Their Suffering, Your Sanctification EGP Blog post from November 18, 2018

“These weak, seemingly dishonorable, people … are here for you … to show honor to, for you to serve, for you to care for, and show grace toward. … Their suffering is not about their sanctification, it’s about your sanctification.” —John Piper, “How Can God Be Sovereign and Good and Allow Suffering?”

“We usually look for the purposes of suffering for the effect that it has on the sufferer. … But what we don’t usually look for is God’s purposes for OUR weaknesses in the lives of OTHERS. In other words, could OUR weaknesses … or suffering be intended by God to draw out of OTHERS something they WOULDN’T OTHERWISE have experienced concerning Christ? …

God in His SOVEREIGNTY could cause IDLE saints to be INDUSTRIOUS, He could cause FAINT-HEARTED saints to be LION-HEARTED, He could cause WEAK saints to be STRONG. But instead, [Paul] tells the leaders of the church that these people are an occasion for their PATIENCE … and he doesn’t act as if they’re going away. Some people are just going to BE that. Their WEAKNESSES draw out of others evidences of GOD’S GRACE. …

Paul doesn’t say that the WEAKNESS and the DISHONORABLENESS of these people is to teach THEM anything, the way his OWN thorn of the flesh was meant to teach HIM something (to keep him from being CONCEITED). He says these WEAK, seemingly DISHONORABLE, people—whom the world would probably just DESPISE or THROW AWAY—are here for YOU. … YOU are strong; they are here for YOU to show HONOR to, for you to SERVE, for you to CARE for and show GRACE toward. Service that can NEVER be paid back in this world. Their suffering is not about THEIR sanctification, it’s about YOUR sanctification. …

The existence of the weak—for whom WE are to work in ways that they CAN’T—is described by Paul as an occasion for US to be more blessed. Because it’s more blessed to GIVE—to work for the WEAK—than to merely work for OURSELVES. … [God] has purposes with our weaknesses, even those MASSIVE disabilities that leave us unable to do ANYTHING for ourselves. … Indeed, Paul goes so far as to say it’s about their JOY, not just their PATIENCE, because it’s more blessed to GIVE than to RECEIVE, even as we lay down our LIVES for the weakest of the weak.”

—John Piper, How Can God Be Sovereign and Good and Allow Suffering?

Key verses

1 Thessalonians 5:14–18; 2 Corinthians 12:7–10; 1 Corinthians 12:20–26; Luke 14:12–14; 1 Corinthians 1:25–31; Acts 20:34–35

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