Suffering, Affliction, and Christ’s Body … He Is Coming Soon

Here is a sermon by Pastor Donovan Riley.  You can find his blog by CLICKING HERE.  Enjoy this wonderful message.

“I’m going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way ahead of me. Then the Lord you are looking for will suddenly come to His temple. The messenger of the promise will come. He is the one you want,” says the Lord of Armies. But who will be able to endure the day He comes? Who will be able to survive on the day He appears? He is like a purifying fire and like a cleansing soap. He will act like a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify Levi’s sons and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will bring acceptable offerings to the LORD. The offerings from Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the past, as in years long ago. “I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me,” says the LORD of Armies. “I, the LORD, never change. That is why you sons of Jacob haven’t been destroyed yet. Since the time of your fathers you have turned away from my laws and have not followed them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Armies. But you ask, ‘How can we return?’ [Malachi 3:1-7]
repentanceIn the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When God wants to strengthen faith He first weakens faith by appearing to destroy it. God thrusts us into many afflictions. He causes us to be so beaten down by them we feel He’s driving us into hopelessness. At the same time, God’s Spirit is our strength. He quiets us so we can wait on Him to finish His work. As St. Paul writes, “we also glory in afflictions, knowing that affliction produces patience; and patience, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” When this storm is over you will open your eyes in amazement and say, “Praise God! I have been delivered from evil. God lives and abides here with me. I didn’t think this would all end so well!”
The Psalmist also confesses [Psalm 66:10-12] this is God’s doing. God refines us like silver is refined. He brings us into captivity. He lays a heavy burden on our backs. But He will bring us out of it all into rich abundance. All will end well for you. You have God’s baptismal promise. He will never leave you or forsake you. You will be tested and tried. Refined. But God is with you through it all. He is preparing you for His coming. He is refining you as silver is refined. He does this so you’ll trust in the Lord rather than yourselves and men. This is the strength of God made perfect in weakness … Just imagine the trouble this will get us into! The one thing the church doesn’t dare try to advertise, for fear of being laughed out of town, turns out to be the only thing God’s got to sell.
The world sees God’s work for you as punishment. Afflictions. Despair. You must be one of God’s enemies. But He isn’t punishing you. This is godly discipline. How God deals with sinners whom He loves. This is how our heavenly Father loves you. His children. This is how He reveals Himself to be Immanuel, God-with-you. He is for you in Christ. Nobody can stand against you. Nothing can snatch you away from Jesus. You know this, because you know the punchline to Malachi’s prophecy. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection reveals it for everyone to hear and believe and receive. He’s not here just to settle up your accounts with death but to pay the bill for you, for everlasting life.
As God takes away your strength and power, He gives you the greater strength which comes only from Him. As God’s children your lives are troubled. Difficult. Beset by problems. Most often through the many ways you help and serve your neighbors. You are always in need of comfort and refreshment. Therefore He draws you constantly back into the Divine Service. He brings you to the place and time where you receive forgiveness of sins over and over again. You need this until the day when your baptism will be completed in the resurrection of your body and your earthly callings fulfilled in the eternal Sabbath, at the never-ending wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom.
First, though, He must bring you to the end of your endurance. Your reliance on everyone who’s not the one, true God. When your grip is broken. When there’s no life left to resuscitate. When He’s brought you to the edge, then pulled you over with Him, only then does the life-ending, and life-giving power of Christ’s cross become all in all for you. Christ died on the cross, and you who are baptized into death with Christ must be put to death by the cross. As you suffer God’s heavy burdens and afflictions you are being conformed to the image of His Son. By His stripes, you are healed. By your stripes, the Church is conformed to the image of her Savior.
Psalm 6 PenitentialThe true Church is hidden under these stripes. Hidden under weakness, suffering, persecution, division, and false teaching. Many are offended because of these things. What they see going on in the churches causes them to leave. They will argue that the true Church doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as the one, true Christian Church. Every church offers the same basic teachings. Every congregation is populated by hypocrites. Everybody has his ups and downs.
This is the work of both God and the devil. The devil because he wants to see the Gospel choked off. God because He wants to come to you only in faith. The true Church is not made holy by any outward thing. She is made holy, acceptable, and spotless by participation in the cross of Christ. The Church suffers because of Christ. And the fact that many leave the church, fall away from faith, and reject the preaching of the Gospel is part of the Church’s cross-bearing.
The idea that wealth and success are signs of God’s favor is an idol. A false god. False teaching. Obstacles to true faith. It’s the way of churches who follow the wisdom of men. They expect to find power, wealth, and success in whatever advantages the Gospel offers them. They gauge the success of the church’s preaching and mission by showy and attractive signs. This is the devil’s work. He wants more followers than the cross of Christ attracts. The Church is best off when she is afflicted. When cross and affliction aren’t apparent this is a clear sign that the pure, true preaching of God’s Word has been taken away. It should be our constant prayer that we would never be prosperous. Never outwardly successful. Peace and prosperity in the churches means the loss of the Gospel. The true Church glories in the cross of Christ.
Suffering and affliction are what you can expect as Christ’s body. It isn’t evil. Christ Himself suffered for the world’s sins, and so will you. Christ lays His suffering on His followers so that they wear His yoke and share His burden. The Church’s suffering is a gift of grace. It is pleasing to God. As Christ suffered, and as our fathers in the faith suffered, you can expect nothing less than what your Savior, fathers, and mothers received. The church that avoids affliction is trying to avoid Christ. They are choosing to go it alone, on the strength of their convictions. Their minds are set on wealth and success, not the cross.
All human strength someday fails. Your strength to be good, honest, and healthy. Even your best traits need to be refined. Crucified. All so you can be holy, acceptable, and spotless before the LORD at the day of His coming. Don’t be afraid. Afflictions and crosses will come. But, all will end well—you will remain God’s children forever. By faith in Jesus you are the people He wants you to be. You are being tried and tested. You are being washed and refined. You are being killed all day long. You are children of the heavenly Father by faith in Christ. Now. Forever. His promise to you cannot be taken back. He cannot deny Himself.
Therefore, pay attention. Stay awake. Hold on tight to the Word of God in faith. He is coming soon. Amen.