Michael Youssef - Suffering with Jesus
No one can deny the universality of pain and suffering, no one. We all experience it, we all experience it. Even the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, those who are redeemed by his precious blood, they suffer. Why? Because we still live in this sinful fallen world. But unlike what happens to the non-believers, when suffering comes uninvited and unwelcomed to the believers and the believer's life, it is not judgment. Can I repeat that? When suffering comes uninvited, unwelcome, and has nothing to do with anything we've done, it is not judgment. It is not God's judgment. So I wanna give you four things as to why a believer suffers in this life. First, it is to purify us. As we saw in the last message, it's to purify us as gold and more than gold, actually more precious than gold.
According to Peter in 1 Peter 1:6-7, he said, "You greatly rejoice in your salvation". We rejoice in that we are saved, and we are eternally forgiven, and we are on our way to heaven. He said, "You rightly so, you greatly rejoice," keep on rejoicing even though, can you say that with me? "Even though you suffer for a little while to purify our faith being more precious than gold". In the last message I showed you the dual role of the fire, the fire of judgment from Luke 12, and the fire burns anything that's combustible, but it purifies gold.
Secondly, the second thing I wanna tell you about suffering. When it is not the consequences of anything we've done, when it is not the consequences of anything we've done and suffering comes, what it does, it presses us deeper and closer to the heart of God. 2 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 8 and 9, Paul speaking of his suffering, he suffered so much, but then he comes at a point in his life and he says, 2 Corinthians 1 of 8, he said, "Our affliction was excessively beyond our ability to bear". Think about this. Guy who have been through so much he says, "But this affliction that I'm going through right now," he said, "Excessively beyond our ability to bear, I can't take it". But why? He gives us the answer, thank God I don't have to come up with the answer. So he goes on to say, "So that, so that we should not trust in ourselves, but in the God who raises the dead". For the lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ, any form of suffering should make us long for heaven, it should make us long for heaven, and it appears to me at least that it might not be as long as we may think. It makes us long for heaven where there is no suffering, no pain, no tears.
The third thing I wanna share with you why God allows suffering for his children, the believers, is that so we may have compassion with others who suffer. It's my testimony that my greatest times of growing in Christ and through Christ, are the times of my brokenness and affliction. It is the times when I am in the valley not on the mountaintop. God allows that so he can draw us closer to him. Fourthly, when affliction takes place in a believer's life, it is a preparation for bearing more fruit, more fruit, more fruit. It is for making our testimony more effective. And so don't waste your affliction, don't waste your suffering, don't waste your pain. Let it polish your testimony, let it sharpen your testimony. I think you know this but it's worth remembering, that for non-believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, this life is as good as it ever gonna get but for us who know and love the Lord Jesus, this is as bad as it gonna get. Can I get an amen? Because we have a heaven to look forward to.
One more thing before I get to my text. These dear folks who are listening and hearing him, they've always been taught by some rabbis, that all calamities, all affliction, all suffering is a result of sin. And so as soon as they see somebody afflicted, "Ooh, he must have done something bad. She must have done something bad". And our Lord Jesus Christ is trying to correct him here. In John chapter 9, a man born blind just think about this. You know what the disciples asked? "Who sinned? Did he sin? Where did he sin? In the womb? Did he sin or his parents sinned"? Somebody sinned that's why he's blind. You see, that is the false belief system, that's the falsehood that some of those rabbis were teaching, and our Lord Jesus Christ was trying to put things straight to try and explain God's Word accurately. And Jesus is telling them, "Listen, calamities does not always, always, always, or all the time mean that it is a punishment of the wicked, or those who suffer death are no more sinners than those who survive".
In Luke chapter 13, Jesus makes that very, very, very clear, namely that we all live on borrowed time, all of us. And the reason God withholds total judgment, is because he is merciful and he gives us one more time for repentance. He is patient, God's patience should never misinterpreted as tolerance of sin. God's patience must never be taken for granted. God's patience must never be taken as God's approval of sin. God's patience is because he always longs for people to recognize their stubbornness and their sinfulness and repent. And that's what we're gonna see in the text today. Turn with me please to Luke 13, the words in verse 1, very significant because it says now on the same occasion, this is continuation from chapter 12, he's talking to these people and we've seen that when they heard Jesus talking about the fire of judgment, and the fact that that fire of judgment is coming to the Jews and Gentiles alike because they thought, "Oh, that's for the Gentiles we're the chosen people nothing can happen to us. Doesn't matter even how we live God is gonna protect us".
So once they heard this and that kinda really that goaded them, they goaded their self-righteous, pompous attitude. Taking God for granted, taking the grace of God for granted. And so they asked Jesus about the current disasters. Now obviously these are the headlines in the Jerusalem Herald and they held the headline in the newspapers to Jesus of these two things that have been happening right at that time. One incident, it took place when Pontius Pilate, that Roman governor, that murderous coward man who ordered the slaughter of a group of Galilean protestors, they were protesting against the Roman occupation. So great was that slaughter and tragedy. The other tragedy was that it took place when 18 people were standing under the tower of Siloam.
That's about just outside of the southwest side of the wall of Jerusalem. And suddenly that tower collapsed. And those 18 people who standing under it, they all were killed. One disaster was manmade, another disaster was a natural disaster. But given their faulty belief system, they immediately jumped to erroneous conclusions. And here's the worst part, they wanted Jesus to agree with them but far from agreeing with them, Jesus sets them straight and he points to two very important issue, don't miss 'em, don't miss 'em. Two very important things that he points to them. It is number one, first that what truly matters, what truly matters is repentance, it's repentance and I'm gonna explain that in a minute. And secondly, that God's patience, listen to me, God's patience with the non-repentant sinner has a limited time. It has an expiration date. I'm gonna explain that again in a minute.
First, he said verse 2, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than the others because they suffered this way"? Translation, don't be smug, don't be self-righteous, don't pat yourself on the back and say, "Oh I'm good, I'm better than they are". Listen to me, I truly believe that Jesus's answer caught them all including the disciples by surprise. The word no here, is in the empathetic position. "I tell you, no". That's the empathetic position. The point of our Lord is making here is this, the ones who died not worse sinners than the ones survived. The reason God allows sinners to live so that they may respond to his merciful invitation. Beloved, God is gracious, God is merciful, God is patient because he longs for them to repent. It's the longing of his heart. "I tell you, no, unless you repent, you likewise shall perish".
In other words, take these calamities as God's loving warnings. Take these tragedies as God's gracious alarm bell that is ringing to wake you up from your stupor. All tragedies beloved, listen to me, all tragedies must be seen as a warning to everyone to turn to the Lord and escape the judgment that is coming upon the world. He's pleading with them and saying, "For your own sake, for your own sake, let any tragedy be a forewarning for you. Be forewarned that judgment is coming upon rebellious people. Be forewarned that unless you repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness, you will suffer worst fate, eternal fate. Be forewarned that God's eternal judgment is coming to everyone who refuses the offer of salvation that comes from the cross of Calvary". In fact, those who have heard the warning but they did not heed the warning, they're gonna pay a heavier price. Eternal judgment. Their judgment will be more severe, more tragic, unending, unending.
Twice, Jesus repeats the phrase, "Unless you repent, unless you repent," in verse 3 and in verse 5. Jesus is emphasizing this twice, "Unless you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you". What does repentance mean? There are two elements to repentance. First, a person, every person, every human being on the face of the earth must recognize that he or she is a sinner and they have offended a holy God, born with sin, practicing sin. As such, they are heading for a Christless eternity of suffering and turmoil. Not because God is capricious or vindictive, no, no, no, no, no, but because hell, hell is the natural destination of those who offend a holy God. Therefore, you must agree with God, you must agree with God, "I am a sinner".
But you see, turning away from sin is only the first element, turning to Christ is the second element. Turning from sin, yes, but you turn to Christ, turn to Jesus as the only one, is the only one who can save you from that dreadful fate. Repentance is not just turning from sin, but turning to the only one who not only save you from sin, but gives you power over sin in this life. Then our Lord moves in to give us an illustration, a story, a parable. It shows us how he's persevering and persisting in mercy. But one day that's gonna come to an end. I call this an expiration date. And so to illustrate this he talked about a fig tree. A landowner owned a beautiful garden, and he comes in the middle of the garden and he plants and a fig tree, and he plants it well.
Some of these fig trees can grow as high, they're not supposed to be high, but some of them can grow as high as 25 feet. And in addition to the delicious fruit of the figs, the trees have served as an excellent source of shade from the scorching heat of the Middle East. The gardener took very good care of that fig tree. He protected the fig tree, he provided for the fig tree, he placed it in a great location, he watered it regularly, he fertilized it regularly, and yet to his dismay, he comes in season after season no fruit, no fruit. This tragic turn of events causes the owner to be perplexed and to be frustrated at the lack of fruit. That tree has tried his patience. Am I pleaing with you, do not keep on trying God's patience because that patience one day is gonna run out. To some this is the last warning. This is a severe warning for you. This is a dire warning for you.
Turn to Christ now, repent now, don't misinterpret God's patience with you as an acquiescence to your sin and rebellion against the holy God and against his Word. Verse 7, the owner tells the gardener, "Cut it down, cut it down. Why should it keep on sapping the nutrients, and the sun, and the water, and stubbornly refusing to produce fruit of repentance"? The gardener pleads with the owner, "Give me one more year, give me one more opportunity". Beloved, this is the Holy Spirit speaking to God the Father, and saying to God the Father, to give you one more chance, to give you more chance so the Holy Spirit may speak to your heart directly.
One more time so that a friend might speak to you. One more time, so that you may hear that loving invitation. One more time, so that you may be forewarned. One more time, so that you may see the suffering of others as an opportunity to wake you up from your condition. One more time. In fact, this parable has several applications as you know all parables when Jesus tells them, they have more than just one application. The immediate application is he's talking about Israel. Because you'll see later on at the end of this chapter, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem for rejecting him as their Messiah, he weeps.
That's probably the primary application. Here's a second application, as for everyone who have refused to respond to God's means of grace, everyone. The words next year this is an expression meaning, it's an indication that there is a limited time. That just limited time it's not gonna be forever, it's not gonna be for all of life. Once the door of mercy is closed, it's closed. Once you keep on rejecting the invitation and the invitation is withdrawn, it's over. Once the opportunity is totally refused, there is no more opportunities. The axe will fall on the unresponsive soul. This is a word of a challenge for you. Start producing the fruit of repentance now.