God’s Glorious Design in Suffering
Are you on the verge of giving up just because your parents are threatening to disown you for your new faith in Christ? Or have your friends just turned their backs on you for sharing the gospel with them? Or perhaps you have lost someone close to you who became a martyr of the faith?
Our sufferings now are no different than what the early Christians and Apostles experienced in proclaiming the Good News. In a time called the “Reformation” there were also courageous, zealous people who lit a fire of truth that burned on throughout history. But how could they be brave enough to speak the truth even if it meant being banished, beheaded, or burned at the stake? What was behind this motivation that they couldn’t help but see suffering for Christ as more valuable than their own lives?
From our Sunday sermon, in the book of Ephesians Chapter 3 verses 1 – 13, entitled “The Display of the Manifold Wisdom of God,” we were enlightened to the glorious and profound realities of the display of God’s manifold wisdom through the colors of suffering. These truths are so overwhelming, so captivating, that every Christian should never take them for granted, but should seriously ponder them, joyfully contemplate them, thoroughly dissect them, savor and treasure them; and finally, not lose heart, but trust in a sovereign God and His glorious plan.
A Means to God’s Wonderful Plan
It is true that sometimes it is really hard to accept that God’s wonderful plan for His people, includes suffering for His Name’s sake. Contrary to what this commonly misquoted Bible verse “Jeremiah 29:11″ really means, many people think that following Christ means only earthly prosperity, hope and a successful future. As a result, many lose heart when they experience hardships in their obedience to the Lord. But this is not what the Bible teaches us. In fact, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Not that we must seek suffering, of course, but when it comes, let our hearts not be troubled but rather rejoice (James 1:2-4); not grumbling or discontented, but grateful and glad, knowing that behind that suffering, God does indeed, have a glorious plan.
“Suffering when it comes to us, it is by divine appointment. It is accomplishing something that is beyond our comprehension, namely, the plan of God.” (Bro. Quits Sabio – The Display of the Manifold Wisdom of God- Sunday Sermon, Sovereign Mercy Evangelical Church, Feb.28,2021)
As we learned in the sermon from the passage given, God works in and through our suffering. It is designed by God. Not only did He mean it for our good but He ordained it. It is a divine appointment; a means to accomplish His very purpose. This truth may not yet sink in to us right now, but none of it will hinder God’s glorious plan. He will carry it out for His Glory and for the eternal joy of those who love and truly obey Him.
A Glimpse Into God’s Mind
Inspired by Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of Scripture, the mystery that had been hidden for ages was revealed to us through the writings of the apostles (Ephesians 2:11-22). And these truths are so tremendous that the Apostle Paul wants the church to truly realize how privileged they are to not only taste God’s saving grace, but more than that, to have a glimpse into the mind of God.
“God revealed something that is massive than any secret we can ever know. So, not only we can see the mind of Paul in his writing, but we can see the mind of God – the insight being referred here is the mystery or the secret plan of God revealed to Paul- and this is one of the reasons why we give premium to the proper reading and handling/exegesis of the scriptures – because if you can’t read or at least perceive what you hear, then you can’t perceive what’s in the mind of Paul and therefore, as a result, you cannot know also what God wants to say” (Bro. Quits Sabio – The Display of the Manifold Wisdom of God. Sunday Sermon, Sovereign Mercy Evangelical Church, Feb.28,2021)
What an awesome privilege! Isn’t it? What a tremendous providence as well to have His Word ready for us to reflect on, right? Remember that when God saved us, it is all because of His immeasurable grace. He owes us nothing, nor do we deserve anything good, for we are dead in our sins. But because of the riches of grace He bestowed upon us, not only have the unsearchable riches of Christ been revealed to us (Eph. 3:8), but He has also made known to us with all wisdom and insight His glorious secret plan (Eph. 3:9)
So, if you feel so discouraged in your obedience to the Lord, and think that the pain you are experiencing is so unbearable that it almost obscures your view of hope in God or your view of God Himself, beloved brothers and sisters, savor these glorious truths. Our God is not unjust to forget your work (Hebrews 6:10). If He has entrusted us with this secret plan, then every color of suffering has indeed been made beautiful in His perfect time.
The Great Display of God’s Glory
Have you ever seen an artwork where you don’t quite understand what the artist is trying to portray, but it just leaves you speechless with wonder and captivates your heart? The same experience and even more than that we will actually have when our hearts have been awakened to these glorious truths of God’s manifold wisdom. He is our great painter; who designed our suffering for His Name’s sake as part of the completion of a great masterpiece. It is not trial and error or a random magic 8-ball for a yes or no answer. But, in fact, it is purposeful! Every color in the grand canvass which includes our suffering was designed by the most powerful hand, carrying out His glorious plan. And as we share His wonderful love and grace, we are playing a great part of it.
“He orchestrates the whole universe including suffering to display His glory by the proclamation of the gospel of grace. It is not an accident. It doesn’t come in God’s mind by chance” (Bro. Quits Sabio – The Display of the Manifold Wisdom of God. Sunday Sermon, Sovereign Mercy Evangelical Church, Feb.28,2021 )
Now, these words may not yet fully convince us that there really is a glorious plan of God behind our suffering; we may not yet understand what it means to “rejoice” in the midst of afflictions. But what this message wants us to realize is that – what we will lose in following Christ can never compare to the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18), nor to what God has already given us, namely His grace. So, if we are overwhelmed by an artwork made by a man whose power is limited, how much more joy do you think awaits God’s people for these eternal purposes designed by the most powerful hand in the whole universe? As the Bible says, no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
“Not only is all your affliction momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17), not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful… preparing for us an eternal weight of glory…every millisecond of your pain — from fallen nature or fallen man — every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that suffering. – (John Piper – None of our Misery is Meaningless – Sermon, July 9, 2018 – Desiring God)
A Means to God’s Eternal Ends
You will probably ask, what does it mean to me now to receive the revelation of the mystery of Christ from God? And what has my suffering now to do with God’s beautiful secret plan?
The same question may have preoccupied the church at Ephesus, prompting Apostle Paul to pause in verse 1 and turn to explain in detail the riches of God’s grace given to him. In the verses that follow, he explains:
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things – (Ephesians 3: 7-9)
Paul makes it clear that this very act of God’s grace which gives him the privilege of being a minister of the Gospel (Ephesians 3:2), is not meant to remain with himself but to be dispensed. Why? Because through this, not only the unsearchable riches of Christ will be made known to all Gentiles, but more than that, and more amazingly, the eternal purposes of God will be brought to light even to all the rulers and powers of the heavenly kingdoms as the verse says. But how can this be? Since the gospel of grace has been preached to all, and many have believed, through these people, the church, the manifold wisdom of God’s glory will be grandly displayed (v.10), bringing all His enemies to defeat and shame. On the other hand, this magnificent display of God’s glory will also cause the heavenly angels to stand in awe of God as they see the deliverance and victory of His people. Can you even imagine that? What a glorious masterpiece the Lord our God is preparing for the eternal joy and glory of His people! And most of all, what a marvelous display of His Glory and praise forever!
Honestly as a Christian, I have never understood this great commission or dispensation of God’s grace as clearly as I did in this sermon. I have come to realize that if we do not recognize these tremendous truths, we will continue to view our difficulties in sharing the gospel as hindrances to our joy, rather than a delight to our hearts. That is why these awesome realities are so important for us to ponder and savor each time. His grace, His plans are so overwhelming, incomprehensible, and yet worth rejoicing in.
So what the Apostle Paul wants to make clear to the believers in Ephesus in his letter as minister of the gospel, we as Christians who have as well received this grace should also see that any hardship we experience or have to experience in proclaiming the Good News is not something we should worry about, nor should it be seen as a hindrance to the advancement of the gospel, but rather as a means to that end. For it is in the dispensation of the gospel of grace that God’s glory is brightly displayed.
For He Who Promised Is Faithful
In spite of these glorious truths, it is so sad that still many professing Christians do not realize that the church has the greatest privilege, of not only tasting the riches of God’s grace, but also of being a part of the greatest masterpiece that God is accomplishing for the grand display of His glory. In many modern churches today, “prosperity preachers” not only lead people away from the truth, but do even more harm by labeling you as rebellious or more sinful if you experience such difficulties in life. That is why it is tremendously important to take God’s Word seriously. Because if we don’t at least perceive these glorious truths behind our suffering for Christ, it really has a very serious, negative impact on our lives as Christians. So, let us not be content with just hearing the Word of God, but let’s learn it ourselves and let our souls personally experience the delightful beauty of God and His promises.
So, we may see our suffering as meaningless and without any significance at this time; we may not understand the whole picture of God’s perfect plan, but, knowing that He does indeed have a glorious plan, may we not be dismayed but praise His Name on high; for the Lord God, our Creator, our great Painter, designs every detail of our suffering for His name’s sake to the completion of the great masterpiece He Himself has set for the eternal purposes He has made possible through Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11). Let us then, as the bride of Christ, hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23); keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Finally, I would like to end with this sermon excerpt and hope it encourages us as well:
“Don’t look to what is seen…don’t say that this is meaningless. It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore — therefore — do not lose heart, but take these truths, and day by day, focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. – (John Piper – None of our Misery is Meaningless – Sermon, July 9, 2018 – Desiring God)
To Him be all the highest honor, glory and praise forever and ever, Amen!