Jesus is about to perform His last great miracle in the Gospel of John, the resurrection of Lazarus. In these first sixteen verses, Christ is expounding on the purpose for the death of Lazarus, and how His disciples can have genuine joy and hope in the midst of deep pain and suffering. All things, including the death of Lazarus, are working for the good of Jesus’s people, and for His glory as the Son of God.
In the fast paced, highly connected world in which we live it seems all too common for people to feel overlooked. This sense of falling between the cracks is even more profound when we are struggling with difficulties that overwhelm us with seemingly no explanation for our suffering. We learn from the opening verses of the ninth chapter of John’s gospel that in Jesus we have a savior who sees our struggles. Furthermore, we learn in this passage that the hardships and struggles in our lives are for a purpose that displays the glory and character of God. In healing a blind beggar in Jerusalem, Jesus shows his power over our circumstances and teaches us to fix our gaze upon the higher purposes of our circumstances.
In this first sermon of our “Flourish in Faith” mini-series, we learn from Paul’s experience of suffering that our heavenly Father blesses us with challenges and afflictions to bring us back to Himself. God works through adversity to shatter any sense of self-reliance, to show us that we are truly weak, and to help us see that every other earthly support will fail us. The result is that we trust in Him rather than ourselves, and this trust is poured out in renewed hope and fervent prayer.
Can anything separate us from Christ’s love? More practically, “Does the fact that Christians sometimes experience extreme suffering mean that Christ has stopped loving us?” Paul’s answer to such questions is “Absolutely not!” On the contrary, the suffering that Christians may experience proves the love of Christ. As we abide in His love and trust His sovereign purpose, we see that the path of suffering is actually the passage to eternal victory, for in Christ, we are more than conquerors!
Jesus, the Son of God is our Great High Priest. As our High Priest, He endured great challenges in His flesh which allows Him to have great sympathy and compassion on sinners.
What happens when we are so weighed down by the weight of our sufferings that we do not even know the words to pray? What happens when, in our human wisdom, we do not know what is the best option to pray for? The answer is, when we cannot pray or do not know what to pray, we can trust that the very Spirit of Almighty God is making deep intercessions for us. Though we are weak, He composes in our hearts deep groanings that are perfectly aligned with the will of our Father.
The question comes, “if God is so loving and so good and our salvation is so great, why is there the necessity of suffering?” The answer Paul gives us here is because we are redeemed people still living in the midst of a sinful world, and though we already have the blessings of forgiveness and adoption and growing sanctification in the Holy Spirit, God’s consummation of history remains a future event. So we trust our Father and joyfully endure the trials of this life knowing that God’s promise of our glorification remains yet to be fulfilled.
Though Paul speaks earlier of us either being slaves to sin or slaves of Christ, God means for His children to look far beyond that metaphor and understand that He has brought us, not merely to a new master, but into a new family relationship. As adopted children of Almighty God, we know Him as our “Abba” Father. Thus, His love for us and our love for Him, as testified to by His indwelling Spirit, is our motive for killing sin, the ground of our assurance, and our hope in suffering.