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Pain: God’s Biggest Problem - John 9:1-7

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Perhaps the biggest impediment to believing in God (as stated by those who don’t) is the presence of pain and suffering in the world. How can there be a God who is benevolent and omnipotent with the sheer volume of grief, misery, travail, and torment at any given moment? Today we explore the theme of a loving God in a universe pockmarked by pain. As Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples, they came across a blind man. I’d like to show you four features of this most common and universal of human experiences.

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8/23/2020
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Pain: God’s Biggest Problem
John 9:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Perhaps the biggest impediment to believing in God (as stated by those who don’t) is the presence of pain and suffering in the world. How can there be a God who is benevolent and omnipotent with the sheer volume of grief, misery, travail, and torment at any given moment? Today we explore the theme of a loving God in a universe pockmarked by pain. As Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples, they came across a blind man. I’d like to show you four features of this most common and universal of human experiences.
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20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly

20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly

Over 175 million people in the United States need some sort of vision correction. From glasses to contacts and corneal reshaping to corrective surgery, there's no question that seeing clearly improves people's quality of life. But what about our spiritual vision? With so many religious, philosophical, and ideological lenses to look through, how do we find the right lens? In this series, Skip Heitzig brings the core doctrines of Christian faith into clear focus. These are the truths that define who God is, who we are, and the choices that every person has to make.

Outline

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  1. Pain Produces Questions (vv. 1-2)

  2. Pain Defies Our Explanations (v. 2)

  3. Pain Requires Clarification (vv. 3-4)

  4. Pain Brings an Obligation (vv. 4-7)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: August 23, 2020
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Pain: God's Biggest Problem"
Text: John 9:1-7

Path

Perhaps the biggest impediment to believing in God (as stated by those who don't) is the presence of pain and suffering in the world. How can there be a God who is benevolent and omnipotent with the sheer volume of grief, misery, travail, and torment at any given moment? In this teaching, Pastor Skip explores the theme of a loving God in a universe pockmarked by pain.
  1. Pain Produces Questions (vv. 1-2)
  2. Pain Defies Our Explanations (v. 2)
  3. Pain Requires Clarification (vv. 3-4)
  4. Pain Brings an Obligation (vv. 4-7)
Points

Pain Produces Questions (vv. 1-2)
  • Pain interferes with our quality of life; nearly one-fourth of adults suffer with chronic pain, costing $635 billion a year in medical treatment.
  • Pain is a real problem for Christians. Atheists and skeptics argue against God on the basis of pain.
  • But God doesn't shy away from suffering; it is not a problem to Him.
  • Jesus Himself is described as "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).
  • One thing pain does produce is questions, as the story of the blind beggar in John 9 suggests. Why is there suffering?
  • It's a question of theodicy: How can a loving and all-powerful God allow evil and pain to exist?
  • We can offer evidence for God's existence (teleological and ontological arguments, history, fulfilled prophecy, etc.), but pain can stop us from believing in Him.
Pain Defies Our Explanations (v. 2)
  • In John 9, the disciples tried to explain pain, but their explanation was incorrect.
  • Here are a few explanations given for pain:
    • Because of sin. Some Christians argue that if you have enough faith, you will have no pain. This is false theology.
    • Because there is no God. Atheist Richard Dawkins and journalist Susan Jacoby, among others, have argued that pain disqualifies a loving God from existing. But if there is no God, where does our standard of goodness come from? How do we know what is good or evil at all?
    • Because God is weak. Deists argue that God is not all-knowing or all-powerful; He is learning day by day, the same way we do. Modern versions of this philosophy include process theology and open theism. The idea is that God would help if He could, but He can't; He's impotent.
Pain Requires Clarification (vv. 3-4)
  • Pain needs a biblical answer.
  • Jesus didn't give pat answers for suffering but underscored God's sovereignty. He elevated the argument to the level of God doing what brings Him glory.
  • In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus provided an answer: God may allow suffering to accomplish a greater purpose, like repentance.
  • Suffering in the hands of a loving God can be used for good.
  • What people may call bad or evil may be used by God for a great good—like when two harmful substances (sodium and chloride), put together, create something good (table salt).
  • Pain can:
    • Strengthen us (see James 1:3).
    • Correct us (see Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). As C.S. Lewis stated, pain "plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul."
    • Equip us (see 2 Corinthians 1:4).
Pain Brings an Obligation (vv. 4-7)
  • To Jesus, pain was not a theological case study but an opportunity to do God's work, to show His compassion.
  • The word "day" in verse 4 refers to a temporary increment of time, a moment God has allotted for us to do His work.
  • Here's the principle: We don't know how long our "day" is, so now is our time to work.
  • Now is the time to show compassion, pray for others, and share the good news.
  • How do we deal with the problem of pain? We affirm that God is loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing, and that one day He will eradicate pain.
  • Until then, we let pain change us and we help alleviate it in others.
Practice

Connect Up: Theodicy means"the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil" (Wikipedia). Discuss the two key words from this definition below. How do they relate to pain and God working all things together for good?
  • Vindication: the act of clearing something or someone from blame. How does God use pain to vindicate good? How is Jesus the greatest example of this?
  • Providence: the protection and guidance of God in history. How does providence come into play in the arena of pain? Use Romans 8:28 as a point of discussion.
Connect In: Pastor Skip told us to ponder two questions: Are you willing to embrace suffering if it drives you to God? And are you willing to alleviate suffering to drive others to God? Answer these two questions. How has suffering drawn you closer to God? In what areas are you—or have you been—willing to alleviate suffering in the world?

Connect Out: How would you answer a skeptic or atheist regarding the problem of evil, pain, and suffering in the world? How can you show that Jesus is the final answer to pain, the vindication of God, via His resurrection and future eradication of all evil (see Revelation 21:1-8; 22:3)?Here's food for thought using a summary of Alvin Plantinga's argument: "Though omnipotent, God could not be expected to do literally anything. God could not, for example, create square circles, act contrary to his nature, or, more relevantly, create beings with free will that would never choose evil" (Wikipedia). Plantinga further argued that God could use the moral value of human free will as a morally justified reason for permitting the existence of evil.For helpful resources, see Norman Geisler's If God, Why Evil?, Alvin Plantinga's God, Freedom, and Evil,and C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain.

Transcript

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Pain: God's Biggest Problem - John 9:1-7 - Skip Heitzig

God isn't really something to worship.

He's just waiting to destroy all of us.

I guess there's a God out there somewhere.

I hope there is a God.

God isn't really something to worship.

God is everywhere.

[APPLAUSE]

Would you turn in your Bibles please to the Gospel of John in your New Testament, chapter 9? Today I'm going to talk about your favorite subject, pain and suffering. The most common reason people go to doctors is for a simple word-- pain. It's the reason over 50% of all emergency room visits take place.

Pain interrupts our quality of life, and a good percentage of American adults-- about 25% experience chronic pain. I suffered with chronic back pain for about eight years until I electively decided to do something about that this last year. At the same time, I was experiencing some head pain. I had never gotten headaches in my life, but I was getting headaches, and come to find out, simultaneously to a back healing came a subdural hematoma that needed to be drained-- not once, but twice.

And so after a couple bouts of that and a week in the ICU, I emerge going, that's all behind me, and then COVID hit that week. So we went from the fire into the frying pan pretty immediately. According to Science Daily, the annual cost of chronic pain in America is $635 billion per year. That includes health care costs. That includes time off.

$635 billion a year is more than the yearly cost for cancer, and heart disease, and diabetes together. There's even a medical publication I discovered called the Journal of Pain. It's part of the American Pain Society-- didn't even know that existed. I don't belong to that. I don't want to belong to-- the American Pain Society.

Then there's also the International Association for the Treatment of Pain. It's all about getting education to treat people that deal with chronic pain. The title of my message today is Pain, God's Biggest Problem. And I tell you why I called it that. I remember reading something in a Phillip Yancy book I want to throw up on the screen, where Phillip Yancy said, if you pinned them against the wall, in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God's one mistake.

I think that's how a lot of people think. We live in a wonderful world, but God, why would you allow the volume of suffering that we see in our world? Before I finish the introduction to this message, scores of people will die from malnutrition, from car accidents, from wars, from a number of things. In fact, the presence of pain and suffering in the world poses a real problem for the Christian who interfaces with the skeptic or the atheist who wants to argue against God because there is pain and suffering.

How can a loving God allow pain and suffering to exist? I want to put something on the screen from the Atlantic magazine. A reader named John wrote in, and the article was all about belief in God and this issue. And he said, God is a human construct and somebody needs to send God back to rewrite. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all describe a God that is benevolent, just, omnipotent, and omniscient, which doesn't fit our world one bit.

If you're determined to believe in a God, Zeus makes a lot more sense than the supposed Christian Heavenly Father. Here's a guy who says he doesn't believe in God because the idea of God, as presented to him by Christians, doesn't fit what he sees the reality of the world. Here's what I want you to know-- God doesn't shy away from pain and suffering. It's not a problem to Him.

In fact, it is a theme of scripture-- one of the many themes. There's a whole book about suffering called the book of Job, about a man who suffered through a extended period of great loss, great devastation, great suffering-- tried to figure out why it happened because he was such a good person. There are many psalms that are written at the lowest part of a person's life crying out to figure out why there is such deprivation.

There's even a book called the book of Lamentations. A lament is a wail, a book of crying, a book of mourning. And the Savior that we follow was called a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Jesus is presented as a sufferer. Now, in John chapter 9-- we're going to look at only the first seven verses this morning-- we are confronted with a man who has a disease. The disciples notice him. Jesus sees him.

They're going into the temple compound for worship along with probably thousands of other worshippers. But in just seeing this man who has this issue, it brings to the surface for the disciples the problem of pain and suffering. They bring it up to Jesus. So what I'd like to do in these seven verses is give you four statements about suffering, four features of the experience of pain.

Here's the first-- pain produces questions-- always does. As soon as you hurt, you want to ask, why am I hurting? Why now? Why this? Why so much? It's not too much different from what we are about to read in verse 1. "Now, as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, 'Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'"

Now, just a word about his condition-- he was blind. It was pretty common in those days to see people who were blind for a number of reasons. One of the reasons-- poverty was pretty large of an issue at the time, and with poverty comes unsanitary conditions. With unsanitary conditions, people are ripe for a number of maladies, including blindness.

Add to that the fact that, in the Middle East, the sun is really bright, not unlike here. There are things like blowing dust and sand, not unlike here. We have sunglasses and ointments. They do not. All of that led to conditions like this. Also, there were problems at birth. And you'll notice this man didn't become blind. He had a congenital issue. He was blind, it says in verse 1, from birth.

There was a condition-- pretty common-- that would be called today ophthalmia neonatorum, also known as neonatal conjunctivitis. It's a bacterium that can reside in the birth canal of the mother, and when the child is born, it gets into the eyelids. Within about three days, pus develops in the eyes. A few days later, total blindness sets in.

If that happened today, a little medicine would cure it right up. A little azithromycin, and you'd be good to go-- but not then. And when a person became blind or was born blind, often they were an outcast in the culture. They didn't have a good infrastructure to support them, so they had to resort to being beggars. They usually would beg in public places where lots of people gather. And a temple's perfect, because people go to the temple to worship God, and often they come with feelings of guilt.

And people like that are good to ask money from if you're a blind beggar. That's the setup behind the story here. And when the disciples pass him by in the temple precincts, they ask a question. This is a perfect time to bring up this issue with Jesus. So who sinned, this man or his parents? I'll get to the question in a moment.

Beneath that question is the question-- why? Why is there suffering and pain in a world that God created? Did you know that is the number one roadblock to faith in God? Of all the questions people want to unravel, this is it. I have a friend, an acquaintance who was part of a consortium that put together an issue they brought to the public a few years back. They asked the American public, if you could meet with God and ask Him one question that you knew he would give you an answer to, what would that question be?

The number one question that people want to know the answer from God about is, why is there pain and suffering? Why so much? Now, that issue is a philosophical issue dealt within classrooms, dealt with in seminaries. It's called theodicy. Theodicy means, how do we reconcile a loving powerful God with the presence of evil in the world?

We hear of shootings every day, car crashes, wars, deadly diseases, protests, anger. And I've discovered that you might be really good at apologetics, and you can give reasons for the existence of God. Let me take you through the teleological argument for design. Let me show you how prophecy underscores the veracity of scripture.

All of that's good, but you won't get very far with a lot of people until you deal with this issue, the issue of personal suffering. It is an obstruction for many folks. And what makes it worse isn't just that there is evil, and suffering, and pain, but why so many innocent people are affected. At least that's what they're called. They're all innocent people. Why children?

I suppose, if only villains got broken legs, if only murderers got Parkinson's disease, at least there would be a sense of celestial justice in that, but you have so many people affected who don't deserve it. I remember reading-- and I'm going to show it to you-- something CS Lewis admitted to his wife. CS Lewis, you probably know, was married for a short period of time to a woman by the name of Joy Davidman Gresham.

They married. She really was the joy of his life, and she died of a disease. It's so broke his heart that he, after she died, wrote these words. CS Lewis wrote, "Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside."

I just wanted you to read that because this is a Christian leader, an apologetic mastermind who is dealing with an issue at a raw, real level, and writing emotionally at the time. What I want you to know is CS Lewis came through the period of pain, and he came to a firm a loving, all-powerful God, but you are reading what he wrote in that deepest, darkest, most honest moment of emotional suffering.

Where is God? Now, I want to make a quick note before we move on to the next. Something interesting is that pain is more of a problem in countries like ours than it is in the third world, where there is more suffering, where there are more reasons for suffering. What's interesting is, in places where there's far more daily pain and discomfort, they're not as obsessive as why God would allow it.

In fact, many of them hold on to God much more firmly than we do. But in Western countries like ours, where pleasure is regarded as the highest good, if that pleasure gets taken away from us, if we get out of sorts for a few months, if we're in a tough situation, we squawk louder than anybody else. Just a side note-- pain produces questions.

Here's a second-- pain defies our explanations. Now, the disciples try to explain this man's condition. You can hear it in their question. Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? You have enough information in that question to understand their theology. They believe that the reason he suffers is because of somebody's sin-- either his own or his parents'.

Who sinned that he was born blind? Now, they were wrong. Their explanation for pain was wrong, but let's just use this as a diving board off into a few common explanations for the existence of pain and suffering. Number one, let's take theirs-- sin is the issue. The reason there's pain in the world is because of sin.

Now, I think all of us would agree that, ultimately, we live in a fallen world because of the sin of our first parents that brought all of the consequences. So in an ultimate sense, that is true. But it's not always true that somebody suffers because they did something wrong. You can't always say, if you see somebody in great pain, oh, it's because that person's a great sinner that they're suffering.

That's what Job's friends tried to do. God said Job was blameless, upright, there's nobody like him, but for weeks, maybe even months, Job's friends tried to poke, and prod, and find the real sin issue in jobs life. There wasn't any. It was a wrong answer. But what a question. Did you notice this? Did you ever just sort of pause to ponder what kind of a question this is?

So here's a man born blind, came out of the womb not seeing. And the disciples said, so who was it that sinned? Was it him or his parents? Question-- how can you sin if you're born blind? Well, I'm glad you asked. There was a belief system, even among the devout Jews, called prenatal sin-- that you could sin in the womb, even in the embryonic form of development.

And they had all sorts of fanciful stories of babies in the womb kick too much. That's an indication that there is an overt anger issue, sin issue. They believed in prenatal sin. Also, there was the influence 2,000 years ago of the Greek culture. Plato believed in the pre-existence of the soul. The soul is waiting to find an outlet in a human body.

So all of that formed a mindset of the possibility of a soul sending before it even entered the world. But the question is, was that this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Maybe his parents did something. In fact, maybe-- and this was common 2,000 years ago-- venereal disease was one of the biggest contributions to blindness in a child's life.

Again, bacterium can reside in the womb of the mother, and when the baby is born, it can be infected and can cause blindness through the birth canal. Now, hold that thought. There are still people today who think that, if a person is suffering, it's because there's sin in his life or her life. And that is a theology that has sadly even found its way into the church.

A few years back, we had a couple come to us after a very difficult, difficult period of their lives. Their child, their little baby girl, I believe, had died recently, and they came to church. And I was asking them to share their story with me privately, their journey. And she said, well, we were actually at a different church, and the elders of that church told us that, if we had enough faith, our child wouldn't get sick.

So we believed God, and our child got sick. And they came to us and said, if you have real faith in God and there's no sin in your life, then your child is going to be healed. Well our child got sicker and our child died. And then she said, the blow was-- the final blow was when the elders came to us after our child died and said, the reason your child is dead is because you didn't have enough faith.

Their hearts were so broken that they left that church and they started coming here. There is that false theology that has been around, where you oversimplify the problem of pain and suffering and try to make it, just believe and you'll receive, and you'll get rich, and you'll always be healthy. So that's one explanation that is wrong.

Here's another explanation that is common as to why evil, and pain, suffering exist, and that's to say it's because there is no God. God doesn't exist. It's a fairy tale. People made this up to deal with life. To take away the harsh blows of life, people construct a God to their own liking. Because, like David Hume's old argument, how can you have an all-powerful, do anything, all-loving, all-benevolent God who would allow at the same time, in the world He created, the sheer volume of pain and deprivation, deformation to occur?

It's very common to think that. In more modern times, probably the atheist de jure is the guy by the name of Richard Dawkins, and he wrote this. I want to show you. He said, "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication"-- notice, blind physical forces and genetic replication-- "some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference", end quote.

Translation-- suffering has no meaning, because this universe is just one big accident. You're an accident. You have no purpose. You're an accident. You are a fortuitous occurrence of accidental circumstance-- period. You get lucky. You don't get lucky. Now, some people find comfort in this.

For example, a New York Times writer by the name of Susan Jacoby says she finds solace in her disbelief in God, because now she's free from the task of trying to reconcile, how can there be a loving God and suffering in the world? And so she says, when she sees a shivering homeless person in New York City, the harshness of that reality, the punches of that injustice glance off of her more easily than if she believed in God.

But there's a problem with this belief system, and here's the problem. Once you say, I don't believe in God because there's so much evil in the world, you have made a very, very telling statement. If you say there's evil in the world, you can only say there's evil in the world if you have a notion of supreme good. Where did you get that notion from? Why would you say something is evil unless you believe, well, I have a notion of something that's good?

So here's an example. If we're in a classroom, and we're taking a test, and somebody gets a 90 on the test, somebody gets a 60 on the test, somebody gets a 45 on the test, it's only because 100% is a real standard with which to compare. So if there's no God, where do you get a standard of goodness by which you measure evil?

It's called the moral argument. CS Lewis was a master at that. Lewis said, if the universe is so bad, how did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good creator? Why is it that you have people around the world, if things are so bad, that they would ever come to believe that there is a good God?

So couple of explanations-- this is the direct cause of sin in your life-- bad explanation. Number 2-- there is no God-- not a suitable explanation. Here's the third explanation-- common explanation. God exists, but He's really weak. He can't handle this. He can't control it. This is the position of the deist that says God would like to help, but he really can't help. He's out there, but He's not omnipotent. He's impotent.

Now, this was popularized some years ago by a rabbi-- a very liberal rabbi named Harold Kushner-- famous author who wrote a book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. And he wrote this-- "God would like people to get what they deserve in life, but He can't always arrange it." And he wrote, "God has a hard time keeping chaos in check."

Now, that's just a sampling from his book. He in that same book encourages the readers to pray for God. Poor God-- He could use your help. He could use your prayers. It's absurd. There are today a couple of theological constructs. They're delineated. They're different from each other, but they're similar, and they share this belief of a God who has no power.

And one is called process theology. The other is known as open theism. There's a God, they say, but He is not an all-powerful God. Rather, He is a deity in progress. So God isn't the same yesterday, today, and forever. God changes every day. He learns more every day. God today is different than He was yesterday. 24 have passed. He's learning. He's growing. He's making more progress. He's getting better at being God than he was yesterday.

Now, can I just say-- a God like that is not much help. It's sort of like having a big brother who won't help when the bullies come around. I had a big brother Bob. He was 6 foot 8-- handy guy to have around at school. When the bullies come, Bob-- he was there. He was vigilant, and he would show up and just stand up and intimidate people. I loved it.

So pain produces questions and pain defies explanations. Because of that, I lead you to a third statement about suffering, a third feature of the experience of pain-- pain requires a clarification. Notice how Jesus clarifies things. Verse 3-- "Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work.'"

Now, in that statement, Christ is not saying this man is a sinless man. He never seen before in his life. His parents were perfect. They never committed a sin. Rather, he's saying this isn't the issue. Sin isn't the issue. There's no direct cause and effect relationship of sin to this man's suffering.

And here's one of the things I love about Jesus. He wasn't there to give pat answers to people for the reason-- this complicated issue of pain and suffering. Rather, what He did is He elevated the argument to a higher level. He's pushes this aside. Sin isn't the issue here, but let Me show you what I can do. Let Me show you what God can do.

He elevates it to the issue or the level of the sovereignty of God. This is similar to what he does in Luke chapter 13. Do you remember in that chapter-- I'll refresh your memory-- a groove comes to him with two issues of suffering, two things have happened they want an answer for. Number one, Pontius Pilate had murdered worshippers in the temple and mingled their blood with the animal sacrifices.

And then there was this tower-- there was something well-known in the city called the Tower of Siloam that had fallen down and killed, in a senseless act of building, 18 people. Why did this happen? They brought it up. Jesus answered. Listen to His answer. "Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men? I tell you, no." Look what He does. "But unless you repent, you will likewise perish."

He elevates the issue of pain and suffering to the ultimate level of what you will do with God in turning from your own sin to follow Him or not. Now, what he's doing here is simply saying, there's not always a direct link between sin and suffering, but rather, I've got a plan for this. This guy is just a miracle waiting to happen for the glory of God. He's blind for the glory of God. He is blind so that the glory, and majesty, and power of God can be manifest in him.

Now, push the pause button for a moment. I want you to consider this. Have you ever considered that God just might allow suffering in your life to accomplish a greater purpose? You're searching for, why? I need an explanation. I'm dealing with this philosophically. Could it be that God has a much higher purpose, a good purpose in mind so that suffering in the hands of a loving God can actually be used for good?

And isn't that the Romans 8:28 principle? We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And what that means is you and I, we have to be very careful about what we call good and evil. I can't believe that God would allow evil, something bad to happen to me.

Wait-- in a couple months, you might be looking back at that going, that was really good. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers? You meant it for evil-- God meant it for good to bring, as it is this day, many people alive. God has a greater purpose. I always like to illustrate this by a simple illustration from the physical world.

There's lots, but one that's easy for me to get my little head around is, in the periodic table of elements, there are a couple elements that alone could cause great harm to you-- could even kill you. Sodium in its pure form is a pretty volatile substance-- can kill you. Chlorine in its pure form-- same thing. But the right combination of sodium and chlorine together, sodium chloride-- that's just table salt. That makes food tastes great.

So harmful by themselves, but in the right combination, helpful-- so God, likewise, can take harmful things in the right combination and make them helpful. You're wondering, so what could be good and helpful about what I'm going through right now? Well, let me give you a few easy answers to that. There are several. Number one, pain, suffering-- it can strengthen us. It makes you stronger.

You've even heard that. Whatever won't kill you makes you stronger. Well, God uses things that are hurtful, seemingly, to strengthen us. Listen to what James said. You know this. You'll finish the text. For the testing of your faith produces-- finish it-- patience, or perseverance. Now, I know some of you, you say, man, would you pray for me? I'm impatient. Pray for patience.

You know, whenever you pray for patience, in a sense, you're asking God to give you a trial, because the trial of your faith, the Bible says, produces patience. You can't really get that without the hardship. So that's one benefit. It can strengthen us. Second benefit-- it'll correct us. It gets us back on track. It's God's beautiful loving way of spanking us.

Every good parent who believes in discipline knows the reason I'm going to inflict harm physically, a spanking on my child, is because I want to correct behavior so that that child doesn't end up in a far worse condition later on. This is based on my love for that child. I love that child enough because I want to see that child change.

David-- Psalm 119-- said, before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. Did you hear that? Before I was afflicted, I went astray-- spank-- but now I keep Your word-- correction. CS Lewis-- I know I'm quoting him a lot in this message-- said, "Pain plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul." You rebel-- spank-- plants that flag. Correction happens-- so to strengthen you and to correct you.

Here's the third benefit of suffering and pain. It equips us. It equips us. You are not equipped to talk to somebody who is in suffering unless you have suffered yourself. If you have never gone through a trial, you can try to empathize and give a scripture to, but it sounds so hollow unless you have trodden the road of suffering, and you are a fellow sufferer talking to somebody else.

That's what equips you to minister to the broken-- brokenness, pain, suffering, heartache. That becomes part of your toolbox. That's 2 Corinthians 1. God comforts us in our tribulations so that we can comfort those who are in any trouble with the same comfort we have received from Him. So pain requires a clarification, and that's it.

Now, let me take you to the for statement about suffering, the fourth feature of the experience of pain, and that is pain brings an obligation. Now, this is where we take the issue out of the classroom and onto the street. See, the disciples are walking by and they see a blind guy, and they make him the subject of their conversation. Jesus wants to make him an object of His compassion.

It's one thing. Let me figure out why that guy's suffering. Jesus said, how about I fix that? Pain brings an obligation. So look at verse 4. "'I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.' When he said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva. And he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

The COVID police would not allow that today. Just imagine you're the blind guy. You can't see anything, and all of a sudden you hear [HOCKING SOUND] what is that? And then you hear this kind of mixing, and then, did that just happen? "And He said to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam'"-- which is translated Sent. Here's Jesus, sent from the Father into the world. There's a play on thought there. So he went and washed and came back seeing.

You see, to Jesus Christ, this man was not a theological case study. He was an opportunity for God to get glory. He was an opportunity for Him to show compassion. He says, "I must work the works of Him who sent me"-- notice this-- "while it is day. Day is an increment of time. Jesus knew He had a few months until the crucifixion, and that few months of time is what he is referring to as My day.

I have time left while I'm on this earth to do things, and as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. You think about that. How long is your day? You don't know. I don't know. Our lives may end by the end of today, or this week, or a month, or a year, or a decade. We don't know. But how ever much time we have on this earth, that's our day, before the nightfall comes.

So let's say you die, and you go to heaven, you're in God's presence, and you're stoked, you're happy, you're rejoicing. You don't have to wear a mask in heaven. You don't have to social distance. You can go up and hug Jesus and give Paul a high five-- all that. When you're there in heaven, you're not going to be working.

No labor-- you rest from your labors, the book of Revelation says, in heaven. You rest from your labors. You will never pass out a single tract in heaven. You will never share the gospel with a single person in heaven. You will never be able to do a good deed, even suffer in front of people to lead them to Christ by your example in heaven. All of that takes place in your day on this earth, before the nightfall comes and you get into the next phase of life.

So to deal with the problem of pain academically only, philosophically only, theologically only is a cop-out. We must all take the next step of dealing with it practically. If it's all around us, we deal with it practically. We have an obligation. So then, how do Christians deal with pain and suffering?

We affirm God is loving, we affirm God is powerful, we affirm God knows everything about everybody everywhere, and we affirm that one day God is going to eradicate all pain, all suffering, all sorrow-- book of Revelation-- no death, no crying, no tears. But until He does, I'm going to let pain change me and I'm going to help alleviate pain when I see it.

I'm going to let it change me and I'm going to alleviate pain when I see it. So that leads me to these two questions to leave you with. Number one, are you willing to embrace suffering if it drives you to God? Don't answer that too quickly, because I want you to answer that in your own heart honestly.

Am I willing to embrace suffering, to actually say, bless you, trial, because it has moved me to trust God and come into an intimacy with God I had never known before? It's what Paul referred to as the fellowship of His suffering. Are you willing to embrace suffering if it drives you to God? That's the first question.

Second question-- are you willing to alleviate suffering if it drives others to God? You, by your presents and compassion, could do something for another person to show them there's a God who loves them, and has proved it to them by sending you to them. So here's the bottom line-- pain always has a purpose. Richard Dawkins just said, some are lucky, some are not, there's really no design, there's really no purpose. In God's book, all pain has purpose.

I'm not going to tell you you'll find out what that purpose is before you go to heaven. You probably won't. There's lots of episodes you'd like answers for. I understand. All pain has a purpose. One of my favorite authors through the years has been a guy named Paul Brandt Paul Brand is a medical doctor. Paul Brand was raised by missionary parents in India, and he became a medical doctor who treated leprosy.

He learned pretty quickly that lepers can't feel pain. They're pain-free. And that's because blood flow is restricted to parts of the body. Nerve endings die, which leaves them in a very vulnerable situation, because they can't sense danger. So for instance, they might just put their hand down in a fire or a hot stove, and they don't feel that it's hot. That could damage them irreparably, but they are pain-free.

Now, I'm going to ask you this question. Wouldn't you like to be pain-free? Now, you're hesitating to answer that. If I have asked you that without telling you the story of the leper, you would have said, yeah, I want to be pain-free, but now you're thinking, well, I don't know if I want to be pain-free if it means that I can harm myself irreparably. Because you discover in that little analogy pain has a purpose.

There's a reason. There are pain receptors, nerve receptors in our body, because when you hurt, it indicates there's a problem that needs to be fixed. And it moves you in one direction or another. Pain always has purpose. God always has a purpose in allowing you to go through pain. Here's a little parable I close with.

Once upon a time, there was a little plant, small and stunted, growing under the shade of a broad spreading oak. The little plant valued the shade which covered it, and the rest, which its noble friend, the oak, afforded. But one day a woodsman came along with his razor-sharp ax, and he cut down the oak tree. The tiny plant wept and cried. "My shelter has departed, and now the rough winds will blow upon me and, the storms will uproot me."

"Nonsense," said the woodsman. "Now the sunshine will reach you. And now the rain can fall in more abundance on you than ever before, and your stunted form will spring up." That's God's intention for pain-- growth like never before. Strengthen you, correct you, equip you-- Father, with that in mind, we submit ourselves to You. There's lots of things we are suffering even now that we don't like, we wish were over-- some more profoundly than others.

But we dare to embrace it if it will change us to be more like Jesus, if it will deepen our relationship with You, and if it will make us sensitive to the pain that others are experiencing, and equip us to help alleviate that in the world around us. May we be those ambassadors for your glory. In Jesus's name--

We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder-- you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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6/14/2020
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Seeing Truth Clearly
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Hiram Johnson said, "The first casualty in war is truth." God’s people have been in a cosmic battle since the fall. Satan’s first allegation against truth was in Genesis 3:1: "Has God indeed said...?" Deception regarding truth is Satan's primary occupation. We now live in what might be dubbed a post-truth culture wherein the very idea of absolute truth is considered archaic and even offensive. In this series, we will look to the "Scripture of Truth" (Daniel 10:21) to reinforce our foundation and engender biblical literacy. Here at the end of Paul's life, he could foresee the abandonment of truth, and he gave Timothy this antidote: "Preach the Word!"
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6/21/2020
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Seeing God as Father
Luke 11:2
Skip Heitzig
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God is presented in Scripture by a variety of images. He is called our Rock, our Refuge, our Warrior, our Shepherd, our Shield, our Hiding Place, our Redeemer, our Fountain, our Husband, and our Vinedresser. But no motif is as powerful and personal as seeing God as our Father. With this title, the invisible God becomes the intimate God. Today, on Father’s Day, we consider the singular phrase "Our Father in heaven" as an introduction to the doctrine of God. Let’s turn over each word and mine the depths of the riches contained in this great verse.
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6/28/2020
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How Can I Relate to God?
Exodus 32-34
Skip Heitzig
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The subject of God is the loftiest of all themes and the pinnacle of all pursuits. For some people, the idea of God is absurd because He is not readily perceived by the senses, like a flower or another person. But as we learn who God is and how perceptible He is to us, I think we’ll be both lifted up and humbled all at the same time. Today we trace the journey that every person must take who wants to relate to the God of the universe. Let’s examine five stages of this relationship.
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7/5/2020
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Biblical History: Fact or Fancy?
Dr. Steven Collins
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Dr. Steven Collins serves as the dean of the College of Archaeology at Veritas International University and a consulting research professor at Trinity Southwest University. He is also the director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in Jordan, which is believed to be the location of Sodom.
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7/12/2020
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Hello, I’m God!
Exodus 34:5-9
Skip Heitzig
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People have written and spoken about God for millennia. It’s what I have done for nearly four decades. But today we get to hear from God Himself as He gives to Moses His own autobiography. Here He introduces Himself by stating His name and His occupation as God. He states His primary character traits, thus framing what our relationship with Him is going to be like. This is a primary passage of Scripture, meaning other biblical authors make reference to it later on in their writings. Let’s find out what God says about Himself.
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7/19/2020
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Knowing the God Who Knows You
Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24
Skip Heitzig
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A person with knowledge can be intimidating. They spew facts and figures and can dizzy us with information and understanding. But rightly seen, a study of God’s comprehensive knowledge can be a source of great comfort to us. In this series, 20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly, we come to grips with the fact that God sees everything most clearly. His knowledge is vast, infinite, comprehensive, specific, and personal. But let’s observe how God’s omniscience can become inspiring rather than intimidating.
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7/26/2020
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Here, There, and Everywhere
Psalm 139:7-12
Skip Heitzig
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One of the Beatles’ most melodic hits expressed a couple’s romantic desire to be together at all times and in all places and was simply titled, “Here, There and Everywhere.” This title also expresses a unique attribute of God (what theologians call an incommunicable attribute). He is everywhere present in the totality of His being! This may be one of the hardest-to-understand characteristics of God, but one that brings great comfort to us.
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8/2/2020
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The Unrivaled Power of God
Psalm 139:13-18
Skip Heitzig
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God is called Almighty fifty-seven times in Scripture. It means that the resources of His power are boundless. He is unlimited in His ability and unconstrained in His capacity. God’s attribute of omnipotence is helpful for us to remember when we are feeling overwhelmed with threatening circumstances. Just as we feel confident when our mobile devices have plenty of battery power to spare, we can live confidently knowing that our great God has power for any of our problems.
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8/9/2020
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Holy, Holy, Holy!
Isaiah 6:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Holiness sounds scary. Thoughts of dusty, cloistered halls of a monastery fill our minds when we hear the word. We might think of chants and long prayers rather than anthems and short prayers. It hardly seems like an appropriate word for the twenty-first century! But according to one theologian, God’s holiness is the one attribute that binds all His other attributes together. This is the characteristic that most uniquely describes God. Let’s consider it today.
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8/16/2020
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One Plus One Plus One Equals One?
John 14:1-18
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most fundamental yet challenging truths in Scripture is the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Try to explain it and you might lose your mind, but try to explain it away and you might lose your soul. The Bible openly teaches the plurality within the Godhead—three persons who are distinct from one another yet perfectly One in essence. How are we to think about this? And how should it affect us personally?
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8/30/2020
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Christ Jesus Our Lord
Philippians 2:5-11
Skip Heitzig
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At the very center of history’s stage stands Jesus Christ. He has no peers. The Father in heaven sent Him on the mission of redemption and He humbly surrendered. When it was accomplished, He conquered death itself by resurrection and returned to glory. In what is considered by many to be the greatest single statement about Jesus Christ in the New Testament, Paul succinctly framed His humiliation, His exaltation, and His example to us.
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9/6/2020
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The Atonement: His Death, Our Life
John 12:20-33
Skip Heitzig
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Wasn’t there any other way for God to save human beings than by sending His Son to die? The very idea of a bloody crucifixion sounds brutal and barbarous to some, yet it is the centerpiece of our faith. What is the big deal about the atonement? Why the cross? Why had it been the plan of God through the ages? Today we examine the death of Christ for us and, in His own words, His own estimation of its necessity and consequence.
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9/13/2020
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He’s Alive! Proofs of the Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Skip Heitzig
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Just as your own heart is the pump that brings life-giving blood to your entire body, so is the resurrection of Jesus that gives life to the gospel message. Without it, our faith would be totally useless; our message would be utterly powerless. The resurrection is also what separates Jesus Christ from every other spiritual leader and would-be messiah. It validates His teaching. It authenticates His claims. It substantiates His promises. And it corroborates our confidence in Him as our Savior and Lord.
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9/20/2020
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The Holy Spirit in the World
John 16:5-11
Skip Heitzig
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We are not alone in the universe! That’s the premise of most sci-fi documentaries, but I’m not referring to alien life from another galaxy, rather to the living God Himself. In particular, I am referring to the Holy Spirit. He has a particular role when it comes to working in this world, and that is to awaken people to their great need for Christ. In our series 20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly, we will turn in the next few weeks to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. What is His role in the life of the unbeliever and the life of the believer?
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10/11/2020
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Who Is the Holy Spirit?
John 16
Nate Heitzig
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There can be a lot of mystery and misinformation surrounding the Holy Spirit. When we look to Scripture, however, the third person of the Godhead comes into clear focus. In this teaching, Nate Heitzig describes the person of the Holy Spirit, His work both at scale in the world and individually in the hearts of believers, and how He helps you gain a deeper understanding of God's Word.
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10/18/2020
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Help Has Arrived!
John 14:15-18
Skip Heitzig
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Someone said to me this past week, “Life is hard, but God is good!” We all know it’s true. To live for God in an ungodly world is challenging, sometimes daunting. But God never intended for us to try it alone! He has provided for us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who is not only at work in the world around us but is very busy working inside of us. Let’s drill down into the promise Jesus gave to His disciples in the upper room about the coming Spirit.
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10/25/2020
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God’s Purpose for People
Genesis 1-3
Skip Heitzig
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After spending several weeks considering God’s nature and character, we now turn to mankind. What is the purpose of the people inhabiting this planet? How can we fulfill the God-given destiny that He originally had in mind when He placed us here? Someone once said that the two most significant days in one’s life are first, the day we were born, and second, the day we discovered what we were born for. Let’s go back to the beginning.
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There are 17 additional messages in this series.
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