John Piper began his second address at New Word Alive (here are my notes on the first) by expanding his statement that suffering is judicial. Romans 8:20 says that creation subjected to futility by him (that is, God) in hope. Genesis 3:16-18 also speak of pain as God’s response to sin. The agony of pain is God’s witness to the outrage of sin.
This does not mean that when Christians suffer they are being punished. It dishonours Christ and his cross when a Christian feels judged by God since Christ has born our punishment in full (8:1, 3). For someone who never trusts Christ suffering is judgment. For a Christian suffering is purifying. For someone who is on their way to becoming a Christian suffering is awakening. So when asked by someone to interpret their suffering, you should respond, ‘It depends.’ It continue to reject Christ you’re your suffering is judgment, but your suffering could be God trying to get your attention in love.
God was not merely responding to sin when he subjected the world to futility. It was part of his eternal plan to glorify his grace.
God’s eternal plan is:
1. That the apex of his gory would be revealed through grace.
2. That the apex of grace would be revealed through Jesus.
3. That the apex of grace would be revealed through the cross.
See Ephesians 1:6. Everything exists to praise the glory of God’s grace. Perfect people do not receive grace since grace is receiving what you don’t deserve. So for Ephesians 1:6 to be achieved there had to be a world with a cross. See also 2 Timothy 1:9 and Revelation 13:8. God created the world so that the Lamb might be slaughtered. When God subjected the world to frustration he was preparing for the cross.
In the cross Christ purchased eternal freedom from pain (Isaiah 53:5-6). In the cross Christ also purchased the persevering faith of his followers who suffer so that they find him supremely satisfying in the midst of suffering. The cross both rescues from pain and sustains in pain. How do they relate? We should pray for healing. It is a reality. But Romans 8:23 suggests we don’t always get healed and that is where sustaining faith comes in. Is there proportionality between rescuing form pain and sustaining in pain? Romans 8:18 suggests that suffering is normative for this time. Rescue is not all now. It is normal to groan in this age (8:23).
Why does God do the proportions in this way? Perhaps it is because dramatic healings ambiguous. When they happen, are we praising God between we love Jesus or because we love health? And a few years on, the healed person may still be veging in front to the television because their character has not been changed. No praise continues to come to Jesus. Maybe that’s why people often go un-healed.
What practical help does these verses offer to those in the midst of suffering?
1. God promises after this time of suffering that we will see all-satisfying glory (8:17-18; John 17:24).
2. God will also glorifying us so that we have the capacity to enjoy this all-surpassing glory (8:17, 30).
3. All of creation will be renewed, rearranged and set free.
4. The misery of the universe are not death throws, but labour pains. Your interpretation of a woman’s scream will differ dramatically if you are on a cancer ward or on a maternity ward.
5. We are ‘more than conquerors’. Why the ‘more than’? A conqueror has death dead at his feet. The ‘more’ is death obeying you or serving you. Death is there to take where you want to go – to paradise with Jesus.