Sent to me from my Mom:
by Andy McQuitty
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis
I struggled to figure out what God was doing when I was diagnosed with cancer. It was like He was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Get on this train, I want you to make a journey for me.” It wasn’t as if I could say, “No, I think I won’t get on the train.” That wasn’t the choice God was giving me. I was getting on the train whether I liked it or not. The choice I did have was what kind of journey it would be – a good one or a bad one.
My prayer from the beginning was simply, “Lord, wherever this train takes me, make this a good journey.”
And it was.
It still is. And not only for me. I think in all my years of pastoral ministry, God has used my suffering and my cancer to encourage and bless more people than anything I’ve ever done. From a human (selfish!) perspective, that’s kind of sad. Like anybody in their chosen career, I suppose I started out years ago in ministry daydreaming of someday being famous as a world-renowned preacher, or consummate author, or powerful leader and influencer in the church. But God is laughing, because any notoriety I may have is not because I became successful, but because I got sick. I’m not famous for being great, but for being the dude who almost died and lived to tell the tale. So be it! This is my calling. . . and yours. The ministry of sacrificial suffering. It’s the most peculiar sacrifice you can offer because it’s the most redemptive sacrifice you can offer.
Sacrificial suffering is undeserved and unavoidable. Rob a bank and you deserve jail. Lie to people and you deserve mistrust. But Jesus didn’t deserve what He got. He committed no sin and told no lies, yet he was sorely persecuted. There was nothing about his suffering that he brought upon himself or that he could have changed.
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:23, NIV)
Sacrificial suffering is consciously entrusted to God. It’s not just miserably enduring pain and hoping God sees your plight. It’s embracing the pain knowing God is using your plight for redemption. Such ones impress God Himself with their faith and insight.
“For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” (I Peter 2:19-20, NIV)
Consciousness of God’s good purposes for sacrificial suffering leads us to endure those sufferings as an active choice. The Greek word for endure is hupomenō. It means “to remain under.” In order to voluntarily stay in the place of pain for as long as God chooses, we have to entrust ourselves to God like Jesus did. Christ’s sacrificial suffering was redemptive. It brought us to God. Now we follow in His footsteps and are amazed to find that our sacrificial suffering is redemptive as well.
“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’” (John 12:23-24, NIV)
Wheat, in scripture, is the basis of life. Raw wheat can be powdered into flour, germinated and dried into malt, or processed into pasta or roux. Wheat is the basic ingredient in porridge, crackers, biscuits, Muesli, pancakes, pastries, cakes, cookies, rolls, gravy, cereals and more. All this goodness comes from the kernel of wheat which, when planted, produces a stalk of wheat with a head that contains many kernels. When many stalks are harvested and replanted, acres of wheat can be grown. Eighty pounds of wheat seed per acre will harvest about 60 bushels of wheat from that one acre!
All that is required is that the one kernel dies. If the grain of wheat remains the same, according to the word of Jesus, it will never change. “But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Thus, a plant teaches a powerful principle: Sacrifice releases power; the greater the sacrifice, the greater the released power.
Jesus willingly “fell into the ground and died.” He willingly sacrificed His life. And the result of that sacrifice is the multitude of lives eternally saved. Here is the great Christian paradox, the unmistakable mark of an authentic gospel. It begins with dying — a cross – and that sacrifice releases great power. That’s not just true for Jesus. It’s true for us as well.
When I have difficulty understanding my suffering in light of the cross of Christ, this declaration, taken from the words of the great South African writer and minister Andrew Murray, Jr., has helped me. In times of suffering say:
- He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place. In that I will rest.
- He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.
- He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
- In His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.
The promises of Jesus seem like a paradox, but they are profoundly true. To be whole, you must be broken. To live, you must give up your life. To receive, you must give. To be exalted, you must humble yourself. To be strong, you must be weak. To be fruitful, you must die. Therein lies the power of sacrifice.
Andy McQuitty is the pastor of Irving Bible Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. You can read the blog “A Note from Pastor Andy” on Facebook.