A few years ago John Piper published a book titled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." It showed us how God calls us to steward everything He sovereignly puts into our lives - even cancer, and to benefit from those things. All of life is a stewardship. Today's communion meditation is from Psalm 119:75. It’s very short: “I know, O Yehowah, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Let’s pray.
1 Corinthians 10-11 indicates that many Christians don't find the blessing that God intended them to find in the Lord’s Table because they don't respond to God's judgments rightly. In chapter 10 Paul attributes plague, snake bite, and other Old Testament disasters to God’s disciplines for violating the spirit of the sacrament through their sins. In chapter 11:30 he says, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” Yet verse 17 says that we can eat for the better – for blessing, if we treat the Lord’s Table as we should.
So today’s meditation is titled, “How to Benefit From God’s Afflictions.” Have you ever seen a child who has to be disciplined over and over and over again and just doesn’t seem to learn? We tell those parents to be patient, consistent, and persevering like God is and the discipline will pay off. In fact, many times we encourage an extended boot camp to have constant repetition until the lessons are learned right. That's what God sometimes does with us - extended tough times. But David wants us to be quick learners so that we don’t have to be disciplined so frequently. Let me give you five key factors that need to be in place if we are to benefit from God's disciplines.
The first key that he mentions is the most obvious - we need to learn from our afflictions. David says, “I know, O LORD…” And then he goes on to say what he learned from this affliction. He doesn’t just ignore the disciplines that come from God’s hand and endure them like a Stoic. He learns from them. He comes to realize what is going on. When life gets painful, it is worth asking God if there is something He is teaching you. The quicker you learn that lesson, the better. I don't even ignore such things as stubbed toes, hemmhorroids, or skin issues. Not everything is a discipline, yet everything comes from God's hands, and that means we can learn from these things.
The second key is to not have a secular perspective on most of life. I dare say that most Christians are practical Deists in the sense that they don't think about God in their day-to-day routines. They are not living coram deo, or before the face of God. The next two words, “O LORD” are the covenant name of God, Yehowah. This speaks of trust in God and submission to God. When we are in covenant with God, we are relating to God in everything that we do. There is nothing in this universe that does not show God’s cosmic personalism, and God causes everything – yes even that hemhorroid, to help us to relate to Him covenantally. But do you even think of God when you have afflictions? Or does God have to bring the heat up to a certain level before it dawns on us that God is getting our attention? We must not be practical deists who see life through secular eyes. The sooner you learn to see even the positive things of life such as your food, clothing, and haircuts in relation to God, the less likely it is that we will even need afflictions. A God-centered perspective on life is a key to enjoying life while a secular perspective on most things is the guarantee that we will experience the frustration of vanity.
After gaining a God-centered perspective, the third key is to agree that God was perfectly right in afflicting you. "Yes, Lord, I deserved that." And those are the next words - “that your judgments are right.” This means that we don’t complain about the affliction. We tell God that He is perfectly right in having given you that judgment. When we resist His discipline, and we scowl at the parent who is disciplining us, it doesn’t go well. But when we thank God and affirm the rightness of what He has done, there is likely to be no need for further discipline. One commentator pointed out that God’s judgments are not just the negative things. It is all His orderings of my life. And the commentator said that this means that there is no such thing as chance or bad luck, and to ascribe any problem to bad luck is to buck against God’s personal dealings in your life. You are not going to benefit from your afflictions if you attribute them to bad luck.
He goes on to say, “And that in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.” We don’t just sing “Great is Thy faithfulness” when the money is rolling in and everything is pleasant. We affirm God’s faithfulness even during the afflictions. "Thank you Lord for trusting me with this affliction. You are faithful."
And the last key to benefiting from your affliction is to personalize the affliction as being perfectly crafted for me. This is true even when there are corporate national judgments. There is nothing that can come against me that God has not ordained, which means that there is nothing that we should murmur over, since all murmuring and kicking of flat tires is truly murmuring against God’s providence and kicking against God.
Back to 1 Corinthians 10 – you will notice all five of these points. It was murmuring, failing to be thankful, failing to say that God’s judgments were right, failing to live in covenant with God that resulted in so many judgments coming upon the wilderness generation. The next generation learned better, and they found very few disciplines. They had submitted cheerfully to God’s work and God blessed them with abundance. May He do the same for each of us. Amen.