Sermon note for March 26, 2023
In this message we are focusing in on pain, and I believe God can use, and will use, pain in our lives for His purposes.
I’ve been reading a book recently about pain and God’s work through it:
Catherine Campbell’s book, “Broken Works Best”
The truth is, I believe, we all want to avoid pain. None of us want to suffer. It’s not something we seek out in life. And I believe God gave us wisdom, and created our minds and bodies, to avoid pain as well. It’s a normal human attribute. However, pain is an absolute in this life we live on earth. So what do we do with it? How can we learn from, and not waste pain in our lives?
Don’t Waste Your Pain
The idea of pain and not wasting it came to me in one of the chapters of Catherine’s book…titled: “Don’t Waste Your Pain.” Catherine begins the chapter in the delivery room with a young wife crying out:
“I’ve changed my mind!” “I don’t want to have the baby now!”
The pain the mother to be was experiencing was excruciating. And, she was done. It had been a long period of labor, the author shares, and the woman had physically given up. She was too tired to push any more. She was hurting too bad to continue on.
To read the author’s details of the situation, the woman had nearly lost her mind. She was kicking, screaming, and even biting, she tells us.
And of course, she at some point blames the husband for this situation, telling him it was his fault, saying, “the next time you want to have a baby, you can have it yourself!”
Some you know what that’s like.
But there was a problem looming with the birth of this child due to the mother’s distress. From the author’s stand point, who was holding one of the legs of the young mother, the baby was there and ready to come out. All it would have taken was one good push, but the mother couldn’t do it any longer.
Because of the mother’s resistance against the pain, she was obstructing the delivery of the baby.Tweet
The baby’s heart rate was beginning to show the effects of tiring, just as the mother had grown tired, but it was threatening the child’s life now.
Finally a senior midwife entered the room, noted how precarious the situation had become and took charge. She grabbed the tired and spent young mother’s face in her hands and sternly gave her the correct wisdom at the correct time.
“Listen to me! Don’t waste your pain!”
“The pain is going to give you a beautiful baby. Now don’t waste it, use it!”
Don’t Waste Your Pain
You may be hurting now, and may be way more familiar with pain than I might be. And so you’re thinking, “yeah, I just want the pain to stop.” And I get that and truly feel for you in your suffering. So I pray you can find some hope and peace in today’s word as well, even while the pain rages on.
Forms of Pain
Of course, we are aware that there are many forms of pain and many things we would say that are painful in this life.
Pain can be physical, mental, emotional.
Pain can be distressing and discomforting
Pain is temporary, but can be permanent.
Pain cannot be avoided.
Pain can be useful And God can, and does, use pain for our good.
Pain can first and foremost lead us to rely on God more deeply.Tweet
We don’t tend to seek God in the midst of everything going great in life. It’s most likely when we’re suffering that we are most willing to cry out to Him for relief, for answers. And we may even cry out in anger, I and I believe that is okay too.
Like a Good Father, He desires for His children to lean on Him. He also desires that we trust Him. He can use pain to help us to see our own weakness, and to further trust in Him.
2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Paul and his companions had been through some trying circumstances, and you can hear in his words how bad things were mentally for them. Yet he says, “it was to make us rely on God who raises the dead.”
And when faced with his own ailment, his own thorn in his side he spoke of, he asked God to remove it. God replied:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
You see, Paul knew all about pain and suffering. Not only had he some kind of “thorn” ailing him, but listen to all that he shares he suffered:
2 Corinthians 11:23–28 ESV
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Yet he also says:
Philippians 4:11–13 ESV
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I Can Do All Things
Friends it is that last, all to commonly quoted, word I want you to remember: I can do all things through Christ
You see, God uses pain in our lives for good…
This was His Word to the Jews living in exile through the prophet Jeremiah, and I tell you this is His Word to you today.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
But, He may allow pain to get us to where He wants us to be… Maybe that’s to mold us, maybe it’s to call us to Himself, maybe it’s to cause us to trust Him more.
I promise you, there’s a purpose for your pain.
So Don’t Waste It
You see, if there is a purpose, then we have to continue on to get to that purpose right? Too often we want to stop in the middle, lay down on the ground and beat our fist until they bleed. Or like the story from the book, Broken Works Best, we want to stop pushing.
If we don’t push through the pain then we will miss out on the future glory He has planned for us.
That’s the truth of today that I wanted to get to.
If you hurt and give up, then you miss out on the blessing, on the purpose of the pain. You waste your pain. It’s like signing up to run a marathon and giving up in the last mile or two. You were almost there, you almost made the goal, but you quit. Don’t quit!
To be successful at running a marathon, you have to endure the pain of not only the race, but also the training and even recovery afterward. To get anything good really, to improve anything about ourselves, we have to endure some pain, some discomfort. We have to put in the work, the effort, to get there.
I think it’s important that Paul uses the runner analogy when he speaks of living out our faith. He says to keep running!
Hebrews 12:1–3 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Don’t grow weary! Keep running! It is all loss if you don’t keep going.
Philippians 3:8–14 ESV
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Nothing was worth it unless Paul pressed on! And it was also all loss compared to the prize that laid ahead of him.
You see folks, we must press on. We must push once more! One more time, take that deep breath in and push it out like your life depends on it! The prize, not only the eternal prize Paul speaks of, but even the purpose God has planned for you here, is within your grasp. But you’re going to have to push through the pain to get there.
And what if it truly is just one more push ahead? What if it takes pushing through one more wall or one more boundary to get to where you can see the Promised Land, the life He means for you to have here and now?
What if you have just one more wall to climb and when you get to the top, or to the other side? What do you see?
Do you see the person you want to be? Do you see the escape you’ve desired for so long? Can you suffer the pain to get there? Will you waste the pain, or will you use it as motivation to get to where God is wanting you?
Jesus Endured the Pain
How important is the future you desire to you?
Jesus knows all about the pain you’re suffering or the pain that lies ahead. He endured it all Himself, the mental anguish in the garden knowing the Cross lied before Him. The mental anguish of knowing He was going to have to suffer being so blackened by our sin before the eyes of His heavenly Father as He would hang on the Cross.
And oh the beatings He would suffer before the Cross. The betrayal of His friends, and the betrayal of the people He came to set free from the curse of the Law and sin. But He knew. He knew what was on the other side of that bark hole in the ground He was going to spend three days in. He knew His hope, His plan for humanity, was going to cost Him pain to get to the finish line.
Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:2,
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
You and I are the joy He saw when He looked beyond the Cross. He knew that to get us to where He wanted us to be, He’d have to go through the Cross.
Jesus didn’t waste His pain, and neither should you. He’ll help you get there. He’ll see you through. He’ll give you just enough strength to get you to the other side.
Read these words of Isaac Watts
Let me but hear my Savior say,
Strength shall be equal to thy day;
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all-sufficient grace.
I glory in infirmity,
That Christ’s own power may rest on me;
When I am weak, then am I strong,
Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.
I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there;
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains
While His left hand my head sustains.
The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LVII Unparalleled Lovingkindnesses (No. 3,242)
If I were to look within my own heart for comfort and hope, I should often be in despair; but when I look away to my Lord alone, then I realize what he has done and is still doing for me, for he still “healeth” all my diseases.
What About When Healing Doesn’t Come
There are times when we have experienced brief physical pain, or great mental pain, that at first we simply want to give up, to give in, to throw in the towel.
But then we awaken, we give thought to the Lord and fall back in complete helplessness on the chest of Jesus. It is at this point that we give up struggling, and resign ourselves to His perfect will. And when we do that, we then experience that perfect peace, that great joy, that can not be experienced at any other time.