquered death itself and arose victorious. But for the time being though, we suffer the pains. Victory however, is nigh.
Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Picture by Silvio Mechow