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Suffering, Assurance, and the Sovereignty of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 24, 2022 12:01 am

Suffering, Assurance, and the Sovereignty of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 24, 2022 12:01 am

We must always remember that the God who is sovereign over the suffering of His people is a loving Father. He does all things for a purpose and does all things well. Today, Burk Parsons and Derek Thomas discuss divine providence and human pain.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind. A lot of suffering and the lives of God's people have no 121 correspondence I suffer because of extra suffer because of why and suffering, I think, is designed to bring about in us a desire no matter what to give him glory, what we are doing this for new Christians can take comfort in knowing that God is working all things together for good and for his glory to them Renewing Your Mind taking you to a seminar from the 2022 international conference host Nathan W. Bingham and Drs. Burke Parsons and Derek Thomas discuss the relationship between the sovereignty of God and human suffering and the assurance of salvation so that you're here for the seminar. We are talking about suffering and the sovereignty of God is joined by thousands of Derek Thomas the world that we live in is is a is a full world. And so it's it's not easy out there, but the difficulties the experiences that we have very observers we look out across these people here some of them might be frustrated right now because the boss emailed them and they meant to be on vacation attending a conference. Someone else might be frustrated because they didn't let us discover that inputting a meal plan and set had no food, consider coming to this seminar or they thought Florida was always sunny all the time.

That's true. Yes, but then other people here may have just experienced the loss of a loved one may have recently had a diagnosis of the other terminal illness. So ask. Our experiences vary greatly to begin by asking how do we define suffering what we mean when we say suffering. Suffering is any experience that doesn't fulfill our joy, our sense of well-being are sensitive. We are and why we are here providences that call into question my mind.

My sense of purpose. I think I think I can't help but think of you know millions of people literally millions of people in the Ukraine refugees in Eastern Europe who are asking some of the profoundest questions imaginable about real pain and suffering that walking along a road with the rucksack, with all their worldly possessions with no guarantee that they will ever be back again and no guarantee of where they're actually going and all of us to some extent experience some of that in microcosm, but that there are experiences of suffering, both physical and mental, psychological, relational, where we are out of harmony with who we eventually will be in Christ and in a place where there there there are no tears and there is no pain like the way you put that at the outset, especially regarding our desire for joy. Our desire for feeling well and when in anything comes into our lives that threatens that joy threatens that sense of comfort in being well well wellness for loved ones. We can truly begin to suffer want the questions I'd like to discuss Derek on this is something I've considered a lot over the years, especially in teaching on discipline and all of your teaching and writing on Job is the way in which Scripture relates discipline God's fatherly chastisement and suffering and how they can overlap and how we can distinguish them at times as well and when we when we encounter discipline in Scripture written Job from Job's friends and talking about the discipline of the Lord.

Proverbs 3 Hebrews 12 for the questions I've run into often teaching about God's loving hand of discipline.

The question that people ask is will is anything that bad happens to merely suffering I endure is that a result of discipline.

So like for you to answer that question we use the word discipline and runways. We can sometimes easily discipline I I teaching the discipline of theology. I walk in this discipline and that and that meaning of discipline is not punishment. In the case of Joe we are expressly told three times in the prologue. Once by the author of Job and twice it's put into the mouth of God himself that Job's suffering had had nothing to do with his sin so so the possibility of of innocent suffering like a man that was born blind in John chapter 9 and the disciples asked to send was it him or was it his parents and Jesus said neither so there there is there is a category of suffering with discipline that it brings about the transformation of of of character ungodliness that may result from it which is discipline is is not discipline the form of punishment, but when you read something like first Corinthians 11 in the in the very dysfunctional church that is Corinth and unkind I think is not stereotypical of any other church in the New Testament, it is it is it is hopelessly dysfunctional. Paul says that some of them were sick and some of them, David, and that this was due to God's retribution for their behavior that wrong behavior and so being trained in discipline and memo we hear the word discipline. You know, we almost immediately think of punishment and retribution discipline.

Discipline can be something else. It can be a form of discipleship.

When Joseph, for example, is not that Joseph is sinless, not that Job was sinless, but Joseph will say to his brothers, you meant it for evil but God meant it for good. So he experienced the, the retribution of his brothers, but in such a way that it was part and parcel of God's plan to grow.

Joseph to providentially place them in a position of enormous usefulness for his father Jacob and brothers to to survive the famine that that they were experiencing so that there are multiple ways I think of understanding what discipline is. I think I think it is if we if we suffer something big is something substantial. I think that it is it is the right course of action to at least ask ourselves is this God speaking to me about some area of my life that needs to be repented of that needs to be mortified. Now if you asked that question this country somewhere you could list it is 500 areas where you need more sanctification and more and more holiness and and and therefore as a pastor I I certainly wouldn't want to go into a situation and begin to suggest this is God's disciplining you in the sense of saying there's a sin in your life and you need to confess it. I think it's interesting that when we were afflicted with some measure of suffering in our lives.

I think sometimes our first responses. What I do deserve this applying I do anything to deserve this, but one suffering comes upon someone else that we know. I think your conclusions will they must've done something to deserve that. I know they did there must be some sin in their life. Something that is not there, like Job's friends, and I think it takes experienced wise Christian growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ walking the spirit that that recognizes that one suffering comes that there asking that question they are examining their hearts that we are looking at our sins. And if we have not repented of particular sins, particularly that we do so, but you know, in talking about discipline and the different ways in which discipline is understood and used both in the Bible and even in our own language in context.

One of things I like to remind our people are from time to time is that we are all under church discipline in the sense that we are all under the discipline under the authority of the training of the word of God, and those that are authorities in the local church where all under the training of the word of God.

All under the care and the shepherding care of our elders in several evening coming to worship.

We ought to remember that that were coming to sit under the ministry of the word of God and that really is the language that many Christians used for for many years both in the UK United States were coming under the mist we are coming to set ourselves under the ministry of the word of God to receive its correction to receive its challenge to receive its conviction by the spirit and to receive its edification and encouragement is a lot that we could discuss here further but alternate back to you will brought up to and Job's friends, the number of times already and Job experienced significant suffering and then and in some sense had to go through the suffering of the Council of his friends. Can we talk a little bit about some of the ways that we misunderstand suffering in our life, perhaps particularly how it relates to our view of God or even assurance suffering is always purposive and others. In other words, God doesn't act with whimsically. There is always a reason why we suffer. We may not know what that reason is in a sense that's that's the major lesson of the book of Job, that at the end of the book of Job, when God finally comes to him in a whirlwind and and says who is this that questions me with words without knowledge. Job been asking for a fight and not a physical fight. But the epistemological fight. He wants he wants.

He believes that he deserves the answer to the question why on the shocking thing about Job 38 is that God says I will question you and you will answer me and and you want to scream and say you know that's not fair because it's Job's been asking the questions and God is the one who should not be providing the answers so is completely done. I want a tea on on Job on the on the very first question in a where were you when I laid the foundation and you want to say what what kind of question is that I'mů Unfair and there are 6570 questions about the heavens above about caves. The man is never been to but what's at the depth of the ocean, none of which Job was an answer to and then and then not that beautiful section where where God raises behemoth and Leviathan.

And then there are many interpretations of beam often Leviathan but but if we just for the sake of this time go with a traditional interpretation but says that behemoth is a hippopotamus and Leviathan is a crocodile and you think of Job is lost 10 of his children is lost all his wealth. He skin and bone is death's door, and God is saying. Job you know why I created a crocodile and what in the world is not going to do with anything on the point is, the answer is one answer is I don't know and pain is like that suffering is I had a lot of suffering in the lives of God's people have have no 121 correspondence I suffer because of XOR I suffer because of why I should think the ultimate answer the questions why did God create them often. Leviathan is for his own glory and suffering I think is designed to bring about in us a desire no matter what to give him glory, because Providence is is always purposive. There is always a purpose to what God does to bring about his ultimate glory, but we may not be privy to what the reason is we may not be privy to the details of it and and it's not important that we understand what's important is that he understands and that we trust him and I think that is the lesson of the book of Job. For that reason regarding the purposeful way in which the Lord allows permits, but not by bear permission and ordains our lives.

I've I've really never been comfortable using the language of what many people use even our forefathers of hard providences.

I certainly understand what people mean when they use that term. I don't think it's altogether wrong or inappropriate but if if God's purpose in his sovereign Providence and working all things together for our ultimate good in our salvation. Even our suffering whom I to call what he is doing in my life hard, which I think in some ways can imply even something bad certainly is bad that ultimately all of God's providences if you will, are for his glory.

But this, this, this I think is is report you mentioned at the end about trust in our faith.

And I think that is really at the heart of this entire discussion I have found over the years that in some senses. It is harder to trust the Lord than to obey the Lord. I think when we really examine our lives and examine the lives of those in Scripture to trust in the Lord that oftentimes they could they could do the things that were obedient to the Lord, but it was trusting the Lord that was sometimes more difficult and that in our lives. God brings suffering in order to make us trust him more. I mean how many times in your lives. I can certainly not count the number of times in my life. I have asked the Lord to grow my faith that the Lord would increase my faith. My faith in him. My faith and in all his works in my faith in his word. I've asked him to grow the faith of those that I love that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ that their faith in him would be even more steadfast, more robust, I think the way the Lord has answered that in my life is sometimes by bringing trials and brings suffering with many tears and much anguish and there are times if I'm being completely honest, or I almost wished I never prayed God increase my faith. I think when were young Christians and we we hear passages like Romans 5335 James Swan, I think two through four. Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials of many kinds, and so on. When were younger faith.

We think yeah okay sure right, but it's only when were older.

It's only when we experienced suffering as a Christian that we really begin to understand the depth of those words we begin only after suffering through misery to understand Paul's words in Corinthians worries talking about the strength and the power of God being made perfect in weakness is only when we've suffered that we really do begin to identify with Christ and share in the fellowship of his sufferings which Paul promises and tells us this is going to happen.

We believe it and it happens when Y utilizes happening and I think for for too many of us sweetly too often try to figure out the reason for the trials you're saying. The reason for the suffering when the whole purpose of suffering is not to try to figure out the reason ultimately but to come under them to get on our knees and go to the Lord too often today. I have to have decision social media. I think for some people it's almost as if they use their trial to exploit them and gain more attention from them and the purpose of them is to drive us drive us to our knees in the drive us to repentance were necessary to drive us to worship, to drive us to full and more and more complete dependence on the Lord is is is a pastor. One of the things that is so hard for me to see but one of the things that I am grateful to see is when older saints have to endure such misery and suffering in their lives. It's almost as if the Lord is reminding them even as wise, older, experienced, mature, and godly men and women.

It's almost as if the Lord is continuing to teach them that they must remain wholly and completely dependent on. I find it so interesting that one of the areas I seem to get the most pushback on social media is when I tweet or write about suffering and the sovereignty of God and how I find the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering comfort and so many want to push back on that idea say that God does not ordain all things, and particularly not suffering in the life of people all Christians. How would you counsel someone that finds the idea of God's sovereignty, not comfort but action find it troublesome well I don't find it a comfort to think that I can be online for, and God isn't sovereign. I don't find it a comfort to undergo major surgery when I'm unconscious and have no power of will or reason, and think that three quarters of the way through this surgery you you reach a spot where God isn't in control anymore so Romans 828 is as clear as day that all things work together for the good of those that love him and they work together because God works them together. They don't work together by an inherent power within themselves. So all things good things bad things all things knife the question is a philosophical one and and and often it is though it's not couched in those ways Y disk why does God not prevent suffering and that's it. That's a tough question and it's not just why does God not prevent evil, but why does God allow so much about.

It's not just that the suffering in the world.

But does that a lot of suffering in the world and I'm the only answer that satisfies me is Augustine's answer in dealing with this sick he comes up with the Felix Cooper argument that the happy fault argument that a world in which grace is experienced as a better world than the world in which you would never experience grace so in the rounds of theory, God could have created a race of automatons with with with no freedom of will, but I think I think they own the only satisfying answer to me is that a world in which Jesus comes a world in which we see the immensity of God's love for us in the sacrifice of his son is is a better world than one in which there would be no incarnation, and there would be no experience of grace. I have to believe that that that the totality of all that is is underneath the sovereignty of God to guarantee that this story of redemption is going to be fulfilled unfulfilled in all of its detail at the Beck account. It would only take it would only take one random item malleable to undo that entire program so from from a pastoral point of view to be able to say to somebody was passing through the most horrible experience.

The God is still there but there is a purpose here. You may not understand it may be extremely difficult right now, but his hand is on on the tiller he is guiding the ship and he has you in the palms of his hands and he says to I will never leave you nor forsake you. Sometimes we make the mistake when we are talking about a particular attribute of God that we fail to remember that God is also all of his other attributes. At the same time. And so when we think about the sovereignty of God. We also have two remember the goodness of God, the love of God and we also have to remember how we are to approach God and how we are to regard God. Now we understand that we are to fear the Lord and I think that the evangelical church over the past few decades has attempted to water that language of fearing the Lord down to where it essentially just means honoring him or referencing him. But when you look at the word, especially as it's used in Hebrews 12 and with coming to him and worshiping him with reverence and awe and in the various uses of the word fear in English but in various other words, in Greek and Hebrew. We really come to get up much bigger picture that an incoming to the Lord. It really is a trembling fear, but also through Christ resting in him and his sovereignty in his character and who he is but we also still fear the Lord, there is a sense in which I should fear God's disappointing hand which I know is for my good. Ultimately, when I said that there should be a sense of fear in me that God sees that God knows and that God also loves me like a good parent to good grandparent, a good friend of good spouse and wants to care for his child or hers grandchild if they want to help them if they love them to correct if they don't correct them if they don't challenge them if they don't speak words of truth to correct and help mold them. It means they don't love them. They were the worst forms of child abuse in our days. Parents not spanking their kids. It's not not correcting their kids not disciplining their kids. They think it's love. It's it's it's it's neglect it's a lack of carrots, a lack of true love and when her kids are little that's what God tells us to spank them because that's how they understand. And as they grow. We understand that we we we turn other methods in communicating to them and helping them understand their sin and helping them to also see immediately the forgiveness of God in Christ and the repentance of their sin and God's full restoration of them and how we so need Jesus.

And that's why discipline should always begin with love and end with love and ex-wife Christ and the gospel should be right there in the middle never in anger.

Never, never just rashly or harshly always in love. And even with tears, even even reminding our children that were sinners were sinful as they are, but suffering is similar to that that we have to remember that the God who is sovereign is also the God of love and the reason he does what he does is perfect. We don't always know all the reasons but we know the ultimate reason we know the ultimate reason is for our good in this life and in the next and it's for his glory and we have to rest and that again that's about trusting him and trusting what he's told us that's hard to do, especially when the midst of suffering because in the midst of suffering we file God's far away from us that is holding us at arms length that he hates us. He's not looking upon us when the fact of the matter is, is right next to us right within us.

In the final moments that we have left.

We don't want to be Job's friends we want to be good friends to to our Christian brothers and sisters.

What advice or counsel would you give to Christians that want to hopefully come alongside brothers and sisters in the face that might be suffering right now.

I think too often and this comes to dealing with suffering comes to talking with their Christian brothers and sisters in the church, whether it's on social media, or whether it's face-to-face too often we come with a finger shaking their faces rather than armor on the shoulder. The best things that Job's friends did was to say nothing for seven days. We never know what a day may bring life brings with it so much potential for suffering and you may be walking through a valley right now.

I hope today's conversation was an encouragement to you. Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb discussion, we heard included Dr. Burk Parsons and Dr. Derek Thomason and they pointed us to one remedy for suffering the truths that we find in Scripture God's word addresses the ethical and spiritual difficulties we face in this life. It provides the principles we need and those trying circumstances, we need to know what we believe why we believe it and how to live it. And with that in mind, let me recommend Dr. RC Sproul's book, everyone's a theologian, an introduction to systematic theology and it RC surveys the basic truths of the Christian faith.

And if you never contact us before we be happy to send you a free copy you can make your request online today when you go to Renewing Your Mind.org. If you are new to the ministry. Let me also recommend our free app you'll find hundreds of free resources there from audio and video teaching to daily guided Bible studies. Just search for ligand air in your app store next Saturday will feature another session for March 2022 link international conference, a panel of our speakers will discuss what it means to stand firm in a morally crumbling society will join us for that next week here on Renewing Your Mind


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