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“Judge not that you be not judged”

“Judge not that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 

Increasingly in America, freedom of belief is being redefined as the absence of morals, or literally, as freedom of immorality. Increasingly, we are told that it is wrong to call another’s actions wrong (ironic). We cannot condemn; we cannot judge. So, culture clamors to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs which hold a moral standard, and thus “Judge not that you be not judged” is quickly becoming one of the most widely quoted verses in the Bible in America today. What’s backwards about the use of this verse in our culture, however, is that it actually implies that the one being judged is guilty.

The verse does not read, in meaning, “Judge not [a man] that you be not judged [by a man]”. It reads “Judge not [a man] that you be not judged [by God]”. The point here is that we are, as men, equally guilty before God without Christ. Rather, I should say, it is the application of that truth. The sin of the man judging his fellow man is equally as heinous in its rejection of God as the specific sin (which is being judged) of the judged man. For the judged man to quote back to the judger “Judge not that you be not judged” is for that man to admit the sinfulness of the sin for which he is being judged. It is to say “God will judge you for pointing out that what I am doing is sinful, because what you do is also sinful.”

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The Butcher of the Messenger

“If the Lord says I commit wrongdoing, let the Lord tell me Himself! Oh that I could do away with you, you thorn in my side! Night and day, tormenting me with a message of condemnation! But, how is it you speak with such discernment in other matters? My counselors and wise men haven’t half your wisdom combined! I cannot be rid of you, for you have influenced so many. But in chains though you are, I am intrigued by your words; come! speak! The king will hear from the prisoner.”

Then the axe fell. The head was served on a platter.

Mark 6:20-21;27 “For Herod feared John, knowing he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. But an opportunity came… And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head.”

 

“One who has been in prison for so many long years? Do you insult me?! Here I have the finest magicians and wise men, yet you tell me this offender can interpret what they cannot? What meaning these dreams hold is a mystery to all men, and they will remain so regardless of the interpreter. But I am still desperate. Bring the man to me, and if he fails, the loss is only his.”

Then the messenger spoke the message truly.

Genesis 41:41-43 “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, ‘Make way!’”

 

The same event will not always produce the same outcome. God will work His purposes in every circumstance
Job 23:10 “He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Physical outcomes are insignificant. This gold is eternal.

Doing Vs. Being

For a very long time I was quite caught up with the notion that my identity was found in the long list of things I accomplished. Initially it would seem that’s based solely on pride, but as I think about my motivations, it occurs to me that it can come more from a skewed sense of purpose. To have purpose, I needed to be moving forward. To move forward, I had to accomplish each task that came my direction. This is sound logic of course, and can be used as a very useful tool in fact. The problem, however, is that though purposeful people do move forward (necessarily), their purpose cannot be to move forward. Moving forward through accomplishments is only a means to an end; it’s not an end in itself. And so men find their purpose in accomplishing as much as possible, and we find that we get bogged down, frustrated, stressed, and our purpose cannot sustain us as our foundation crumbles around us. With only accomplishments as the goal for satisfaction, our vision is only to check the next thing off the list.

Proverbs 29:18 Says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV) The English Standard Version translates the word “perish” from the King James Version as “Cast off restraint.” With purpose there is order, so this implies a lack of purpose among the people.Vision comes from leadership. And when the  leadership has no vision, the people under them lose all sense of purpose.

When my purpose was to accomplish things, everything that shapes who I am became a list of things to do. The things that could bring me closer to God and to people around me became things to do. The end goal became accomplishing the things that might shape who I am, and accomplishing the things that might build my relationships. But really, all of them were ineffective at achieving their purposes, because they had no purpose. Their purpose was to be done, rather than to shape my perception of everything around me.

  • Reading my Bible was not to bring me closer to God and understand His purpose, it was to have done my daily Bible reading.
  • Going on a date with my wife was not to draw us into a more loving relationship, it was to have gone on my weekly date with my wife.
  • Having excelled at work was not to be an example of Christ to my fellow employees, it was to check off my list that I was a harder worker than them.
  • My prayers were not to cry out to God, speak with Him intimately, and thank and praise Him, they were to have gone down the list of requests, “thank you’s” and really just to cover all the bases.
  • Reading the literature of church fathers and theologians was not to understand God and His creation better, it was to expand my list of theological works I’d read.

And the list goes on. The longer I practiced these things without any effect, the less desirable they became. They lost their purpose because they could not have purpose in and of themselves. The more purposeless and the less desirable they became, the less I practiced them.

  • My daily Bible reading became my weekly Bible reading.
  • My weekly dates became my monthly dates.
  • Excelling at work became only a prideful and false self-perception.
  • Instead of praying without ceasing, my prayer life was reduced to the bedtime prayer and the dinnertime blessing.
  • I simply didn’t have time to learn about God from those who came before me because there were so many other, “more important things” on the list to accomplish.

The less I practiced these things, the more frustrated with my failure I became. It’s a spiral. Eventually things can begin to drop off completely. My Bible could gather dust, and my relationships could have been so much stronger. I lost focus at work, I relished corporate prayer because I starved myself of personal prayer, and reading dropped off my map completely though it’s always been one of my favorite pastimes.

What I found is that the further down this spiral you go, the more this thinking permeates your entire life. Every action will be put on the list of things to do until you are overwhelmed, either by your failure, or by the uselessness of your heaping accomplishments.

So what is the key? You. It’s not about doing things, it’s about who you are; it’s about your relationships; it’s about your being. Your actions form you.The list of actions is only a means to that end, and unless you accomplish it for that purpose only, no task you accomplish will satisfy you because you will not be changed by it.

What if you were playing a game of baseball, and your only goal was to hit the ball? Every inning the ball is pitched to you, and you play the whole game with not a strike against you. But you’re not trying to get on base, you’re not trying to get third to home, so you pop it right to someone’s glove every time. Great! You hit the ball! But not one of those hits will help you win the game. You’re not a single hit closer to changing the game’s outcome. You don’t read your Bible to say you’ve read your Bible; you read it to build your relationship with God. You don’t hit the ball to hit the ball; you hit the ball to get on base, make it home, and win the game.

King Solomon is a perfect example of someone who achieved accomplishment after accomplishment, but in the end recognized how purposeless it all was if it didn’t change his relationship to God.
Ecclesiastes 2:22-25
“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

Paul recognized his need for Christ, calling every accomplishment rubbish, so that he could know Christ.
Philippians 3:4-8
“Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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” (ESV)

All this said, old habits don’t die hard. Unknown to me, this has been my way of life for who knows how long. I used examples in my own life, using past tense to describe my struggles. But the truth is, I’m only figuring all this out recently. It’s very easy to forget what you learn as you try to practice it. We men default to doing things because doing things is easy. Building character and relationships is difficult.
In closing, I would like to include the excerpt of a book I’m reading that woke me up to this concept. If you’ve payed little attention to anything else I’ve said, pay attention to this excerpt, and maybe it’ll click with you as it did with me.

From Every Man God’s Man by Steven Arterburn and Kenny Luck pg. 11-12
“[Becoming God’s man is] not about asking guys to do more; it’s about asking them to be more. It’s not about asking them to pursue a plan or respond to a cool idea or even to dare. It’s about convincing guys, deep down, that being God’s man is worth the risk. Why is that?

Doing more puts a man in control.
Being more puts God in control.

Doing more is a safe style for men.
Being more is risky.

Doing more implies there’s an end to it.
Being more is a process–fluid and unpredictable.

Doing more lets a man pick the changes he needs to make.
Being more allows God to reveal the changes a man needs to make.

Doing more requires trying harder.
Being more relies on training humbly.

Doing more engenders spiritual pride.
Being more produces humility through surrender.

Doing more is about correcting behavior patterns.
Being more is about connecting with God’s character.

Doing more attaches to the public persona.
Being more reaches the private self–the man God wants to reach.

So here’s the bottom line of this book: The men’s movement of the last two decades has been challenging men to love more, say more, pray more, read the Bible more, discipline themselves more, love their wives more, and serve their kids more. Men have wanted all those things, but the the majority of them are failing over the long haul. The men’s movement has asked men to do what their hearts and characters cannot deliver. Author Dallas Willard got it right: What’s needed is a renovation of the heart before a renovation of lifestyle.”

The Futility of Resolve

So many voices call out for attention
Quicksand is waiting to lead me to death
How many times do I blindly listen?
And slowly I suffocate breath by breath

So many young eyes that are watching as I did
So young and innocent, so ready to follow
Wherever my larger footprints might lead them
And soon my today becomes their tomorrow

And so I resolve to make myself better
No longer I’ll fail those before and about me
A striving example for those who come after
As a rock is so steady, I must stand devoutly

A wave suddenly hits; my foundation fractures
The sandy beach splits; I find myself drowning
I listened again to the Siren’s song
Swept out to sea, only fear is surrounding

“Help, Lord!” A hand quickly reaches to save me
Retching, I look up, my vision yet dim
I see there my Savior the only foundation
All desire for good is only in Him

Awakened again, I return to each day
In my weakness His mercy seems unjust
All strength I may have only comes from the Father
With Christ leading onward, I have only to trust

So many voices call out for attention
Quicksand is waiting to lead you to death
Christ or your pride; to whom will you listen?
It’s your decision; eternity holds its breath

The Purpose of the Second Amendment

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The purpose of the second amendment is not simply “the right to bear arms.” Read in its entirety, it not only gives U.S. citizens the right to operate a well regulated militia, but it provides that one is “necessary to the security of a free State”.
Nowhere in the second amendment does it mention self defense from other citizens, or shooting for any kind of sport. So when the argument against certain guns is that U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms, but within reason, “within reason” as defined by current debate, provides only for sport shooting and self defense, using the argument that “very little firearm capability is required for those purposes”. I’m not arguing for a militia, I’m saying that the debate is well past having anything to do with the second amendment. The amount of government control may soon be far beyond a “well regulated militia”. And if a well regulated milita is “necessary to the security of a free State,” as the second amendment’s writers believed, we have long since not been a free State to the extent they intended, and we are falling further into the abyss of oppression (for oppression is is the repression of freedom).

Why Do Good People Suffer?

Why do good people suffer? To study this inductively, rather than topically, a good place to start would be the Bible. Otherwise interpretations of my own experience, no matter how practical they may be, might betray reality.
The two primary examples of good men suffering in scripture are Job and Christ himself. Since in this question “good people” refers to sinful humans, Christ is perhaps not a very good comparison to ourselves. Though it may be noted that “good people” is a loaded question as no people are actually good. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” (Mark 10:18) It is reasonable to say, then, that the measure of suffering we experience is not based on how good we are, or Christ (nor Job) would have experienced what they did. In fact, it might be reasonable to conclude that the more blameless one is, the more good can come from their suffering (as this trend seems to be seen in scripture).

Following is a simple list of the basic Biblical passages concerning suffering. Asking the question “what do these verses have in common?” will narrow down one primary reason for suffering. Then asking whether they share that main reason with examples of suffering will confirm that, and it can be narrowed down even further from there.

  • Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
  • Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
  • In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
  • But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:32-36)
  • 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, 2 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. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
  • For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
  • And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
  • For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17)
  • My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
  • Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
  • This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Staying on track to answer the original question, these passages all refer to the suffering of good people (or reasons to do good despite suffering). Apart from that, what they have in common is that there is always good that comes from the suffering, or a reward for standing up under it.
Comparing this to examples of good men suffering, we find that good came from their suffering as well.

  • Christ: For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered[b] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:17-18)
  • Paul: So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
  • Job: But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. (Job 23:10)
  • David, when he ran from Saul, endured both the physical pains and the emotional pains of betrayal, yet even given the opportunity to end the hardship by taking Saul’s life he says “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:6) This was David surrendering to God’s plans, knowing that they were better.
  • Joseph: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace for refusing to worship anyone other than Jehova, and when they were not harmed, the very man who threw them in said “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” (Daniel 3:28)
  • Daniel: So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God… Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel (Daniel 6:23b; 25-26)
  • And Paul’s countless examples of hardship that turned out for the salvation of others.

So then, good comes from the suffering of good people.

One thing we find in many of the above passages is that the goodness that comes from suffering is a reward for enduring. In Matthew 5:43-44 we find that that we are to desire that reward. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
So it is reasonable to say that good comes from suffering, and we are to desire that good.

It’s easy to answer that suffering happens for good, but when it is also a punishment of wrong, the obvious question becomes “Why do good men HAVE to suffer? Why can’t good, through suffering, come about only as a result of punishing wrongdoing?”
The distinction here can be explained with two short verses, and is a comfort more than anything.
“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
And Job 23:10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
Not only does the suffering of good people bring about good, but specifically, the good it brings about is that it draws those people closer to Himself.
And this is where the link between contrasting joy and suffering becomes clear. The greatest joy God can ever give us is Himself. We can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) because even in sorrow we know that God is drawing us closer to himself. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romas 8:28)
All things, even the suffering of good people, work not only for good, but for the good of those good people because in suffering, God is drawing them closer to Himself, which is the greatest good He can possibly give them. Thus Job can say that he will come out as gold, Paul can boast in his weaknesses, and Daniel can praise God with a greater trust for delivering him from lions. Thus you and I can thank God and praise Him for whatever great pain we have ever endured in this life because we have endured not only for His name’s sake as Paul and Silas did in prison, but also because by enduring we gain the greatest of all rewards: Christ himself.

Funeral Meditation for Patty May Larson

Delivered April 11, 1998 by Pastor John Piper, who has been one of my greatest spiritual role models, and my doctrinal guide on the topics of suffering and joy.

Question: What has God said that would encourage our hearts and strengthen us in view of Patty’s great suffering and death – especially her suffering, and especially her suffering at the end of her life?

An Urgent Question

The reason this is such an urgent question is twofold: 1) she did suffer in the last hours very much; and 2) many of the explanations that we often give for why suffering can be turned for good don’t seem to work when suffering is leading nowhere but to death.

For example, if I were to go to Hebrews 12, where Patty took us in her video that many of us watched, I would read in verse 10 that God chastises his children that we might share his holiness, and that suffering patiently endured by faith yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

But what about the suffering in the last eight hours before death? What holiness of life and what peaceful fruit of righteousness is that designed for? Death ushered Patty into everlasting sinlessness – and would have, with or without that suffering. So the explanation of discipline for holiness doesn’t seem to apply to the last hours.

So the pressing question that we need the most help with is the question of great suffering experienced by God’s redeemed children in the final hours of life. What has God said to us to help us with this?

The Texts Patty Chose

Patty chose these texts:

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:15 – 5:8)

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (for we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)

The Comfort of Knowing Christians Suffer

The first thing that God says to help us is that the people of Christ suffer terribly at times.

We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life . . . (2 Corinthians 1:8)

The main statement here is “we were pressed.” The word is of a weight pressing down, like a car rolling over on you or a beam from a collapsed building that is smothering you.

Then he gives three phrases to characterize the intensity of it:

1. “We were pressed out of measure.” The weight was excessive. It was huge. It was so heavy that there was no way to measure it adequately. It could not be described.

2. “We were pressed out of measure, above strength.” The weight crushing us was beyond our strength. We could not endure it. It was more than we could bear – even with morphine.

3. “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” The weight was not the pain of a severed arm or a blinded eye or a broken back. It was the weight that takes away life. It was a suffocating weight. Life was virtually lost. It was so heavy and so immeasurable and so beyond strength, that what was at stake was not a lifetime of disability, but having another breath.

That’s the first thing God says: the people of Christ suffer terribly sometimes.

The Comfort of Knowing the Comfort of Christian Suffering

The second thing God says to help us is that this suffering is purposeful, and not capricious or whimsical or meaningless or left only to the hand of the enemy.

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves but in God which raiseth the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

This is not the purpose of the devil. He has his purposes and they are the exact opposite of this – to destroy faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5). This purpose is God’s – “that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”

This is what Patty believed with all her heart, if I understood the video that she made and a couple of letters that she sent to me. Her cancer was not a divine blunder, nor had God surrendered his sovereign control over all things.

This does not mean that Satan had no hand in her suffering. I don’t doubt he did. He is vicious and cruel and murderous. But this very book, 2 Corinthians, shows in chapter 12 how a thorn in the flesh can be called a messenger of Satan and still be ordered ultimately by God for the good of his child.

So the question now becomes: If a daughter of God can suffer so much, and if it is purposeful and not capricious or meaningless, then what possible purpose could there be in it when it happens in the last hours of life?

I think the larger text gives two answers. We will take them one at a time.

Suffering Makes Us Rely On God Alone

The third thing God says to help us is that he allows disease or persecutors or Satan to knock every comfort and dependence out from under us so as to throw us onto God alone, so that we will trust not in ourselves, but on the God who raises the dead.

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

The proving and refining of faith is God’s purpose in suffering. Faith is so valuable to God that he will seek it at the cost of great suffering.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ . . . (1 Peter 1:7)

But here’s the problem: If, in God’s reckoning of life, it was Patty’s time to die, then there was no time after last Tuesday’s suffering for Patty to live out this greater faith – this refined faith. No, there was no time afterward, only during the suffering.

And so I ask: What does proven and successful trust in God look like in such suffering, rather than after it? For if God’s purpose was to prove and refine Patty’s faith, it would have to show itself in the suffering, not after. There was no after, until there was sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When Faith Looks In the Face of Death

What does faith look like when suffering leads to death?

What does faith look like in that kind of suffering? Two answers: one from Job and one from Jesus.

1. In the midst of his suffering, Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). This is the voice of Satan over every suffering saint. I think in the midst of suffering, when you cannot even speak, but only groan or cough or shriek, not to curse God is a triumph of faith. Not cursing God defeats the devil and magnifies God, your only hope. So faith may look like agonized curselessness. Groanings, heavings, shriekings – but no cursing God.

2. The other form that refined and proven faith may take in that kind of final suffering is the form it took on the lips of Jesus: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is faith? This is trust in God?

It is. When Jesus said “My God,” he meant My God. God was still his God and his Father. Jesus looked nowhere else. He had no other God. He had no other hope. This was Psalm 22:1, and it overflowed from his heart:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:1-3)

What This Prayer Means

You see that the cry does not mean the psalmist has ceased to trust in God.

What then does the cry mean? “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

It was not a request for information. The brain screaming with pain can scarcely process anything.

It was an expression of agony at being given over by God to the curse and the enemy, death. God did not cease to love Jesus on the cross. He loved Jesus because of the cross. John 10:17: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here is one of the most profound things in the universe – and it relates to dying saints: the Father loved and blessed the Son, because of the very suffering which was the Father’s curse. Yet it is agony to be loved in this way.

And so it was, not identically, but similarly, last Tuesday morning: God gave Patty up to be consumed by the curse of death, and it is not unbelief to feel the full force of that kind of forsakenness and to cry out, My God, My God where are you? It is a cry of agony, but not of unbelief in the heart of God’s child.

In the final hour of pain, uncursing agony, in hope for the unfelt God, is the faith that overcomes the world.

This final pain has a purpose beyond death in working for Patty an eternal weight of glory.

The Meaning of the Weight of Glory

We take time to look at one more thing that God says in Patty’s verses to encourage us and help us understand.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

This is an amazing shift of wording from 1:8. There the suffering was a terrible weight. Here the reward to come is a great weight of glory. There the suffering was called “out of measure.” Here the very same phrase (in the original) is applied to the reward: “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” And to our dismay, the suffering that was called “heavy” and “out of measure” and “above strength,” is called here “light” and “momentary.” To the apostle, It is all a matter of comparison.

But the point is this: Patty’s suffering was working for her an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. This is the purpose of it all beyond this life.

And if you ask: Will her reward be greater than mine because she suffered more? My answer is: I don’t know all the factors that go into God’s reckoning of ever-increasing eternal joy. What I know is this: last Tuesday morning, Patty’s suffering was working for her an eternal weight of glory. That is what God says.

* * *

There is so much more that could be said. For example, I have said nothing about the pain in Glen and Char and hundreds of you that Patty’s pain has caused. God has much to say about that, if we had time. But I have been listening – to prayers and to comments and to E-mails, and from just this short distance I can say: even apart from all I have said about God’s purpose in her faith and in her glory, Patty has not died in vain. God is at work in you.

* * *

At her bedside Tuesday morning about 3 hours after she died, I commented to Glen that this was an awesome week to meet Jesus. I said something about Jesus’ last Thursday and Good Friday and Christ’s being able to empathize with great suffering. And Glen said, “I think she suffered as much as he did.” I said, “Perhaps. And if so, when their eyes met three hours ago they didn’t have to say much.”

But if the Lord had said to Patty as she beheld him, “Patty, is it worth it?, she would have said (I believe, on the basis of God’s word), “This would be worth a thousand deaths. Whom have I in heaven but thee . . .” (Psalm 73:25).

©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/funeral-meditation-for-patty-may-larson