The inevitability of suffering - Part 1

SERMON TOPIC: The inevitability of suffering - Part 1

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 19 November 2017


Sermon synopsis: The Bible acknowledges the issue of suffering as part of the human condition.

The book of Job, one of the longer books in the Bible, is dedicated solely to the question of suffering. Likewise the books of Jeremiah and Habakkuk have much to say about it. Much of 1 Peter and Hebrews is about the suffering and persecution of Christians. Many of Paul’s letters were written from prison. About one third of the Psalms, the prayers of the OT, are cries that arise out of doubt, disappointment, or pain.
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The Bible gives a good deal of attention to the reality of suffering. It does not regard it as an illusion as some religions and sects do, nor deal with it superficially.

Christian Scientists deny the reality of the physical world. They instead believe that the only reality is purely spiritual and that there is only one substance of which we are all composed (God). As a consequence, Christian Scientists deny the reality of pain and disease, believing them to be deceptive misperceptions of the pure spiritual nature of man and God. 1

1 "https:// wiki/ Christian_Science">https:// wiki/ Christian_Science


Unlike Christian Science and the Positive Confession heresy, Christianity does not attempt to deny the circumstances. We acknowledge that God is sovereign and greater than the circumstances.

A leader in a Christian Science church was talking to a member of his congregation: “And how is your wife today?” “I’m afraid she’s very ill.” “No, no,” corrected the leader, “You shouldn’t say that - you should say that she’s very well, but she is under the impression that she’s very ill.” The man nods in agreement, “Sorry, I’ll remember next time.” A few weeks later the leader saw the man again.


She’s very well, although she’s under the impression that she’s dead!

And how is your wife at the moment?

Denying the existence of the problem is not a solution. It only perpetuates the problem. Our common sense, reason and experience reject the feasibility of this view.

Why do people who believe suffering and pain are illusions double over in pain when their stomach hurts?

Why do they jump out of the way of on-coming truck if it’s an illusion?

And worse still, how is it possible that they die from illusions? It is apparent that the presumably “correct understanding” of suffering as an illusion does not prevent pain, illness and death.


The Bible acknowledges the issue of suffering as part of the human condition.

The book of Job, one of the longer books in the Bible, is dedicated solely to the question of suffering.

Likewise the books of Jeremiah and Habakkuk have much to say about it.

Much of 1 Peter and Hebrews is about the suffering and persecution of Christians.

Many of Paul’s letters were written from prison.

About one third of the Psalms, the prayers of the OT, are cries that arise out of doubt, disappointment, or pain. 1

1 " suffer8.htm"> suffer8.htm


Many of David’s psalms are his cries of despair where he questions why evil is seemingly prevailing:

Psalm 94:3 (NKJV) Lord, how long will the wicked, How long will the wicked triumph?

Psalm 43:2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?

And this famous psalm was quoted by Jesus on the cross:

Psalm 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.


In this study we will look at:

The inevitability of suffering

The purpose of suffering

Our response to suffering








The worst countries for persecution rated by Open Doors:

North Korea














Saudi Arabia









Palestinian Territories












Central African Republic







Suffering for the true Christian is inevitable!

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33 ESV).

Matt 10:29-30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Paul states that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).


The path of following the Lord Jesus Christ is not an easy one. Along the way lies suffering and hardship, but nothing we experience will ever compare to the suffering Jesus endured for us on the cross.

Brother Yun (aka Liu Zhenying), born 1958, is an exiled Chinese Christian house church leader, evangelist and author of “The Heavenly Man”. Yun says the following:

I have a problem with the ‘prosperity’ teaching prevalent today, which tells us if we follow the Lord we’ll be safe and comfortable. This is completely contrary to Scripture as well as to our experiences in China. In addition to serving years in prison, I’ve been arrested about thirty different times for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To follow God is a call not only to live for him, but to die for him also. (Brother Yun)

True followers of Jesus will be persecuted, insulted and slandered.


Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12)

In contrast, false prophets are non-offensive and hence popular. Jesus said, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets”. (Luke 6:26)

Nik Ripken states:

There’s nothing here in the United States worthy of persecution. Persecution is Satan’s reaction against Christians who choose to not keep silent about their faith. If we are keeping our faith to ourselves, why would Satan want to wake that up? Where we find a great harvest, we find a great persecution; where we find little harvest, we find little persecution. 1

1 "http:// articles/ the-insanity-of-god-calls-christians-to-witness-obedience">http:// articles/ the-insanity-of-god-calls-christians-to-witness-obedience


During the persecution of the Emperor Nero, in which he was later crucified, Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12).

Paul tells the Philippians, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Phil 1:29-30). Paul would also die at the hands of Nero!


The Bible does not teach the absence of suffering for believers, but God’s sustenance during suffering and the obligation on our part to endure and overcome through suffering.

But if suffering is inevitable, does this mean that it is God’s will? CAN SUFFERING BE GOD’S WILL?

The Bible says the answer is “YES”!

Peter writes, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator…” (1 Pet 4:19)

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Pet 3:17)


A Ugandan Christian named Henry was traveling by a bus that was ambushed by guerrillas. Half of his face was blown away and World Vision paid for him to go to Montreal for treatment. David Watson, an Anglican clergyman, says that when he met Henry, he flinched when he saw the mangled flesh that had once been his face. But Henry’s eyes sparkled. Unable to speak Henry wrote: “God never promises us an easy time. Just a safe arrival.” 1

According to missionary Nik Ripken, “Persecution is normal, not the exception. Throughout the church’s history when people turn to Jesus, persecution happens.”

1 Source: Watson, ‘Fear No Evil’


Nik Ripken is the author of “The Insanity of God” and “The Insanity of Obedience”.

Ripken’s journey began in 1992, when he went on a humanitarian mission into Somaliland, where the Somali National Movement had just declared independence following the collapse of the national government.

He was astonished by the depravity and chaos – constant shootings, children and adults dying of hunger, practically every woman had been raped multiple times. “What I saw then was a mirror of what ISIS is doing today,” Ripken says. 


Nik & Ruth Ripken

 “I saw the utter depravity of humankind. I saw what happens when Satan is unmasked, and he doesn’t have to hide behind materialism or democracy or Islam or Buddhism.” 1

Nik and Ruth Ripken’s lives as missionaries were then upended when their 16-year-old son died as a result of a severe asthma attack. His tragic death filled their hearts with a compelling question: Is Jesus worth it?

Pursuing an answer Ripken visited 72 countries to interview more than 600 believers who had suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus. “How does faith survive, let alone flourish in the places of the world that are overcome with the darkness of sin, despair and hopelessness?” he asked.

1 "http:// articles/ the-insanity-of-god-calls-christians-to-witness-obedience">http:// articles/ the-insanity-of-god-calls-christians-to-witness-obedience


His books relate the story of being taught by these persecuted believers “how to follow Jesus, how to love Jesus, and how to walk with Him day by day even when it doesn’t make sense.”

Ripken asked why Christian workers in a Muslim country closed to the Gospel would gather to share communion after a Muslim extremist shot 4 colleagues, killing 3 of them?

Why would Ripken himself move his family away from the safety and comfort of a Kentucky town in the US to settle in Africa, where they encountered sickness and death and witnessed unspeakable suffering among their neighbours and friends? Insanity is the only plausible explanation by the world’s standards, Ripken says.


Why would a man like Dmitri, imprisoned for leading an illegal house church in Yaroslavl, Russia, insist on singing a praise song for years, even though prison guards beat him and fellow inmates ridiculed him?

During Communist rule, the Soviet police had arrested Dmitri and put him in a prison filled with hardened criminals. A thousand miles from home, he suffered regular beatings and the jailers demanded he renounce his faith in Christ and confess to being a Western spy. They even deceived him into thinking they had arrested his wife and that she had been murdered. But every morning for 17 years, Dmitri stood at attention by his bed, faced the East, lifted his hands to heaven and sang a song to Jesus. He often had food and human waste thrown into his cell in attempts by other inmates to stop his singing.


Then, one day, after finding a piece of paper on which Dmitri had written every Bible verse, story and song he could recall, his jailers beat him severely and threatened him with execution. When Dmitri made it clear he would neither deny Jesus nor sign a confession, guards dragged him from his cell for execution.

Outside the cell, however, the guards stopped dead in their tracks. Amazingly the 1,500 hardened criminals who had ridiculed him for nearly 2 decades stood at attention in their cells. They faced the East, raised their arms and began to sing the song they had heard Dmitri sing every morning.

“Who are you?” a guard demanded Dmitri. “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is his name!” he replied.


They returned Dmitri to his cell. Some time later, he was released. That’s the kind of influence for which Christians should strive, Ripken says. But, it only comes through “insane” obedience to God’s commands.

Approximately 9,000 people groups representing nearly 4 billion people live where there are few believers and few, if any, churches. In places hostile to the Gospel, believers share their faith at risk to their and their families’ safety.

Ripken says, “… take Jesus across the street. If we are fervent in sharing our faith and are rejected for who Christ is, we can certainly experience in America what it’s like to be persecuted,” he says. “You don’t have to get on a plane. The only reason we are not being persecuted in America is that we are not witnessing.” 1

1 " 42160/ insanity-of-obedience-explored-by-ripken"> 42160/ insanity-of-obedience-explored-by-ripken


About 70 percent of those who practice their faith live in environments of persecution,” Ripken says. “Persecution described normal Christianity in the first century after Christ, and it describes normal Christianity today.” He says the Christians he met suffered for two simple reasons: They chose to follow Jesus, and they chose to not keep silent about his resurrection.” 1

“One of the men I interviewed, a man who had followed his father into prison and torture, looked at me and said. ‘Nik, don’t you give up in freedom what we never give up in persecution, and that is our witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1

1 Ibid


The hallmark of that witness to the resurrection is public baptism. “Believers in persecution teach me over and over again that baptism is at least two things,” Ripken says. “It shows us who we are willing to die for – Jesus Christ – and who we are willing to die with – the body of Christ.”

He tells the story of an Iranian pastor named Hek, who was arrested by authorities. Word came that his mutilated body had been discovered just as a co-worker was preparing to baptize a group of 35 believers the pastor had led to faith in Christ. “Are you ready to be baptized?” the co-worker asked the group. “Pastor Hek’s life shows you what it means.” 1

1 Ibid


If you suffer as a Christian - you’re in the company of:

The prophets

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil… For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”

The apostles

When banished by the Emperor Domitian to do hard labour on the island of Patmos, John writes, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev 1:9)


Paul writes, “We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong


opposition.” (1 Thess 2:2)

The Lord tells Ananias the following about Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)

2 Tim 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God


2 Tim 2:8-9 This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

The early Church

1 Thess 2:14 -15 For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.


The true church throughout the ages.

Tertullian (2nd century) writes, “If the Tiber rises so high it floods the walls, or the Nile so low it doesn’t flood the fields, if the earth opens, or the heavens don’t, if there is famine, if there is plague, instantly the howl goes up, ‘The Christians to the lion!’ What, all of them? to a single lion?” 1

1 Apologeticum 40


When Polycarp of Smyrna, the disciple of John, was on trial the proconsul was at first eager to spare him. In a 2nd century writing called “The Martyrdom of Polycarp”, the author relates the following account.

“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” “I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.” “Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.” 1

1 "https:// study/ module/ polycarp/ ">https:// study/ module/ polycarp/ Polycarp’s Martyrdom (ca. 69-ca. 155) Translated by J.B. Lightfoot. Abridged and modernized by Stephen Tomkins.


 “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.” “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”

In 1739 the Bishop of London denounced George Whitefield. 1 At Moorfields one lout climbed a tree overlooking the preacher and urinated at him. 2

In 1744 Whitefield almost became a martyr. He was attacked by a man uttering abusive language, who called him a dog, villain, and so forth, and then proceeded to beat him unmercifully with a gold- headed cane until he was almost unconscious. 1

1 Source: " "> 2 Victor Shepherd

George Whitefield


Missionaries to West Africa in the 19th century often transported their possessions to the field by packing them in a coffin and shipping them that way! The expected life expectancy on the field at the time was approximately 3 to 4 years. Upon setting out, missionaries understood that they could die so they brought coffins – for their bodies to be sent back to Europe or America.


Alexander MacKay, pioneer missionary to Uganda said, “Within 6 months, you will probably hear that one of us is dead. When the news comes, do not be cast down; but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.” How prophetic his words were. Within 3 months, one of the party of 8 was dead; within a year 5 had died; and at the end of 2 years, MacKay himself was the sole survivor. In the face of overwhelming odds he struggled on for 12 years until he too was felled by malarial fever.

Alexander Mackay (1849-1890)


When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

There is no painless way to follow Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For who- ever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

James Calvert (1813-1892)


During its early years The Salvation Army faced a great deal of opposition, especially from those in the alcohol-selling industry who were concerned that the activities of William Booth and his followers would persuade the poorer classes to stop drinking. One diffuse group who opposed them particularly in Southern England was the Skeleton Army, who disrupted their marches against alcohol from the early 1880s until about 1892.


Salvation Army members being pursued by the Skeleton Army

 Clashes between the 2 groups lead to the deaths of several Salvationists and injuries to many others. 1

In Weston-super-Mare, a mob of 2,000 Skeletons temporarily overpowered the police and attacked a Salvationist procession. Later, a Salvationist service was interrupted when a window was smashed and a flock of pigeons coated in red pepper was released inside. As the Salvationists rushed out to escape the ensuing cloud of burning pepper and enraged birds, they were attacked by a waiting Skeleton Army. In Worthing, a 4,000-strong Skeleton Army pelted the Salvationist hall with rocks. In 1882, at least 669 Salvationists were assaulted and 56 buildings damaged by the Skeleton Armies. 2

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Esther served as a nurse in Pakistan. She was born into an Islamic family in British India but converted at age 17 when she read Isaiah in Christian school. Her family moved to the new country of Pakistan in 1947. Fearing an arranged Muslim wedding, she left home and changed her name. She began work with orphans and then at a mission hospital, evangelizing in the nearby villages. She was found murdered at her home. Though no one was arrested for the crime, the suspicion is that her brothers found her and killed her because of her Christianity and disobedience to Islam. 1

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Esther John (1929–1960)


On 22 Sep 2013, two Islamic suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

81 Christians were killed in the ensuing attack.

The 2 sisters pictured were among the victims. They were new Christians, having accepted Jesus after receiving a copy of “The Story of Jesus”, a booklet that explained the Gospel. 1

1" blog/ 2016/ 01/ 20-christian-woman-died-martyrs/ "> Ibid


Sufia, 1 a young African Christian woman in Somalia, was killed in Mogadishu on April 2014.

She was dragged from her home by armed men who shot her and fled. Her only offence was her Christian faith. According to The Voice of Martyrs, Somalia is second only to North Korea as the worst persecutors of Christians. In fact, a Muslim group in Somalia with allegiance to Al Qaeda has sworn to rid their country of all Christians. So, certain death will come even if a piece of Christian literature is found associated with a person. 2

1 Name changed to protect those associated with her 2 " blog/ 2016/ 01/ 20-christian-woman-died-martyrs"> blog/ 2016/ 01/ 20-christian-woman-died-martyrs


The bloody aftermath of a massacre during Palm Sunday mass (2017) after a suicide bomber murdered Christian worshippers at the Saint Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt.

Seija and Kaija, both from Finland, worked for International Assistance Mission (IAM), an international Christian organization that has served the people of Afghanistan through health and economic development since 1966. They both had more 15 years of service with the ministry, Seija with mental health patients and Kaija with low income women in business development. In July of 2014, because of their work and identity, they were both killed in Herat by ISIS. 1

1 Ibid

Seija Järvenpää and Kaija Liisa Martin


On 28 Mar 2014, 25 year-old Mary Sameh George travelled to Cairo, Egypt, to deliver medicine to a sick, elderly woman. Once some suspected Muslim Brotherhood members “saw that she was a Christian [because of the cross hanging on her rear- view mirror], they jumped on top of the car, to the point that the vehicle was no longer visible,” an eyewitness said. “The roof of the car collapsed. When they realized that she was starting to die, they pulled her out of the car and started pounding on her and pulling her hair, to the point that portions of her hair and scalp came off. They kept beating her, kicking her, stabbing her with any object or weapon they could find.” It is also known that Mary was shot and her car burned. 1 1" blog/ 2016/ 01/ 20-christian-woman-died-martyrs/ "> Ibid


28-year old Aleem Masih, a Pakistani Christian married 23-year old Nadia, a Muslim who put her faith in Christ. “The couple fled to Narang Mandi, some 60 kilometers away from Lahore, as Nadia’s Muslim family launched a manhunt for them to avenge the shame their daughter had brought upon them by recanting Islam and marrying a Christian,” attorney Aneeqa Maria of The Voice Society told Morning Star News.


Nadia Masih

On 30 July 2015, Nadia’s family received a tip that the couple would visit a doctor in Khaliqnagar that evening. Eyewitnesses said Nadia’s father, Muhammad Din Meo, along with her brothers, seized the driver of a rickshaw in which the couple were riding and abducted the couple taking them to a nearby farm. 1

The Muslim men brutally tortured the couple. Aleem Masih was shot and killed, while Nadia was shot in the abdomen.

Leaving the couple for dead the attackers “returned to their village and publicly proclaimed that they had avenged their humiliation and restored the pride of the Muslims by killing the couple in cold blood”. 1

1 "https:// 2015/ 08/ 27/ christian-in-pakistan-killed-wife-shot-by-muslim-relatives-attorney-says/ ">https:// 2015/ 08/ 27/ christian-in-pakistan-killed-wife-shot-by-muslim-relatives-attorney-says/


Jesus: The Messiah is described in Isaiah 53:3 as “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering”. Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. ” (John 15:18-20)


Peter comforts a persecuted church by writing:

1 Pet 2:19-23 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.


Writing to an audience who were being tempted to fall away because of persecution, the writer of Hebrews reminds them that our heroes of faith suffered:

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Heb 11:35-38)


In this context dealing with suffering we are then pointed to Jesus as an example of overcoming in the face of suffering. The ‘witnesses’ referred to are those who had faith in the midst of suffering.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:1-3)


Scottish-born David Livingstone (1813–1873) opened up ‘the dark continent’ (Africa) to the gospel and also fought relentlessly to stop the Arab slave trade.

In Africa, Livingstone was attacked and left permanently injured by a lion.


He married Mary Moffat, but was later separated from her and the children for 4 years when they returned to England in order that Mary could recover from ongoing illness. Joining him on his next trip, Mary succumbed to fever and died. In grief he exclaimed “Now for the first time in my life I am willing to die! Take me too, O God!”

Livingstone said, “I never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of ‘sacrifice’ when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself up for us.”


Mary Livingstone (nee Moffat) (1821-1862)

The book, ‘Why Do People Suffer?’ relates the story of a school that collapsed, killing all the teachers and most of the children. A little boy, badly maimed, was rescued from the rubble and rushed to hospital. For hours a team of doctors and nurses fought to save his life while his mother waited anxiously outside the operating theatre. After 7 hours of painstaking surgery the little boy died. Instead of leaving it to the nurse to tell the mother, the surgeon went himself. As he broke the dreadful news the mother became hysterical in her grief and attacked the surgeon, pummeling his chest with her fists. But instead of pushing her away, the doctor held her to himself tightly until the woman’s sobbing subsided and she rested cradled in his arms. 1

1 Source: " suffer8.htm"> suffer8.htm


And then in the heavy silence the surgeon began to weep. Tears streamed down his face and grief racked his body. For he had come to the hospital the moment he heard that his one and only son had been killed in the same school. 1

William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–1944), put it like this: “There cannot be a God of love,” people say, “because if there was, and he looked upon the world, his heart would break.” The church points to the Cross and says, “It did break”.

William Temple (1881–1944)

1 Ibid


Lisa Goertz was a Jewish lady who lost most of her family in the Nazi holocaust, including her mother, husband, brother, son and daughter. At one point, when 16 members of her family had disappeared, she decided to end it all. In her book, “I Stepped into Freedom”, she tells what happened: “I walked out into the night, feeble with hunger, half crazy with fear and fatigue, and made my way down to the river Neisse. In a few hours all would be over, I told myself. What a relief! And there it happened. Across the dark river I saw the Cross and Jesus Christ on it. His face was not the face of a victor; it was the face of a fellow-sufferer, full of love and understanding and compassion. We gazed at each other, both of us Jews, and then the vision disappeared.” For Lisa this was the beginning of the road that led to faith and personal healing. 1

1 Ibid


During President Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1979, a woman of about 80 spoke out from the audience at the end of one of his campaign speeches. “Mr. Reagan, everything you’ve said sounds just fine. But what about the old folks? Haven’t you forgotten us?” The man who was to become the oldest president of the US smiled down at her and replied, “Forget you? Heavens, how could I ever forget you? I am one of you.” Does God know our pain ? Yes he does because he became one of us! 1

1 " ">


Ronald Reagan (1911–2004)

As Jesus approached Jerusalem “he wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

To the mocking question “Where is your God?” when we face pain beyond expression, we do not have all the answers. But we have a God with wounds. 1

When he was man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it all worthwhile.

1 “Nothing Else to Fear” – David W. Ellis


On 8 Jan 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death in Ecuador. They were trying to reach the Huaorani Indians for the first time ever with the gospel message.


Jim Elliot’s wife Elisabeth related the story in the book “Shadow of the Almighty”, a title taken from Psalm 91.

Ps 91:1-3 (NKJV) He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.


Elisabeth & Jim Elliot

Ps 91:4-7 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.


Ps 91:8-16 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.


But Elisabeth’s husband Jim had lost his life – while living in the shadow of the Almighty.

Elisabeth hadn’t forgotten the heartbreak when she chose the title only 2 years after his death. At the time, they had only been married for 3 years and had a 10-month-old daughter.


Elisabeth Elliot

The title was not a slip — not any more than the death of the 5 missionaries was a slip. But the world saw it differently. Around the world, the death of these young men was called a tragic nightmare. Elisabeth believed the world was missing something. She wrote, “The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s credo: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’” 1

She called her book “Shadow of the Almighty” because she was utterly convinced that the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering and death, but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24)… 1

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At times - in his sovereignty - God will not use his power to deliver you and me from suffering.

While Jesus was delivered from the murderous mob at Nazareth, God did not use his power to save Jesus from the cross, because of his sovereign plan of salvation.

Nor did he use it to remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”, but said instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

He did not save James from the executioner, despite sending an angel to deliver Peter.

While Paul survived being stoned at Lystra, Stephen died in Jerusalem when he was stoned.


The prison doors did not open for John the Baptist – he was beheaded for speaking up for God’s truth.

Nor will God always use his omnipotence to deliver us from trials and hardship.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)



Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

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