Wednesday, 22 April 2009

God and Suffering

Today I had a man come and see me. He was a good man. He had been a faithful husband for the 50 years of his marriage. He had raised several well balanced children. As a child he had been a choir boy and was made to attend Sunday school every Sunday. Even after getting married he had attended church regularly. But then things began to unravel for him. He had a crisis of faith.

He saw someone die unexpectantly. He then saw the poverty of the Third World. He served in the military and saw several war zones where the madness of human brutality was unrestrained. And finally, his wife of five decades suddenly deteriorated to death with an incurable disease. So despite his religious upbringing, he came to a point where he felt that God had become an irrational concept. But then this began to change.

This man is like many people who have been religious but have never become a Christian. There is a world of difference between a religious person and a Christian. The religious person is merely concerned with appearances. Christianity on the other hand is concerned with Christ. Religion starts with routine. Christianity starts with trust. Thus, when God does what God does, the religious person is offended (see Matthew 15:12). But the Christian continues to trust (Romans 8:28). This is especially the case during suffering.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
- Romans 5:3 

I shared with this man in my office today the difference between being religious compared to  being a Christian. I emphasised that religion is about "do" while Christianity is about "done". I drew a pie on my whiteboard and divvied it up into various size pieces. On each piece of my whiteboard pie I wrote an aspect of life (family, work, liesure, hobbies, church). I then drew another pie without divvying it up. In the middle of this pie I wrote "Jesus". This is the difference between the life of a religious person and a Christian. The religious person makes room for religious things, like his church attendance. The Christian just lives their entire life for Jesus - not compartmentally - but so that everything they do is for Christ (1Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23).

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
 - Colossians 3:23 

When suffering is observed by the Christian they are primarily moved by compassion not disillusionment. When suffering is experienced by the Christian they don't abandon God, they draw nearer to Him.

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
Philippians 3:10

I continued to share with the man in my office. I invited him to turn to Christ in trust through prayer. He left my office saying that he had been "deeply affected" by what we talked about it. I'll be praying for him to be converted from being religious to being a Christian. Please join with me.

and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 
 - Philemon 6 


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