Volume. XXIX, No. 38
Sunday, 22 March 2015


From the Pastors Heart: Christians and Trials


I am sitting before my computer and trying to a write an article for this week. I have been reading a few books at the same time: in the morning one title, and another at night, or one day one title and another day another. When I tried to pull out all the insights I had been able to glean from such readings, I realized that I was all mixed up.  I could not remember where I read what, who said which. Out of such confusion, one word popped up into my mind, which was “tragedy.” Although I was not in a tragic situation in my office on Monday morning, somehow this word lingered in my mind for a while. This word is not one of the brightest in our vocabularies that brings enjoyment.  However, it stuck in my mind and I could not stop thinking about it. I began to remember a few unforgettable incidents; either that I had  witnessed or heard of from different people. From tragic deaths and accidents, to mysterious events that had broken the hearts of many of my acquaintances. Some lost their loved ones by tragic accidents or natural disasters, or some people’s hearts were broken because of betrayals by people they most trusted. Some suffered with terminal illnesses, and some suffered deep depression. We heard so many stories from John Wilson and his wife last week about tragedies fallen upon faithful believers in different parts of the world. Even this morning, I read the news from Pakistan that religious zealots killed many Christians near Lahore, where I visited a few years ago.  In other news, Vanuatu has been devastated by Cyclone Pam and its 300 km/h wind force.  Homes are lost, and many places are flattened.  Having fixed my thoughts on them, I busily looked up Bible concordances to see if I could find the word, “tragedy,” in the Bible. Then I looked up “accident.” There was no occurrence of such words, at least in the King James Bible.  Then I searched for “misery.”  Aha, there are 13 verses having “misery.” Family word: “misery,” “miseries,” “miserable,” and “miserably.” 

 

There are three Hebrew words used for “misery” family words. The first word is “`amal” in Judges 10:16; Job 3:10; 11:16; 16:2; and proverbs 31:7.  This word means “toil,” “trouble, “labor” or “mischief.” It occurs 55 times and is translated as “travail,” “sorrow,” “grievance,” “pain, etc., in addition to the given definitions of the word. The second word is “ra`” which is translated as “misery” only once in Ecclesiastes 8:6.  It occurs 663 times in the Bible and its basic meaning is “bad,” or “evil.”  However, it is also used as “affliction,” or “adversity.” The third Hebrew word is “maruwd, found in Lamentations 1:7 and 3:19.  This word means “restlessness,” “straying,” “wanderer” or “refugee.”  It occurs only three times in the Bible.  There are also three Greek words for “misery” family words in the New Testament.  The first word is “kakos” (Matthew 21:41), which means “miserable,” “to be ill,” or “wrongly.”  It occurs 16 times altogether.  Interestingly, this word is used a few times in referring to sick people.  The second word is “talaiporia” (Romans 3:16; James 5:1), which means “hardship,” “trouble,” “calamity,” or “misery.”  The third word is, “eleeinos” (1 Corinthians 15:19; Revelation 3:17), which means “to be pitied” or “miserable.”  I also looked up another word, “afflict” or “affliction.”  Surprisingly, there are 180 occurrences with five forms (afflict, afflicted, affliction, afflictest, afflictions) in 172 verses in our English Bible. 

 

Finding such words from the Bible offered me relief. Having seen and heard stories after stories of tragedies in this world, if I could not find any biblical reference related to tragedies and afflictions, I would have been disappointed and even helpless. By knowing that the Bible deals with such related issues of tragedies, I find answers or at least relief and hope. We can be easily puzzled as we face  incomprehensible tragedies.  The more we are devoted to God, the more we are puzzled by Him. Why does God allow such things to happen? When we do not have answers for tragedies, we call them “acts of God.” As we look at the devastated lives, homes and families, we are speechless.  Such frustrations are well expressed in what Teresa of Avila said, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you don’t have many!” 

 

Bob Russell wrote a book, titled, “Acts of God.”  I am going to share  a portion of his writing, which could offer us some insight into the reasons why tragedy occurs. Behind his insight on this issue, there is a strong and biblical view that God is not the originator of evil. Thus, blaming God in tragic moments is not a solution at all.  He offers us six reasons for our trials.  (1) Lack of discipline brings trials.  Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of losing his temper and usurpation of God’s glory. Miriam was struck with leprosy for undermining Moses’ leadership. We all know that God chastises His disobedient children (Hebrews 12). (2) Poor decisions bring trials. Sometimes we choose the wrong friends, eat the wrong foods, and make the wrong decisions in business or in family. Actions have consequences. (3) Satanic attacks bring trials. Satan is our enemy. Our battles are not against flesh and blood, but evil spirits. The Bible describes how Satan attacked a good man named Job, who suffered deeply and thoroughly. Paul spoke of a “thorn in the flesh,” some unpleasant infirmity that God allowed Satan to use as a weapon against the apostle. (4) The sins of others bring trials. We may suffer as the consequence of others’ sins. Parents’ sins bring trials and suffering to children.  Husband’s or wife’s sins also bring trials.  Our friends’ sins could bring tragedies to us, too. (5) Persecution brings trials. 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  If we carefully read it and rephrase it, we may say, “bad things (in this case, persecutions) happen to good people (who are godly and righteous).”  We need to see that godliness is a cause of persecution. (6) A fallen world (or effects of the fall of mankind) brings trials. We are living with fallen people in this fallen world. There’s also the distinctly Christian idea that we live not just among fallen people, but in an entire fallen world. Romans 8:18-21 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” It helps us understand why there are tsunamis, earthquakes, diseases, floods, and even the attacks of vicious animals. We can suffer through non-human agencies, and the Bible teaches us that even in these cases, we are experiencing the consequences of a world that has rebelled. 

 

Having read all these reasons, consider the following:

 

“G. K. Chesterton once said that what we call coincidences are ‘spiritual puns.’ A pun is a word with a double meaning, and a coincidence is an event with two meanings.  Who supplies the second one? God is always working out H is divine purposes—purposes no one but He can see in the limited view of the moment. . . . The Bible, like life itself, is packed with “it just so happened” moments. It just so happened that Ruth was gleaning in a field owned by Boaz. It just so happened that Samson was bound to the two supporting pillars of the temple which he pulled down. It just so happened that Caesar Augustus issued a decree for taxation, requiring a man named Joseph to go to the town decreed by prophecy for Jesus to be born in. And it just so happened that Esther married a king and had the opportunity to save the Jewish people. “Just so happened” moments are what the Bible calls “in the fullness of time.”  Like the seasons, like the tides, there is a rhythm and a timing for everything God has planned to do” (Kindle location 1014). All is in the hands of God. 

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

* Kitchen Roster - Leader: Today: Bro Phil Surman. Next Lord’s Day: Bro Simon Yeo.

*2015 Easter Family Bible Camp is in two weeks’ time. If you have not registered, please do so by today.

*Today’s Catered fellowship lunch: Adult: $7. Pensioner/student/not working: $5. Child under 5 years old: FREE.

*Next Lord’s Day, there is no fellowship lunch. Instead, we have coffee/tea & biscuits fellowship.

*Those who are seeking Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or Transfer of Membership AND completed a BBK course, please see Elder Michael Lee ASAP.

*Extraordinary Congregation Meeting on issues relating to the sale of The Stone Mansion will be held on The Lord’s Day, 12 April 2015. Members are expected to attend. 

Praise & Thanksgiving

1. Journey mercies: Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

2. Church activities,  in the past week.

3. Visitors & new worshippers.

4. God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

5. Good medical reviews - Bro Kang Fun Tan (Sis Felicia’s dad). No sign of cancer.

Prayer Items

1. Health & God’s healing - Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

2. Special Prayer: Rev Edward Paauwe; Bro Tien Lee’s father (Penang); Bro XiHeng Wu (Jinan, China) & Sis Yashu Qin’s father (Wuhan).

3. God’s healing: Sis Wol Hee Kim (recurrence of condition) & her two daughters especially for Dalhee’s recovery from leg fractures from MVA. 

4. iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.

5. Cambodia Missions - Bro Chan Thon & Ministry (Siem Reap); Bro Thy Chhay & Ministry (Kratie).

6. New Life BPC (London) - Encouragement for congregation. God’s guidance & provision of a pastor.

7. Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.

8. Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.

9. Journey mercies: Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

10. Health in pregnancy: Sisters Josephine Wong &  Emily Zheng.

11. Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

12. Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.

13. Persecuted believers in Islamic & communist countries. This week: Indonesia & China.

14. Easter Family Bible Camp: Speakers - Dr Tedd & Mrs Margy Tripp, camp organizers, helpers & participants.

15. People of Vanuatu - 100,000 homeless caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam.

16. Bro Tevi & Sis Edna Obed, & their son, Anderson, in Vanuatu.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063