Jesus is the president of the fellowship of sufferers.
MAY 4, 2023
Jesus is the President of the fellowship of sufferers. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers. That’s what Key Life is all about. So, if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening. Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher on Key Life.
If you were listening yesterday, I talked about my kidney stone, I’m sorry, I spent too much time doing that, but if you’ve ever been there, you talk about it too cause it’s a bad pain. I don’t, I don’t want to be a, I don’t want to be going through a kidney stone problem with anybody unless they’ve been there and they’ve done that and that’s the church. I told you yesterday that I’ve often said to seminary students, when they get arrogant and self-righteous, that you haven’t lived long enough or sinned big enough or hurt enough to even have an opinion on that. That’s true with our lament. Young people who have not yet suffered the pain of loss or betrayal or physical suffering aren’t a part of the fellowship. They will be, but not yet, and in the meantime, they can learn from those who have joined. But if you have friends who are part of it, or if you have joined, there’s a ministry that is a gift from God himself. As I mentioned before from Hebrews 4:15, Jesus is the president of the Fellowship of Sufferers. When you go to him, expect to encounter understanding, compassion, and love. But that’s not enough, and God made it not enough. A friend of mine told me that he was never alone because Jesus was his best friend. While I get that, it is a denial of what it means to be human. Sometimes we need Jesus with skin on, Jesus said
That we would do greater works than he himself had done.
in John 14:12. And one of those works is to walk in the darkness with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I talked to you a day or two ago about the pandemic and how wonderful it was to go to church in one’s pajamas, or to fall asleep in the pastor’s sermon and nobody would see that you were falling asleep or hear you if you were snoring, but that got old fast. And I felt lonely. And I remember the first church service when we were back together, and there was such joy, such laughter that the only explanation was a supernatural explanation. We were a part of one another and a computer screen wouldn’t cover it. We needed one another and a phone call wouldn’t make it. We were hurting and the hurt couldn’t be fixed with a Facebook page. It had to be and it’s supernatural when the people of God get together. Jesus said, I am in their midst. A part of the sanctification process and it should be a part of discipleship in the church, is preparation for the mature connection with one another. I believe that our own personal losses in pain are designed at least partially for that very purpose. It is making us holy enough to listen, to love, to accept, to laugh with brothers and sisters in Christ, who if it weren’t for us, would experience that alone. When I told a friend about a particularly difficult period in my life, he said, you should not have had to face that alone. I wish I had known you then, we could have walked together. Loneliness is a curse, during the pandemic when people weren’t allowed in person visits to loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, one woman said through her tears, after her father had died, no one should be forced to die alone. Our pain is meant to be shared and our humor too. I can’t tell you how often a close friend will say to me, I have a great joke to tell you, but you won’t be able to use it in a sermon. And it’s funny. That’s a kind of measurement of those we can or cannot share our pain and laughter with. If you can’t share your pain or a joke in a sermon, a public forum, or your sin with a friend, find a place where you can, and that place ought to be the church. Finding that place is a, I know, slow and sometimes difficult process, but it’s worth it. It involves slowly and carefully sharing parts of our soul with one another to check and make sure they don’t stomp that sucker in the ground. It starts with a casual acquaintance. It changes into a friendship. It moves to bonding and eventually leads to deep, loving, and honest relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s, I know, it sounds like a cliche, but it’s not. It’s what the church is about and why the church was created. Healthy churches are not marked by statistics or offerings. Healthy churches are not marked by purity. Healthy churches are not marked by pious people doing it right. A healthy church is marked by how free people who are there are to love and in that love to laugh and confess and cry together. There are a number of reasons God created the church, as a place of lament. For instance, people walking in a dark, need to be reminded that there’s light even if they can’t see it. That’s a part of the reason for Martin Luther’s admonishment to us to preach the gospel to one another, so we won’t get discouraged. It is also what Paul was talking about when he said.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Galatians 6:1. All of us on occasion reside on the side of the transgressor and at other times on the side of the spiritual. Knowing that is the source of the gentleness to which Paul referred. I have a friend whose son, former pastor was removed from ministry because of his drug addiction. I prayed for his son for years and when I should ask, on those occasions, he would often say, God is going to do something and he’s a part of it, you’ll see. I got so I didn’t ask anymore cause I was afraid of the answer that I was going to get. By the way, my friend is our accountant and we have to see him at least once a year, but I would avoid the subject of his son because I was afraid of what I was going to hear. I was with him not too long ago, we live in different towns and I said to him, I’m afraid to ask, but how’s Jimmy? My friend started smiling. He is amazing. He’s been clean for almost a year, and God is restoring his family to him and even his ministry, and I am so thankful. During the dark time, my friend needed a friend to remind him about the light. We all need to be reminded that God will never say I’ve had it with you. That joy comes in the morning, that no sin is so bad that God won’t forgive, that the loss of a loved one doesn’t ever go away, that Jesus is there, that Jesus is the great physician, and that scars are not only a reminder of wounds, but that they are a reminder of healing. My job is to tell you that. And your job is to tell me that. That’s why God put us together cause sometimes when it’s dark and there’s pain, you can’t see it. But there’s more, people in the dark need someone who will sanctify the dark. When I was a young pastor, a mentor of mine told me that a significant part of my job was to sanctify the normal and the common of the people to whom God sent me. By that he meant that to most people, the stuff of life is like what someone said of flying, hours of boredom and moments of sheer terror. But, but some, for some it’s easy and to think that our suffering and hurt and pain have no meaning. And for others the dark is so normal that they’ve forgotten how to laugh. And God has created the church to say to brothers and sisters in the hours of boredom, cheer up Jesus is there, cry and laugh and let’s walk together. Hey, you think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. And just like that we close the books on another great week of Bible teaching. Appreciate you joining us today. And as always, if you missed any episodes this week, you could stream those for free at keylife.org and don’t forget, tomorrow is Friday Q&A with Steve and our good friend Pete Alwinson. That’s when they’ll address a question about whether or not we’re approaching a new great awakening. Eh, sounds pretty interesting, I might tune in. Hey, do you know what today is? On this day in 2002, Barry Bonds hit his 400th home run with the San Francisco Giants, and this is also the day when in 1932, Al Capone started serving time for tax evasion. And one more thing, today is also a great day to order the latest edition of Key Life Magazine. This issue features articles from Jenni Young, Kendra Fletcher, Chad West, and Steve. Plus it has info on our exciting new subscription service Key Life Book Box. Claim your copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. Or to mail your request go to keylife.org/contact just ask for your free copy of Key Life Magazine. Finally, a request, would you consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You could charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.