I am just discovering RC Sproul, and I see why he comes so highly recommended. As this was my first speech/sermon of his, I was pleasantly surprised at how he made complicated topics simple and easy to understand. In this Youtube video posted by Ligonier Ministries, he delves into the purpose of suffering and God’s role in it.
Below is a summary of some of the main points of this sermon.
God is just
God is the equivalent of goodness. As He is all powerful, He exists outside the Law rather than underneath it. People often wonder how He is both omnipotent and benevolent (all powerful and all good, respectively). The explanation is because He is just.
Sproul gives the famous example of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham asked God if He would destroy the innocent with the wicked. The point is that, although it was unnecessary for him to ask, Abraham knows God will always do what is right. Sproul then explains the difference between proximate vs. ultimate: proximate points to the immediate, whereas ultimate implies overall or in the long run. He quotes the popular verse Romans 8:28, which says if ‘bad’ things happen to us now (proximately), they are ultimately for our good.
Who causes suffering?
He goes on to correct the mistaken idea that bad things are the devil’s work, as if the devil has that much power and God has no control over it. Sproul gives an example of a rabbi who tried to comfort a family that suffered loss. The rabbi claimed that God had nothing to do with death, in order to alleviate some of the pain of the situation. However, Sproul deliberately takes the time to explain why God has everything to do with death, and why what was said by the rabbi was incorrect.
Sprawl explains that God ‘majors’ in suffering, and it’s how the world was redeemed (through the suffering of Jesus). Because suffering is God’s doing, there is a purpose for it, and it eventually will be for your good. If it wasn’t, every hardship would be useless and you would suffer for nothing.
Furthermore, many people seem to believe that material abundance equates being in God’s good graces. But, when we die, we all must go before God and give an account for our lives. If an unbeliever receives earthly blessings and denies God the attribution for them, each of those situations become opportunity for judgment. Those good things we don’t appreciate while we are alive will then become a tragedy for us.
This sermon gave me a much clearer understanding of the purpose of suffering in our lives. Beyond that, I better understood the importance of correcting things that have been mistaken by others. The end of the speech was a ‘wow’ moment for me. It put into such clear perspective why some people suffer in life while others seem to have it all. In the end, we will all be judged by God for what we have done, and we must trust that everything we endure is for our ultimate good.