God’s Purposes in a World of Pain  (Three Part Series) 

A Message by John Piper given May 2017 to the Suwon Central Baptist Church | Suwon, Korea 

Part 1 

(In relationship to what we are seeing on the ‘world’ stage today…I thought it would be helpful to hear the eternal truth that John Piper presents in this message from 2017)

One of the truths of the Bible that I embrace with trembling joy is the truth of God’s supremacy in all things. My life mission statement, and the mission statement of the church I served for 33 years is this: We exist to spread a passion of the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. 

When we say that, we do not mean that God is supreme in all things “except in calamities,” “except in war,” “except when ISIS blows up a building or a train,” “except when cancer takes the life of a young mother or when a child is born with profound disabilities.” 

There are no “except” clauses in our mission statement. We did not formulate this mission in a rosy world — and then later get surprised and embarrassed by reality. We formulated our mission in the real world of pain and suffering and evil and death. We have seen some very peaceful deaths of believers in Jesus. But we have also seen some very terrible deaths. 

Yes we still affirm: We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ — all the time. A passion for God’s supremacy — Christ’s supremacy — in all things, all the time. 

Sweetness and Suffering 

None of us who has lived a few decades — for me that means seven decades — has embraced this mission without trembling. And none of us has pursued this mission for long without tears. We know that the joy we pursue, and the joy we embrace in Jesus, is always interwoven with sorrow. There is no joy unmixed with sorrow in this world for people who care about others. The Bible describes Christ’s servants like this: “[We are] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). 

“Christian emotions are not simple. There is no joy unmixed with sorrow in this world for people who care about others.” 

“Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Life is not simple. There is pleasure and there is pain. There is sweetness and there is suffering. There is joy and there is misery. There is life and health, and there is disease and death. 

And therefore Christian emotions are not simple. We will “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). And there is always someone we know who is weeping, and someone we know who is rejoicing. And therefore we will learn the secret of “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” — and joyful yet always sorrowing. 

Global Suffering 

We live in a world of unending calamities. 

Natural disasters are relentless in their devastation. Last year flooding in China made millions homeless. A typhoon in North Korea killed hundreds. Earthquakes in Italy killed 200, in Ecuador 300. A hurricane in the Haiti killed over 500. 

Then there are the wars around the world and the threat of terrorism. 18,000 civilians have died in ISIS related conflicts in Iraq in the last two years. 400,000 have died in the six-year long Syrian war, 50,000 of which are children. 

Then there are the miseries of 20 million adults and children bought and sold each year as slaves for sex and for forced labor. 

And lest we respond naively to these calamities, as though they were something unusual, let’s remind ourselves of the obvious and the almost overwhelming fact that over 50,000,000 people die every year in this world. Over 6,000 ever hour. Over 100 every minute. And most of them do not die in ripe old age by sleeping peacefully away into happy eternity. Most die young. Most die after long struggles with pain. And millions die because of the evil of man against man. And you will be among the dead sooner than you think 

If there is to be any Christian joy in this world, along with love, it will be sorrowful joy, brokenhearted joy. Do we not all know that the sweetest joys are marked with tears, not laugher? (Part 2 tomorrow)

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