Chapter 4, entitled WHY GOD APPOINTS SUFFERING FOR HIS SERVANTS, is another one of Piper’s own chapters, and as is normal for Piper, comes out of the starting block with a bold, yet Scripture-drenched proposal:
“Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines his children through suffering. His aim is deeper faith and deeper Holiness. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Jesus experienced the same thing. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). This does not mean that Jesus grew from disobedience to obedience; the same writer says he never sinned (Heb. 4:15). It means that the process through which he demonstrated deeper and deeper obedience was the process of suffering. For us there is not only the need to have our obedience tested and proven deep, but also purified of all remnants of self-reliance and entanglement with the world”
What immediately strikes me here is a quote I have long used in my own personal ministry, the origins of which I no longer can put my finger on: “God is not so much concerned with our happiness as He is our holiness”, or to put it another way: God did not save us to make us comfortable, but to make us like Jesus.
As a “3rd Wave/neoCharismatic“, profoundly influenced by the Vineyard movement, and John Wimber in particular, I carry with me a deep conscious awareness that it is the same Holy Spirit that fills me – a son of Adam – as empowered Jesus – the 2nd Adam – who set aside His rights to God-hood to usher in the Kingdom not ONLY as our savior who hung on a cross, but also as our model, who LIVED a God-empowered life. Think about it: if Jesus only came to simply be a blood sacrifice for us, the Father could have worked it out that he was simply born – perfectly innocent – fully human and yet fully God – then had him killed. Biblically, it would have atoned for God’s people, so why bother living 33 years, working a dull job, maturing as a person, eventually gathering disciples, and living life out before them? Christ modeled what the 1st Adam should have: Kingdom living.
But there is a catch. If Christ was our example in God-empowered life – in Kingdom living – as an example of what it looks like to walk in the miraculous and trust in God, that’s not the only thing He modeled for us, as Piper reminds us of above. Christ was the perfect example of suffering – he was, in fact, the suffering servant. And the suffering of Christ was part of the plan of God from the beginning (before the foundations of the world, in fact), and was FOR GOOD! If Christ, who modeled Kingdom living for us perfectly, suffered so deeply – and according to the will of God the Father, even – why do we assume, as Christ’s followers, that we will not?
In fact, the Bible promises that the opposite is the case. Romans 8:17 goes so far as to suggest that if we do not find ourselves suffering as followers of Christ, that we may not be saved, when Paul writes there that we are God’s children and “fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him“. And that will take us to our next post…
Ever wondered how we might fill up “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions“? Coming soon in Chapter 4, part 2.