I remember my last confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church but to a zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, “your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ.”
They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.
– Richard Wurmbrand
2 Samuel 5:1-5
 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.  In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”  So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.  David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.  At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
As a sophomore in college, I was already eager to graduate. This was partially because I was eager to work and make money and partially because I thought I would then be done with school forever (God is funny in His providence). In my naiveté, I imagined graduation would be the time when I finally “made it” and I could reap the benefits of my labor. It was all very self-centered.
In our passage this morning, David is finally experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to him. David is to be king and prince over Israel. The time of running for his life and living in caves is (presumably) over! Now David can enjoy a life of power, prestige, and wealth. But is that all?
See, David is not only called to be prince but he is also called to be shepherd. Jesus tells us in John 10:11 that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” David’s blessings are not meant to benefit him alone, but they are given for the sake of the sheep. David ascends to the throne, he enjoys a lengthy and prosperous reign, and he is favored by God, not for the sake of his own legacy but that he might be a greater blessing to the people of Israel.
Not only does success equip David for his shepherding ministry, but also hardship. The many years of wandering and waiting gave David a compassionate heart. He was a man who knew what a shepherd was meant to be – one who would give rest, lead, and comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).
So often we see success and hardship only in regards to how it benefits us. The noblest way we interpret our circumstances is how they are maturing us or drawing us nearer to God. Of course, we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but it rarely occurs to us that God may be shaping and reshaping us that we might be more effective at loving and caring for others.
I, along with my colleagues, decided to visit Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery. As the name indicates, this is where 145 foreign missionaries to Korea and their family members are now buried and remembered. Among them were the families of Horace Underwood (1959-1916), the first Presbyterian missionary to Korea (northern Presbyterian), and W.D. Reynolds, a southern presbyterian (1867-1951). While engaged in many ministries, these two missionaries are best remembered for their work in producing the first Korean translation of the complete Bible in 1910, but this was not without great cost. Soon after their arrival in 1982, the Reynolds gave birth to their first son, William Davis. Their joy was soon followed by grief as little William Davis died the same year he was born, and is now buried alongside many other children of missionaries who have died in Korea. The graves of these missionaries are sober reminders of the sacrifices many missionaries (and their children) have made in their desire to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.
 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,  and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
By the time the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, most of the other apostles had been martyred. In Revelation 2, Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that some of them would be thrown into prison and others would lose their lives. In Revelation 3, Jesus encourages the church of Philadelphia to not fear the synagogues that would persecute them. The people of God are afraid.
So in the vision revealed to John, what does he see? In verse 2, the first thing John sees in heaven is a throne and One seated on it. My wife and I are expecting our third child soon. We anticipate chaos. This world is often chaotic, but we can know that there is a King and He is on the throne.
This King created all things and is sovereign over all things. He is not just King inside the church or the spiritual parts of our lives. He is the King of everything that exists and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. He is sovereign over every molecule.
A Romanian pastor was jailed and beaten and he said this to his captors:
My God is teaching me a lesson. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God.
We may not always understand what God is doing, but we know that He is King and He can and He will ultimately work all things for our good. Our God will conquer the chaos.
In verse 6, John sees a sea of water so still and peaceful it looks like glass. In the Bible, the sea is usually a scene of chaos. Paul gets shipwrecked, Jonah gets swallowed by a fish, and the Egyptian army is drowned in the sea. Water is chaos, but Jesus comes on the scene calms the storm.
We serve a sovereign King. This does not mean we will avoid suffering, but we can rest assured that the waters will be stilled, that the King is seated on His throne.
 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
Peter has just found out that he’s going to be a martyr. When he sees his close friend, John, he asks Jesus, “What about him?” Jesus replies, “Why does that matter? You follow Me!”
This is absurd. Peter is going to be crucified and John might never die?! How does that make any sense?
People try to explain the confusion and suffering of life in different ways. “God is testing us and making us stronger.” “It’s punishment for sins.” “There’s a lesson God is teaching us.” Even if these things are true, these answers are not very satisfying.
Close friends of mine were pregnant with their first child. At the doctor’s appointment in which they were supposed to find out the gender of their baby, they were told that their son had a terminal disease and he would likely not survive the pregnancy. At most, he would live a few weeks after birth.
What could any of us say to them?
Well, here’s what we could not say to them. We could not say why this was happening. We could not say why this was happening to their child. We could not say what exactly God was doing. We could not talk about any of these things because we did not know. We could only talk about what we do know.
Because of the word of God, we knew this was not happening because God does not love them or He had forgotten them. We knew God was not punishing them and also that He was not indifferent. We knew He was grieving for their son and for their pain. We knew that God hates death and He sent His only Son to conquer death. We knew that God would walk with them. We knew that He would somehow work all things for their good.
Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Praise God, the baby did survive and is a wonderful little boy. But in this life, things do not always work out the way we hope. In the midst, all we can hold onto are the things that are certain.
We have all experienced things in the past that have made us ask, “Why?” The honest answer is we don’t know why. Many things in the future remain uncertain. We have many questions. The honest answer is we don’t know what will happen. But what we do know is sufficient. The God we do know is sufficient. The promises He has revealed in His Word belong to us forever.
Today I received an anonymous prayer card from someone who was at Tenth Presbyterian Church yesterday for worship. The card asked us to pray for a baby whose heart is failing and may need a transplant.
The baby’s parents are believers in Jesus Christ. On Saturday the mother, fearing for her daughter’s life, asked her husband, “How long will God continue to show us mercy?”
“Always,” he replied.
The prince of despair’s been beaten
But the loser still fights
Death’s on a long leash
Stealing my friends to the night
And everyone cries for the innocent
You say to love the guilty, too
And I’m surrounded by suffering and sickness
So I’m working tearing back the roof
Maybe the reason we question God’s moral character when bad things happen is that we live lives largely independent from Him – in other words, do we really trust Him even when things are going well?
Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don’t need God. We don’t rely on Him on a daily basis, and so we don’t really know Him as we should. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we haven’t really been close to Him in the first place.
Link: Complete Article
For those who are tied to the high masts of suffering, there is often a fear that is greater than the fear of death. It is the fear of life. It is the fear of the next morning, and the morning after that. In the face of deep despair, the temptation is great to either turn away from God because the suffering is somehow credited to his wrath toward personal sins, or to turn toward him because one knows that he or she is at peace with God.