Suffering isn’t always about sin. Sometimes it’s about glory.
DECEMBER 1, 2020
Zach Van Dyke:
Suffering isn’t always about sin. Sometimes it’s about glory. Let’s talk about it on Key Life.
You’re listening to Key Life. We’re here to communicate the freeing truth that God’s not mad at his children. Steve Brown invited Zach Van Dyke to do the teaching this week. Zach’s the teaching pastor at Summit Church here in Orlando, Florida. If you’re a struggling believer, you’ve come to the right place.
Zach Van Dyke:
Thanks Matthew. Well, I am here all week, filling in for Steve as he takes a little bit of time off. We’re in this season of Advent, a season of hope, a season of joy and Christmas and all things, you know, warm and fuzzy, but in this season where everyone else is looking so happy and cheery, I know there’s a lot of hopelessness. I know that there’s a lot of people that this maybe even a tougher time of year, than other times of the year, because of all the activity, because of all the family, because of all the things that are being talked about and done and enjoyed. And so I want to spend a week just talking about what do you do when in the midst of a season of hope, you’re feeling hopeless, you’re feeling a lack of hope. And what’s fascinating about this is that’s exactly where the gospel writer Luke begins the story, the Christmas story, as it’s recounted by Luke begins with a tremendous sense of hopelessness. It begins with the story of a couple Zechariah and Elizabeth, the couple who lived their life in service to God. Zechariah was a priest. Everything he did was about glorifying God. But now they’re old. And that thing they long for most was to have a child, and that never happened. I said yesterday that a commentator said, in any culture infertility is an aching disappointment and for some, and almost unbearable stress, but the burden cannot be compared to that born by childless women in the ancient Hebrew culture, because barrenness was considered a disgrace, even a punishment. So the beginning of the Christmas story, the beginning of the Gospel story as told by Luke starts with two people who are pretty hopeless. Two people who everyone else around them is looking at them thinking, man, what did they do? Why has their story turned out this way? Why don’t they have a child? God must really be angry with them. And I know some of you feel that way. Said yesterday, in our country, in the U.S. 13% of people really struggle to become pregnant, 15% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This is an area that touches so many of our lives. And even if it hasn’t happened to you, my guess is it’s happened to someone you care about. That’s the beginning of this Christmas story, people in that situation, people in that kind of hopelessness. But what’s fascinating about Elizabeth and Zechariah is that by all accounts, they were pretty Godly, like I already pointed out yesterday, Luke tells us at the very beginning that they were righteous before God. And all, this doesn’t mean they were perfect. It’s the same way we are righteous before God they had faith. Romans 1:17 says,
The righteous shall live by faith.
Righteousness has always been by faith. In fact, all the way back in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis, Abraham was considered righteous. And if you’ve read his story, dude was not righteous in his behavior a lot of the time, right? He made all kinds of mistakes. He was a huge sinner, but we’re told in Genesis, it was by faith that he was credited righteous before God. So Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous before God in the same way that you and I are righteous before God, but they did have a Godly character. The heartache of Zechariah and Elizabeth was not some kind of punishment for a particular sin, although they were sinful just like the rest of us. And that’s important for us to know, especially kind of at the beginning of the Gospel story, Luke’s making it so clear to us, that our particular sins are not always the cause of suffering. Now, sometimes they are. Listen, if you’re thinking about going out and murdering someone today, don’t. Trust me, it’s not going to go well for you. There’ll be consequences. You’ll go to jail, your suffering that you will experience after you murder, whoever was caused by your sin, or if you had an affair and your marriage falls apart. Your suffering was caused by your sin. If you constantly wear a mask around people, your loneliness is caused by your sin. Many sins have destructive consequences, but even so, I need to say this, God can use our sin and those consequences for our good, Romans 8:28.
God works everything together for the good of those who love him.
And that includes our sin. He works all things together. So if you’re suffering consequences right now that you know, you’re honest, you know, they are the result of your sinful choices. You need to hear, God has not abandoned you. If you love him, he will use even your sin, even your worst sin for good. God has not abandoned you. He wants to win you back. He wants you to repent. He wants you to trust him again. In fact after Adam and Eve first sinned, what did God do? He didn’t come after them in anger. Remember the story? This is so important, after Adam and Eve committed the very first sin ever, that’s brought about all the pain and suffering that you and I now experience, we’re told that they realized they were naked, they made coverings for themselves. They immediately started experiencing consequences for their sin. No longer would relationships be easy and free, but what does God do? He comes after them with a question, not a demand, not in anger. He says, Adam, Eve, where are you? Questions invite relationships. So even in the midst of the consequences of our sin, God pursues us, God was pursuing Adam and Eve in their consequences. God was pursuing them, in your consequences, God is pursuing you. He’s asking you, where are you? Come out of hiding. Trust me again. Okay, that was a total tangent, but I think an important one, because I know some of you are in the midst of suffering because of your own sin. And you’re thinking, what do I do? You just respond, here I am. I want to trust you again, but that’s not what’s happening here at the beginning of this story. Zechariah and Elizabeth were not suffering because they had done some particular sin in which they were experiencing consequences. Sometimes the things we suffer have nothing to do with our own sin. Sometimes Christians suffer for exactly the opposite reason, for the sake of righteousness. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, would say,
Blessed are those who suffer because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Sometimes God allows us to suffer, because he wants to be glorified through our suffering. Let me say that again. Sometimes God allows us to suffer, because he wants to be glorified through our suffering. Ooof, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow. But it is clearly taught throughout Scripture, so it is important for us to sit with it and wrestle with that truth. Sometimes God allows us to suffer, because he wants to be glorified through our suffering. I mean, that’s really the point of the book of Job. Remember Job?, I mean, everything goes wrong in his life. He, he, he goes through tremendous suffering and God allows him to suffer because he wants to be glorified through his suffering. Jesus, when he walked the earth, one time he healed a man who was born blind and the disciples really wanted to get to the bottom of it. They wanted to know, was it this man sin, or was it his parents who sinned that has caused this man’s suffering? Why, why is he born blind? Who did, who did the wrong thing? And Jesus looks at them and he simply says, neither this man, nor his parents sinned. But this happens so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Sometimes our reason for suffering is known only to God. Tim Keller has a great quote. I think it’s Tim Keller who says, he says,
Everything said is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.
Sometimes our reason for suffering is known only to God. So what does that mean? It means that we should be very careful not to jump to conclusions about why something bad is happening to us, or more importantly, why something bad is happening to someone else. Because in this case, we see Elizabeth was barren for the glory of God. That was not punishing her, but he was planning a miracle that would get the whole world ready for salvation. Zechariah and Elizabeth suffering led to the last words of the prophet Malachi from 400 years earlier. Those words being fulfilled, listen to how Malachi ends, it says,
See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.
And then if you were listening yesterday, did you hear what the angel told Zechariah? The angel, when he came to Zechariah in Luke 1, verse 17, he says this,
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient, to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Never in a million years, would Zechariah and Elizabeth think their suffering would lead to the salvation of the world. You have no idea what God is doing with your suffering, but on the authority of God’s word, I can promise you, he is up to something. He is always up to something, because it’s all about grace.
Thanks Zach. That was Pastor Zach Van Dyke, continuing to teach us about dealing with hopelessness during the season. What a fantastic insight from Zach today that the entire Christmas story began from a place where people lacked hope. Of course more to that story and more from Zach tomorrow. Be sure to join us. So I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s a challenge for me to get into the groove with the Christmas season. Is that you too? If so we have a very special gift for you. It’s a CD with six audio devotions from Steve on the real meaning of Christmas, the incarnation of God in Christ, Scriptural and devotional questions, follow each of those six messages. Get your copy by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an email to Steve@keylife.org to ask for the CD. By mail send your request to
Key Life Network
P.O. Box 5000
Maitland, Florida 32794
If you’re in Canada, mail us at
Key Life Canada
P.O. Box 28060
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6J8
Just ask for the Christmas Meditation’s CD. And you’re probably aware that today is Giving Tuesday, it’s a day for financially supporting nonprofits, like Key Life. If you believe in the work we do here, would you consider giving today? Just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope, or if you prefer, just text Key Life to 28950. That’s Key Life, one word, two words, doesn’t matter to 28950, 28950. Thank you. Key life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada and we’re a listener supported production of Key Life Network.