Home > Uncategorized > A Great Cloud of Witnesses – A Message from Dad

A Great Cloud of Witnesses – A Message from Dad

Suffering is so alien to us. And we in the culture of the healthcare explosion and American prosperity end up so surprised when it visits us. We’re kinda spoiled that way. I know I am. Some of my new heroes are those of you I have heard from who’ve born heavy suffering so gracefully in the privacy of your own homes and lives. I have also drawn great comfort from older brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us, whose stories reveal that suffering makes itself familiar in lives where the Lord wants to reveal Himself. Let me introduce you to one of our older brothers, B.B. Warfield, a Christian from the 19th century. He described the tendency we Christians have to veer toward the one extreme or the other of either emphasizing a strong devotion to the Lord, but dismissing theology, or of holding to good teaching without a warm heart towards God. When we are tempted to either say, “Theology doesn’t matter—I just love God,” or to think that it’s acceptable to have head knowledge and right thinking without a warmhearted devotion, we are making a false dichotomy. Warfield described it as asking a soldier going into battle which leg he would like to take along. He must have both, without question. These older saints tended to own a much more God-centered view of life than we do. Our religion has a lot of man-centeredness in it. These bygone saints knew that God was “the point,” and not we ourselves. This enabled them to gracefully suffer many losses. Warfield himself married a beautiful young woman who was struck by lightning on their honeymoon. He cared for her as an invalid for almost forty years, cheerfully and quietly arranging his duties as a professor around her needs. They never had children. Another older brother, Adoniram Judson, toiled away in Burma for years, losing to the strenuous living conditions some of his children, his first wife, his second wife, and his own good health. After years of labor, he had only won a scant handful of people to the Lord. Once, he got so discouraged that he meditated for days by an open grave. Yet he eventually returned to his work. The Lord used his efforts in the end to touch a whole tribe of thousands who had been waiting for the good news that they had been foretold would come. Today this group remains actively Christian in spite of severe persecution. Our parents (or grandparents for some of you) lived in the generation of Jim and Elisabeth Elliott. Jim and four other men went on mission to share Christ with a remote tribe along the Amazon. All five were killed before they had a chance to say one word about Christ. Jim’s widow, Elisabeth, chose to live with the Auca Indians for a time to bring the gospel to the very ones who had murdered her husband. All of these were only able to endure the suffering that intruded into their lives when they held fast to the idea that God was in control and that God works for the good of his people through their suffering. They refused to look at “second” causes. They trusted that God caused all things to forward the purposes that He intends for our lives and for His cause on the earth. He Himself is the Mover and Shaker behind all events. Yet that thought caused no fear in their minds or mistrust of His goodness. Rather, the strong thoughts freed them to love God because they were not focused on other people or Satan as causes. They looked to God alone. And I do not have time to tell about Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, William Carey, Corrie ten Boom, Horatio Spafford, Joseph Scriven, Samuel Rutherford and clouds of others, who by faith endured crippling losses under the hand of an Omnipotent God, and by love found firm stone pathways through waters of suffering. They created hymns from the depths; they left family legacies of unshakeable devotion; they left nations they’d won to Christ. They beckon us to rediscover the solid footing as we cross those waters of suffering ourselves. I’ll conclude with a few words from Charles Spurgeon, who battled health problems and depression for years, knowing that his beloved England was in the process of rejecting the gospel. Spurgeon left us much in the way of a strong theology and a warm heart toward God. Listen to what He says: “The God of Providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestined, each relapse ordained, each depression of the spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of Him who numbers the hairs of our head.” Doug

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Cherry Neill
    August 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Thank you, Doug.

    With continuing prayers, and renewed perseverance in my own small griefs,
    Cherry Neill

  2. Jackie
    August 30, 2010 at 3:47 am

    you describe God’s presence so well and gives one the deeper love for Him…letting us all know we/you have been created for more than our/your life presently reflects. praying.. God sovereign Will to heal Peter.

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