Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Providence (page 2 of 2)

After the Last Tear Falls…

Even though the album came out some time ago, lately I’ve been loving this song by Andrew Peterson. I thought I’d post the video here for you to hopefully be blessed as well.

The Purpose of Pain

The other day Stacey returned home with a special purchase for Susannah. It was a bottle of bright-coloured, foaming hand soap. Susannah has reached an age where we want her to be able to do more things (like washing her hands) on her own.

Susannah took to this task with joy! She stood at the sink (on a stool) like a big girl. She got her hands all soaped up, and then her daddy said, ‘Put your hands under the water and rinse them off.’ So she put her hands under the water… only to quickly pull them out and yelp, ‘Hot!’

I had accidentally left the tap turned a little too far too the left. She wasn’t badly hurt at all, but looked at me as if to say, ‘I’m not doing that again!’

That got me thinking about pain. I thank God that Susannah is able to feel pain. Not because I like the thought of my daughter hurting, but because I know God’s purposes in pain are good.

Medically speaking, it seems that the purposes of pain are generally straightforward: Pain alerts you to the fact that something is wrong in your body and needs attention. Something must be done now to avoid greater consequences later. Pain is a warning.

In James 5, James is alerting his audience–people who are undergoing suffering–that they must be patient to endure hardship and pain. He gives them several reasons. He argues that those who persecute them will be finally judged, and that the Judge stands at the door. He also refers to the prophets, and then to Job.

When he gets to Job, James becomes more specific and says,

you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The Lord’s purpose in Job’s suffering was compassionate and merciful. At the end of Job’s turmoil, not only did he receive back more than he ever lost, he said these words:

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. … I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust ashes.

The Lord’s purpose in Job’s suffering was to reveal more of himself to Job–and then ultimately to us, thousands of years later. God was revealing himself as one who is compassionate and merciful, even in suffering.

There are things which are eternal and there are things which are temporal; things which will matter when the Judge appears, and other things that won’t. At least a part of the purpose in our pain in this life is to warn us of a bigger problem: that this world and everything in it is cursed because of sin, and already under condemnation. We suffer pain, things fall apart, tragedy happens, all to warn us of a potentially greater tragedy to come: eternal condemnation and wrath against sinners for sin.

If Susannah didn’t feel pain at the little bit of hot water, she might leave her hands there until they were scalded and then permanently damaged. The pain was uncomfortable, but it let her know that if she didn’t act, worse would result. The Lord’s purpose in pain is–like his purpose in everything else–compassionate and merciful. He desires to show us that there is no ultimate life, no hope, no safety in this world. Those things can and must be found in him alone. He wants to ween us off our selfish joy-seeking in the creation so that we might pursue true joy-seeking in the Creator.

7 Reasons to Say ‘God Willing…’

These are some notes taken from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at GFC. I was preaching from James 4:13-17 and the necessity of realizing our absolute dependence on God before we do any planning–even mundane, day-to-day planning. You can listen to the whole sermon here to get the context for the notes that follow.

Under the final point, I suggested the following seven reasons why Christians should be intentional and deliberate to refer to future plans with the caveat, ‘God willing’ (or ‘if the Lord wills,’ or some other variant).

  1. It Will Humble You.
  2. Every time you say ‘If the Lord wills, I’ll live, and then I’ll…’ or something like that, you’ll be reminded of your own essential contingency. In other words, you’re not necessary, and there’s no reason to presume that you’ll live. You’ll be reminded by your own voice that you don’t have the power to bring about what you plan any more than you have the power to determine if you’ll keep living or not.

     

  3. It Will Give You Opportunities to Witness.
  4. People will figure out pretty quickly that you’re not normal if you’re using this kind of language. Eventually, someone will ask why you’re always mentioning God’s will. When they do, you’ll already be on the topics of the Creatorship and providence of God, and the fact that life is a mist and death is imminent–your life hangs on his will. Here is an open door for the gospel!

     

  5. It Will Give You Opportunities to be Ridiculed / Persecuted.
  6. Christ himself pronounced blessing on all those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of his name and for the sake of righteousness. Why would we expect the world to look at the future the same way we do, when all through James he has insisted that we have different perspectives and different kinds of wisdom? Being persecuted and reviled, then, becomes another opportunity to grow in the humility of obedience in submitting ourselves to God.

     

  7. It Will Change the Way You Think.
  8. The way we speak is of utmost importance (as James always insists). As Lloyd-Jones has so famously said, we need to spend more time talking to ourselves than listening to ourselves. The way that we speak will effect ourselves more profoundly than anyone else. By being deliberate in the type of language that we use, we’re training ourselves to think in biblical categories. When we change our words, it will change our thoughts, which will change our feelings, which changes us over time.

     

  9. It Will Reveal Idols.
  10. If there is something that you’re planning, or something that you desire for the future, and you’re not willing to attach the thought, ‘God willing’ to it, then you’re clinging to it too tightly. That fact alone reveals that you are looking to that future possibility to bring life, hope, joy, or peace–things we must find in God alone. Whatever you’re not willing to give up for God (to hand over to his control to determine whether it will come to pass or not) that is an idol to you. It is a false god and needs to be put to death.

     

  11. It Will Force You to Think in Ethical Categories.
  12. Sometimes we can think through future plans or situations without any reference to moral / ethical categories. Saying ‘God willing’ makes us ask, ‘Would God be willing?’ Once God–the standard of righteousness–is brought into the equation, we’re forced to think in standards of righteousness. You can say ‘I’m going to go to the party this Saturday night and not think anything of it. But you can’t say ‘God willing, I’ll go to the party’ without thinking about whether or not God would be willing for you to go. All of a sudden we’re forced to reckon with God’s thoughts on drunkenness, revelry, debauchery, etc., and that may inform our plans to go or not go.

     

  13. Silence Can be Sin.
  14. James 4.17 is a verse that most of us have heard and know well, but have never applied to its context. James warns that to not take seriously the notion of God’s will when considering our future is to sin. Simply saying these words is one way we can flee sin and pursue righteousness by acknowledging God, his providence, his will, his plan. Not saying it can be sin; but saying it can help safeguard our hearts from neglecting to consider God’s will before our own.

     

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