Volume. XXXiii, No. 11
Sunday, 09 September 2018

From the Pastors Heart: Suffering

Until a few weeks ago, when someone told me about Raymond Koh, a pastor in Malaysia, I had neither known nor heard of him.  Ben Mceachen wrote an article for Eternity News on February 15, 2018, about him.  Pastor Raymond Koh is “a prominent Christian leader who left his pastoral ministry role in 2004 to establish Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community), a not-for-profit aimed at bringing ‘love, hope, peace and dignity to the poor, needy and marginalised.’  Harapan works in prisons, HIV shelters, with single mothers and impoverished children.”

Pastor Raymond, his wife Susanna and other friends also “reached out to homeless people with simple hospitality, such as a monthly ‘Birthday Bash’ for those on Kuala Lumpur’s streets.  ‘We provided fried rice or fried noodles and hot tea.  A birthday song was sung for the person whose birthday fell on that month and he got to cut the cake and celebrate with all of us.’  ‘People were touched and some even had tears in their eyes that people cared for them. We have stopped this since Raymond’s abduction due to lack of resources.’” Against them, there were constant attacks and threats.  “In 2011, police raided a fundraising event and, several weeks later, Raymond received a death threat with two bullets.  Susanna was mailed a pungent white powder marked ‘Anthrax.’  During the same year, Islamic authorities investigated Harapan Komuniti after it was accused of attempting to convert Muslims.  Those allegations were dropped.  Susanna also claims her family has been followed, been subjected to online hate speech, and received ‘intimidation and harassment by the Special Branch of the Police.’” 

Such stories are not all that they had to endure.  About one and half years ago (13/02/2017), 15 men violently pulled Raymond Koh from his car in broad daylight, near the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur.  The 63-year-old pastor has not been seen or heard from since.  This case was reported by the BBC on April 17, 2017.  You can watch the CCTV footage showing the kidnap scene by googling, “CCTV footage captures pastor Raymond Koh’s abduction.”  I felt ashamed that I did not know it.  It has chilled me by knowing that most of us have lived outside of the reality of Christian living in this world.  And also, it reminded me again that there are people who suffer for Christ’s sake even today, though I have been aware of the believers’ sufferings in many places.  Susanna has been visiting church groups to speak about her missing husband, but she has done more than that.  In her talks, she has touched a subject of pain and suffering that we do experience.  There is a book she has recommended to so many people on this subject, and someone gave me a copy of it.  I finally have finished reading it.  I’d like to write something that I have found from this book.  The book's title is, Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose & Provision in Suffering, edited by Nancy Guthrie and published by Crossway in 2010. 

Nancy Guthrie says, “[Suffering] pushes us deeper into the mystery of God.  It makes us more desperate for Him, to hear from Him and sense His presence.  We found the solid rock of Scripture was our sure foundation, reshaping our understanding and expectations of God, instilling us with confidence in the character and purposes of God.  Holding on to hope, for us, has not been a vague, sentimental experience.  It has been an ongoing choice to believe God’s Word” (p. 11). 

R.C. Sproul approaches the topic in a more rational way by saying, “I am especially concerned when events are described as a ‘senseless tragedy.’  If we look closely at the phrase, it becomes obvious that ‘senseless tragedy’ is an oxymoron. It is a self-contradictory statement, a phrase that makes no sense.  For something to be defined as ‘tragic’ there first must be some standard of good for it to be deemed tragic over against.  But if things happen in a way that is ‘senseless,’ there cannot be anything that is either a tragedy or a blessing.  Each event would simply be meaningless.  The word ‘tragedy’ presupposes some kind of order or purpose in the world.  If the world has purpose and order, then all that occurs in it is meaningful in some respect. The idea of a ‘senseless tragedy’ represents a worldview that is completely incompatible with Christian thought” (p. 43).  After all, it means that there is no event without meaning.  Of course, it includes tragedies that cause us to suffer. 

However, the truth is that every event still does not console us in times of pain and suffering.  A.W. Tozer shares very useful descriptions or explanations that Samuel Rutherford said about pain, and I was blessed to read it, and I believe that it will warm your hearts and encourage you all.  It goes as follows: “It was the enraptured Samuel Rutherford who could shout in the midst of serious and painful trials, ‘Praise God for the hammer, the file, and the furnace.’  The hammer is a useful tool, but the nail, if it had feeling and intelligence could present another side of the story.  For the nail knows the hammer only as an opponent, a brutal, merciless enemy who lives to pound it into submission.  To beat it down out of sight and clinch it into place.  That is the nail’s view of the hammer, and it is accurate except for one thing: The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman.  Let the nail but remember that the hammer is held by the workman and all resentment toward it will disappear.  The carpenter decides whose head shall be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating.  That's his sovereign right.  When the nail has surrendered to the will of the workman and has gotten a little glimpse of his benign plans for its future, it will yield to the hammer without complaint.”

“The file is more painful still, for its business is to bite into the soft metal, scraping and eating away the edges till it has shaped the metal to its will.  Yet the file has, in truth, no real will in the matter, but serves another master as the metal also does. It is the master and not the file that decides how much shall be eaten away, what shape the metal shall take and how long the painful filing shall continue.  Let the metal accept the will of the master and it will not try to dictate when or how it shall be filed.  As for the furnace, it is the worst of all.  Ruthless and savage, it leaps at every combustible thing that enters it and never relaxes its fury till it has reduced it all to shapeless ashes.  All that refuses to burn is melted to a mass of helpless matter, without will or purpose of its own.  When everything is melted that will melt and all is burned that will burn, then and not till then, the furnace calms down and rests from its destructive fury.”

“With all this known to him, how could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file, and the furnace?  The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshipped the Lord who heated the furnace for the everlasting blessing of His children.  He had felt the hammer till its rough beatings no longer hurt; he had endured the file till he had come actually to enjoy its biting; he had walked with God in the furnace so long that it had become as his natural habitat.  That does not overstate the facts” (pp 87-88).    

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) said: “Things must go, not according to your understanding but above your understanding.  Submerge yourself in a lack of understanding, and I will give you My understanding.  Lack of understanding is a real understanding: not knowing where you are going is really knowing where you are going.  My understanding makes you without understanding.  Thus Abraham went out from his homeland and did not know where he was going (Gen. 12:1).  He yielded to My knowledge and abandoned his own knowledge; and by the right way he reached the right goal.  Behold, that is the way of the cross.  You cannot find it, but I must lead you like a blind man.  Therefore not you, not a man, not a creature, but I through My Spirit and the Word, will teach you the way you must go.  You must not follow the work which you choose, not the suffering which you devise, but that which comes to you against your choice, thoughts, and desires.  There I call; there you must be a pupil; there it is the time; there your Master has come” (p. 67).


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More Lively Hope



  • Head of Music Ministry: Bro Jason Tan has been newly appointed to lead Music Ministry.
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Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Visitors & church activities in the past week.
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  • Missions: Rev Sun Sokha, family & ministry; Krang Angkrang Faith Church (Phnom Penh).
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