What is it that you are suffering? This world is full of toil and trouble. We live in a world where evil presses us on every side and in a body where sin fights all restraint. We live in a world where terrorists bomb innocents, where earthquakes shake cities, where fire and drought and hurricanes and tornadoes all have their way unchecked. We live in a place and a space where evil is institutionalized, where sin is tolerated, and where hatred is cultivated. We live in a families whose systems are dysfunction, whose relationships are estranged, and whose stability is groundless.
Hatred, rife, gossip, sin, quarreling, licentiousness, untruth, bitterness, murder, coveting, idolatry, greed, gluttony, lust, adultery, abortion, and death.
This is the world East of Eden, the world of the Fall. How are we Christians to light up the world, when it seems that our flickering flames are about to be snuffed out? James tells us in his letter: Be Patient (5:7).
Be patient in the pain.
Be patient in the hurt.
Be patient in the evil.
Wait. Wait for the coming of the Lord. Wait for Christ to come and claim his people as His own. Wait for the one who purchased you by his blood and rose you with him Christ. Wait for the one who will wipe every tear from your eye. Wait for the one who will put all this death to death. Wait like the prophets of old, who endured the sufferings of this world. Wait like Job who sat scraping himself with pottery until his boils popped and oozed with puss. Wait because like them, we know the Lord will end this.
What kind of God would allow his children to suffer such ill?
He is a "very compassionate" God. In James 5:11 Scripture tells us that God is "very compassionate." But the English does not do this justice. This is actually a compound word in the Greek: πολυσπλαγχνος (polusplagknos) taken from the words πολυς (polus) meaning "much" and σπλαγχνος (splagknos). Σπλαγχνος (splagknos) is an interesting word. It's base meaning is what we might call "guts." It is the entrails, the intestines, the digestive system. It is our gut. In the Greek it also came to be used when the normal word for "heart" might not do justice. It came to mean the visceralness of love. It is the kind of love someone feels when they love so bad it hurts. It is empathy, compassion, sympathy, tenderness. It is a love which is taken from the abstract and embodied before you; it is a love you can touch. What that is, God is plentiful in it. We are told that God is "very splagknos". He is very visceral in his love, his compassion, his sympathy and tenderness for you. He loves us so bad it hurts.
We can be patient in the pain, patient in the toil, patient in the trouble because God is "very compassionate." He has not abandoned his people, but he feels for them with an extra share of affection. He is visceral in his love for us, even while we go into the valley of the shadow of death. He feels what we feel, and at the perfect time, he will return to release us from the pangs of death. So be patient.
DL Moody is one of the most celebrated evangelists in church history. The worldwide church would not be what it is without his influence. Yet many people don't know that one of DL Moody's sons went through a prodigal season. We see how DL's passion for evangelism melded with his loving heart of a father with this excerpt of a letter from his biography:
...the thing that hurts me worst is that you have no desire to know Christ. Sometimes my heart is so heavy & sad to think that you have such contempt for one that has done so much for your mother & father, all that we are or have has come from him & you have been saved from an early grave I think in answer to prayer & now when you have strength & health given to you & are now in a position to do good you turn against the truest & best friend you will ever have. For the life of me I cannot see why you should have taken such a dislike to Christ.
I sometimes think it is my fault, if I had lived more consistent you would not be so disgusted with what is so near my heart. Last September was the happiest month of my life when I thought you had really started for the kingdom of God but when I returned home & found you were more indifferent than ever my heart sank within me. I have not talked much with you for fear I would turn you more against him whom I love more than all the world & if I have ever said or done anything unbecoming a Christian father, I want you to forgive me & would rather die than to stand in your way.
In these heart-wrenching paragraphs, we can learn a few things:
1. Faith is not genetic. My mom always says that "God has no grandchildren." Parents need to share the gospel with their kids, pray hard, and apologize when they go amiss. Each generation needs to rediscover the beautiful savior for themselves. Not even the children of the greatest evangelist the world has ever known inherited it.
2. Evangelism by love. One thing that strikes me is that Moody so loved Christ that the thought of someone not loving Christ like he did was shocking, sorrowful, and painful for him. This compelled Moody to evangelize and share his faith, so that all would come to love Jesus Christ like he did.
3. Christians can feel sad. From all accounts, including his sons', Moody was a wonderful father. Yet when something so hurtful happened, Moody was able to express his doubts, his fears, and his pain honestly. Christians are allowed to be sad.
Southern Heights Christian Church
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