A year ago, our dear friends suffered the loss of their three year old son and grandson. If I wanted to find four people who love Jesus and serve him with all their heart, these two couples, Don and Lisa and Brian and Malyn, have got to be pretty near the top of my list.
Sometimes we are taught that the more you serve the Lord, the better things will go for you. Don’t believe it. Or do believe it. It all depends on the perspective!
Let me explain.
Back when I was a student at the University of Toronto, I used to make my way up Avenue Road Sunday nights to the church that had been pastored by Dr. A.W. Tozer at the time of his death a few years previously. It was one of the first places I felt the tangible presence of God.
Dr. Tozer pulled no punches. Listen to his words:
"Though the cross of Christ has been beautified by the poet and the artist, the avid seeker after God is likely to find it the same savage implement of destruction it was in the days of old. The way of the cross is still the pain-wracked path to spiritual power and fruitfulness. So do not seek to hide from it. Do not accept an easy way. Do not allow yourself to be patted to sleep in a comfortable church, void of power and barren of fruit. Do not paint the cross nor deck it with flowers. Take it for what it is, as it is, and you will find it the rugged way to death and life. Let it slay you utterly."
A year ago, Elaine and I got into our car and drove down to Michigan. We arrived at the funeral home just in time to witness an extraordinary spectacle. Never in my life have I seen such a mixture of unbelievable grief and supernatural comfort. It continued in the hours following as half the community poured into the church to pay their respects, the funeral was conducted and little Camden’s casket was placed in the ground.
When you serve the Lord, things do not always go well. Sometimes they go very badly. If we teach people otherwise, we are giving them false hope and a false gospel.
But this is not the end of the story. At the end of human sorrow stands the outstretched and merciful arms of Jesus. His cross is indeed the way of death, death to our flesh, our hopes, our dreams. But it is also the way of life.
You want resurrection power in your life? Well, the only way to get it is through the path of suffering, the way of the cross. And that is Biblical truth. Read Philippians 3 very carefully if you do not believe me.
On my visits to India, I was struck by the nearness of both death and the supernatural. The people there were by far more familiar and comfortable with both than we are.
If suffering is the way to life in an earthly sense, then even more true is the fact that physical death is only the doorway to eternal reward. And that gives us a whole different perspective.
Yes, when you serve the Lord, things will go well for you. You inherit eternity, beginning now. The reward, as the last book of the Bible consistently reminds believers suffering for their faith, is always better than the price.
Our dear friends, through all their pain, have never looked back, never complained, never questioned God’s goodness. And God was glorified in at all, to the point that that little boy probably accomplished more for God’s kingdom in his short life than most people do in 80 years.
The great British preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, shortly before his death, asked people to stop praying for his healing. His words were these: “Do not hold me back from the glory!”
Let the cross do its work of destruction in your life. Things will often not seem to go well. But in the end, they will.
Let the cross slay you. In the midst of death, you will find the triumph of life.