TD Jakes - The Shock of Suffering
Our faith is being challenged. Our faith is being challenged to the core, because suffering now seems strange to us. Suffering now becomes a question that I have to respond to in the press because of the complexity of how could God be good and allow suffering? No one escapes suffering. In fact, the Bible says that he is a present help in the time of trouble. And so what I want to suggest to you that the crowd is around him in the celebration, but they leave before the suffering. They're singing in the celebration, they're rejoicing in the celebration, but they leave before the suffering begins, and I wanna submit to you for your consideration that Jesus is more powerful in his suffering than he is in his celebration. And if we are really like Jesus, that means that there is a power that we exude in suffering that we do not experience in celebration.
Job said, "Though he slay me, yet shall I trust him". There's some kind of anointing that comes out of you when you have pressure applied that you would not experience any other way. Are you hearing what I'm saying to you? And so, let us not allow the oddity in the western world of seeing a man riding on a donkey covered by coats, and palm branches laid, mixed with coats all on the ground. Let us not be so distracted by these elements that we do not notice the fact that the crowd does not stay. I said the crowd does not stay. I wondered in my mind where is the singing at the end of the week when he really needed to be worshiped, when he really needed their support? I wondered where were the worshipers, and the dancers, and the celebration, and the crescendo of glory in the moment of his real hour of suffering when he could have used a few hosannas? He could've used somebody reminding him, you may be on a cross, but you're still my King.
Oh, y'all don't hear what I'm sayin.' Oh, that's what faith is. Who can look beyond the cross and still see the King. I wondered what happened to the crowd that in just one week, the crowd would dissipate, the apostles would step back from their positions, and one would start cussing, and one would start doubting, and one would betray him by the end, in just one week. We see Christ starting the week in celebration, and ending the week in a place of suffering. Now, I want to be honest, I don't like suffering. I don't want to suffer. I prefer not to suffer. There's never been a morning I woke up and said, I hope this is a suffering day. I want to be honest about it. I haven't seen a new year in and say, this is my year to suffer, hallelujah. No, I don't ask for it, but God still orders us to go through periods of suffering.
Up until now in this country, we've enjoyed the luxury of looking out of the sanctity of our democracy through the window at other countries and talk about those people are dealing with a plague, and those people are dealing with a disease, and look at them, they have a virus, and oh, let's pray for this country and that country, never thinking that the viruses would cross the waters, and fly across on planes, and now we have become them and they. Be careful how you handle other people in the moment of their suffering, and look in a condescending way at them, because what I'm suffering today... oh, you don't hear what I'm saying. What I'm suffering today, you can be suffering tomorrow. It's my daughter today, but it'll be yours tomorrow. Be careful how you handle my boy, because you got a son coming up, and suffering will come to your house. And the real test is, I don't need to be tested in my moment of celebration, I need to be tested in the moment of my suffering.
How committed am I when the crowd is gone? How committed am I when the storms begin to rage? How committed am I in the moment of adversity? I'm so grateful to God, while I appreciate all the things he's done for me, and I am so blessed to come and stand in this church and see people all the way up to the top balcony, and see them praising and magnifying God, but I want the devil to know that I'm not serving God for the crowd. That if I have to stand back in a building like I did years ago, and preach to four or five people, that God is still good. Oh, I said he's still good! If he thinks for one minute that I lose my anointing when I lose my crowd, he didn't understand where I came from. I've been through too much to get here and lose my anointing over people. People didn't give it to me, and people, oh, they can't take it away. They can't take it away. Do you hear what I'm saying to you?
Glory to God, this would be a moment where normally I'd say, "Touch your neighbor and say they can't take it away," but maybe you've gotta touch yourself and remind yourself they can't take it away. If they didn't give it, then they can't, they can't take it away. There have been moments in all of our lives of suffering where we suffered in isolation. We suffered without anybody knowing that we were suffering. We stayed up at night, all night long, and put on a happy face and faked it the next day, and nobody knew that you were going through a personal crisis. There's not a person in this room, or watching online, or sitting on a couch, or holding an iPad, or looking at your phone right now, who hadn't gone through personal moments of great tragedy, great adversity, pressure pressing down on you until sleep evades you, until food won't digest, until rashes break out on your body.
Somebody knows what I'm talking about. To go through personal suffering, and yet there is now amongst us some fraternity in our suffering. There is some fellowship in our suffering. It's nice to know that I can pick up the phone and call somebody who's going through what I'm goin' through right now. Yeah, I just get some kind of comfort out of knowing that I don't have to explain to you what I'm going through, because we are suffering in the same. The fellowship of suffering brought me to Paul saying, "Oh that I may know him in the fellowship of his suffering". Here we find the Apostle asking God, "I wanna meet you in the fellowship of your suffering". I'm not the kind of Christian that's gonna say hosanna on Monday, and then run from you by Thursday. I want to know all of you. "Oh that I may know him in the fellowship of his suffering and the power of his resurrection".
I want to talk to you this morning about a God who will meet you in suffering. Who will meet you in a crisis. Who will meet you at a cemetery. Who will meet you in the storm. I want to talk to you about a God that will go into a hospital room and meet you in your dying hour. I want to talk to you about a God who will wipe the tears away from your eyes. I want to talk to you about a God who can be touched by the feeling of our infirmity. I wanna talk to you about a God who will hold your mind together when your marriage is falling apart. I want to talk to you about a God that'll keep you from collapsing, even though you're going through a personal crisis. I want to talk about a Christ that will show up in a crisis.
I need Christ in my crisis. I need him in my crisis more than I do in my moment of exaltation. I need him in my frustration. I need him in my agony. I need him in my uncertainty. I need him in my confusion, and I need to know, as Peter asked, I need to know that God cares when the storm is raging. I need to know that God cares when the lightning is flashing. I need to know that God cares when I can't go about life as normal. I need to know that God cares when I'm sitting in a waiting room at an ICU unit, waiting for words, and waiting for an answer. I need to know that God cares when I've lost my job. I need to know that God cares when my wife has walked away. I need to know that God cares when my husband has left. I need to know that God cares when I don't know how I'm gonna feed these kids next week. And I earned the right, by the way, to preach this message. Just because you met me at this stage of the week does not mean that I have not had other stages of the week.
I know what it is to preach victory and come home to a house with no lights. I know what it is to talk about God being a provider and then I have to believe him to get the water turned back on. I know what I'm talking about. I earned the right to preach this message. I know what it is to swallow my feelings and preach over my mother's casket. I know what it is to endure affliction and still be faithful. I earned the right. I earned the right, because I have had fellowship with him in suffering. It hasn't just been success. I have known him through tears. I have known him through agony. I have preached in this very church with my body racked with pain, and pain running up and down my legs, and just coming out of surgery. I have stood here and I've known him in suffering. And I am a witness that he will not forsake you. I gotta speak up for him. I can't let you just talk about him. I can't let you just blog about him. I can't let you just get out there and say just anything about him. He will meet you in suffering. He will meet you when Mama won't meet you, when Daddy won't meet you, when your sisters and friends won't meet you, when you prayer partners won't meet you, God will show up.
Oh, hallelujah, is there anybody that can testify that he's not a fair-weather friend, but he'll stick by you in the storm? The crowd that sings today will leave tomorrow. They'll wave their branches in your face so much you can't see the road, and they'll forsake you before the week is out. The crowd that shouts, "Surely you are the King," will doubt you before the week is out. Be careful how you sign up when everybody throwing rocks at somebody else, because the same people who were throwing rocks at him are just waiting on you, and they'll turn on you, and throw rocks at you. But when they all try to rock you, God will still be with you. Stephen told me they were stoning him, and he was looking up, and Jesus was standing up on the right hand of the Majesty on high, giving him a standing ovation. While, while, while he was being stoned. Y'all don't hear what I'm saying.
I cannot definitively say that he will always snatch us out of suffering. We like to preach that, but there are some times that God allows you to go through suffering that you might have an encounter with him through suffering that you could not have any other way. I know the best way to close a message is to tell you how he's gonna bring you out, but the reality is, sometimes he takes you through, he doesn't always bring you out. Every now and then, he takes you through. But I heard him say when you pass through the waters, I'll be with you. When you go through the flood, I'll be there. If they throw you in the fire, good God Almighty, I'll be right there in the fire with you, because I am a God that does not run away when you suffer. I am a God who will not try to escape your pain. And he has been flamboyant in his discussion about being Jehovah-Shammah, being present with us in our suffering.
Somebody said to me, it must be hard on you shut up in the house by yourself. I said I've never been by myself. Shut me up anywhere you want to shut me up, but you can never leave me by myself. For I heard him say, "Lo, I am with you always". They'll be with you sometimes, but I'll be with you always, hallelujah. Paul tells Timothy, when my hour came to trial, no man stood with me. Notwithstanding, God stood with me. That's what he tells Timothy. He stood with me when others forsook me. And I want to talk to you about the shock of suffering, that maybe we need to adjust our theology. Maybe we have taught enough on five steps to be blessed, and I got the blessing of Abraham. Nothing wrong with that stuff, but maybe we've done enough teaching on being overcomers, and champions, and walking in victory. Maybe we've done enough preaching about how God will snatch you out. Maybe we need to change our theology and adjust it to the point that we embrace the God who walks through it with you.
Oh, God, hallelujah. Who goes through the fire with you. Who goes into pain with you. Who goes into suffering with you. I couldn't understand as a young preacher, I said, "God, how can you use me to heal other people, literally lay hands and see them healed, and then bring me home to a mother with Alzheimer's? How could I be so anointed"? I remember leaving the church, was still wet with sweat from preaching, and going in the hospital, and laying across her body with a sweaty body, and laying on her, and asking him to heal her, and still she died. And the enemy said, "What you gonna preach now"? I'm talkin' about seeing God in suffering. Walking you through the pain. And the enemy said, you couldn't even heal your own mother, how can you stand up in front of them and preach now? I said, not only will I preach now, I'll preach her funeral, I'll stand over top of her; and I couldn't do it in my own strength, but I met him in the suffering.
So, I want to talk to you about this whole shock we have about suffering. It's not a result of our God, it's a result of our teaching. We have not been taught enough about suffering. See, back when I came along, my grandmother's generation came out of the Great Depression. And all the songs were about suffering. "I'm going through. I'm going through. I'll take the way with the Lord's despised few. I started in Jesus, and I'm going", ain't nobody singing about suffering no more. When the Depression was over, the revelation of suffering seemed to dissipate out of our hymn books. And so, if you want to sing a song about suffering, you have to go back about 40 years, because our revelation is seen through the lens of our situation. So, the way we see God is a reflection of our point of view. When things are going good, we see him in the hosanna lens, but when things go bad, can you still see him in the crucify him lens?
Sooner or later, if you live long enough, you're gonna have both extremes. You're gonna have the dichotomous experience of being victorious over here, and agonized over here. Of being whole in this area, and bein' broken in that area. If you live long enough, you begin to walk away with certain conclusions like Jorgen did, that I can serve a God like this, because I found him in my suffering. I know it's not a seductive invitation, I know it's not as dramatic or as pleasant as this world would like to have, that it's hard to get people to come to Jesus now, so we promise you Cadillacs, and Mercedes, and Rolls Royces. Come to Jesus and God's gonna give you a bigger house. Come to Jesus and he's gonna bring your children out of prison. Come to Jesus and he's gonna... we're quick to make promises. It's easy to write checks on somebody else's account.
Come on here, as long as you're writing on somebody else's account, anybody can write you a big check when it comes out of somebody else's account. But walking with God cannot just be a bunch of quick preachers with slick hair saying nice things to excite big crowds. Sooner or later, you're gonna have a week like this. Sooner or later, if you live long enough, the pageantry of your wedding will go through the pain of marriage. If you live long enough, the luxury of holding a little beautiful baby in your arms that starts out in your arms ends up on your heart. If you live long enough, you're gonna have a week like this. And I came to warn you, don't let the hosannas fool you. I cannot promise you that everybody who starts with you is gonna stay with you. I cannot promise you that everybody who celebrates you will be there when things turn bad for you. But I know a God who's got all power in his hand. He sits high, but he looks real low.
When they throw you in the fire, he'll get in the fire with you. When they throw you in the furnace, he'll be walking around in the furnace with you. He'll stand right there by you, because there's something, there's some kinetic energy, there is some connectivity, there's some kinship, there's some kinship that we have with him in the agony and the suffering of life. So, don't be shocked when suffering comes. Set your face as flint, because we are not serving a God or a faith that is built on just promises of good time. He didn't just give you sunshine and not tell you about rain. He didn't just give you pleasure and not be open about pain. The epitome, every time you see a cross, I want you to see that God is, how do young people say? Keeping it real. He's keeping it one hundred that you're going to suffer, so don't be shocked in the suffering. There is a revelation to be seen in the suffering.
I thought to myself, he had the biggest crowd at the most insignificant moment, and all that left him before the suffering missed his finest hour. For his finest hour is not when we lay down our coats, and we lay down our palm leaves; his finest hour is when they stripped back his flesh, and he commends his body over to his Father, and says, I've done all I can do, and they hold him down for the count and say, he will not be back. And for three days, it looked like he was a liar. Oh, y'all don't hear what I'm saying. For three days, you could think anything you wanted to think. For three days, you could say anything you wanted to say about him. For three days, you could say, "See, he was a phony and a fraud". For three days, you could throw your hands up, and say, "There's nothing to him". Friday, you could laugh, Saturday, you could laugh, but early, early Sunday morning, he slapped the smile off your face. He took the grin outta your teeth.
Early Sunday morning, with no witnesses, and no crowd, and no palm trees, and nobody singin' not one song, nobody saying hosanna anywhere. Early Sunday morning, without anybody to help him out of his grave clothes, without anybody to get him out of the tomb, early, God all by himself said, it's over. Stepped from death into life. Y'all don't hear what I'm saying. Stepped from hell and death into life itself, showing I have overcome, and said, you can overcome, too. Now, in order to be an overcomer, you've gotta have something to come over. As I close, oh, y'all don't hear what I'm sayin.' You can't be an overcomer and not have something to come over, hallelujah. You can't be a champion and you ain't been in a fight. You can't be victorious if you don't have an opponent. If you don't have an opponent, you don't have a victory, oh!
But I'm here to talk to you, I feel like preaching, y'all. I'm here to tell you, hallelujah, I'm here to tell you, I'm here to tell you, and you, and you, I'm here to tell all you that are watching online, but most of all, I'm here to tell the enemy. I want to tell the devil. I want to preach to the devil for a minute. If you think I'm shocked, you don't know me. If you think I'm gonna quit, you underestimated me. Think it not strange that these fiery trials have come against you, hallelujah. I have a God that will meet you in the fire, that'll meet you in the furnace, that'll meet you in the hospital, that'll meet you in your agony, that'll meet you in your suffering, that'll meet you in the hospital, that'll meet you in the cemetery, that'll meet you in your pain, that will meet you with boils all over you, that'll meet you with leprosy. I have a God that'll meet you in the unemployment line. I have a God.