“The deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain”

In yesterday’s sermon, which I’ll post on Wednesday, I talked about the wrong lesson that we so easily draw from Matthew 14:22-33, which includes Peter’s ill-fated attempt to walk on water. “If only Peter had enough faith,” we say, “then he could walk on water.” The corollary to this lesson is that at least Peter had the guts to take that first step, unlike the other 11 disciples.

You’ve heard this lesson right? I think I’ve preached this lesson. Then we apply it to our lives: If only we had enough faith, then imagine what obstacles we could overcome!

As I said in my sermon,

And then we feel guilty because we don’t have enough faith—because, let’s face it, life is often a struggle. But the hard truth is that God sometimes wants life to be a struggle. It’s part of the plan. It’s good for us. We learn and grow and become better people because God doesn’t allow us to “walk on water.”

Please note that I was careful in my sermon not to say that “everything happens for a reason,” which is a thoroughly unchristian proposition. God doesn’t cause evil and its consequences. But because he’s good, he uses them for our good.

If I had seen this excerpt from a New York Times Magazine article on comedian Stephen Colbert, I surely would have included it somewhere in my sermon:

In 1974, when Colbert was 10, his father, a doctor, and his brothers Peter and Paul, the two closest to him in age, died in a plane crash while flying to a prep school in New England. “There’s a common explanation that profound sadness leads to someone’s becoming a comedian, but I’m not sure that’s a proven equation in my case,” he told me. “I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so.” He added, in a tone so humble and sincere that his character would never have used it: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Thanks to Rachel Held Evans for finding this.

3 thoughts on ““The deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain””

  1. Hi Brent,

    I enjoy your material and appreciate your taking the time to post it. If we lived in your neck of the woods, we would join your church. You are a rare individual in what has become the glitzy world of religion.

    Now, on to Faith.

    Best I can tell, Faith, at least from Hebrews 11, is intended to be one of the lived items in Paul’s Faith, Hope and Love Trilogy.

    Today, Faith seems to have been reduced to subject matter for sermons turned into motivational speeches. Celebrate triumph. Gloss over the struggle.

    I consider Hebrews 11 the definition of faith. It seems to set forth the two sides of a ‘living faith ‘. Hebrews 11: 35 communicates it as good as any. “Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.”

    While on one hand, the walls of Jericho fall down. On the other, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

    Faith, as you have pointed out involves a great deal more than mental ascent to verbal propositions.

    It seems to me, Faith involves a tad bit of tenacity, risk taking, courage, delayed gratification, and vision that extends beyond the end of my nose. If anything, Faith is tough, wears work boots and refuses to fall prey to the line of least resistance.

    Like I said, we would join your church.


    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Curtis. I’ve been telling my church for years about what a “rare” individual I am and how lucky they are to have me, but they don’t believe me. 😉

      I might have to preach a sermon series on Hebrews 11 sometime. Lot of good stuff there.

      1. The ” he was the greatest pastor we ever had” is bestowed only after you have moved to your next pastorate. The person that follows you will get to hear that about you. LOL

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