Rejoicing in Tribulation
James Smith, 1858
Many of the Lord's people are called to endure great afflictions — their sufferings are very severe. In some, the body is the seat of pain; in others the mind is the home of sorrow. Some are seldom at ease, others are seldom at peace; to be racked with pain, or troubled by circumstances, seems to be their lot. But are they miserable? They are not. Are they really unhappy? No! They have supports which none know but themselves, and secret consolations, to which all around them are strangers. And there is much more prepared for them, than they realize; much more provided, than they receive.
My object in this paper, is to sympathize with suffering believers, and as a brother in Christ, endeavor to administer a little consolation. In order to this, I would say, that let the Christian's circumstances be as bad as they may — he has many sources of comfort, many things to rejoice in. I shall only notice three at this time.
First — then, my tried and troubled friend, it is yours to rejoice in pardoned sin. As a believer in Jesus, however weak your faith, however strong your fears, however numerous your foes, however severe your pains, however varied your troubles — all your sins are pardoned! There is no charge against you in God's book. There is no wrath against you in God's heart. Jesus has borne your sins in his own body on the tree. Jesus has met and satisfied all the claims of divine justice for you. Jesus has made your peace by the blood of his cross. He died to procure your pardon — he arose to secure your justification. In the sight of God, as one who depends on Jesus alone — your sins are all forgiven; your iniquities are blotted out.
The trials which you endure are not punishment, though they may be chastisement. It proceeds not from the sentence of a judge — but from the wisdom and love of a father. You are perhaps being chastised now, that you may not be condemned with the world. Your pains and troubles are all intended for your good, they are designed to produce a spirit of prayer, to sever you from the present evil world, and purge away your dross, preparing you for a better state. You may not see the necessity for what you endure — but all is necessary, and it will appear so to you by and bye. Rejoice — then, my dear friend, even in tribulation, inasmuch as your Heavenly Father has forgiven you all trespasses, and will never, never lay any of your sins to your charge! Your pains will soon be ended, your troubles will soon be over, for as a pardoned sinner, you will soon see your Father's face, enjoy your Savior's presence, and be filled with joy forever.
Secondly, however you may be called to suffer at present, it is your privilege to rejoice in the favor of God in Christ. God in Christ has reconciled you to himself. God in Christ, is a God of love to you. He has a favor toward you. He has shown his favor to you, and in his favor is life. The favor he bears to his people, is the source of every blessing they enjoy, and the origin of every pleasure they anticipate. O what a privilege to be assured of God's favor, to be one of God's favorites. But this privilege is yours.
Do not doubt it, for if the Lord had meant to destroy you, he would not have shown you your state by nature — he would not have revealed Jesus to you — he would not have given you faith in his dear name, or sorrow for your sins — he would not be at the trouble to correct and chasten you — but would just leave you to yourself to perish in your own deceivings. If the Lord had meant to have destroyed you, he would not have led you to his throne of grace, enabled you to plead with him there, and blessed you as he has often done. No, no — he never meant to leave you in the hand of the enemy, or give you over to destruction. He always had a favor toward you, and you stand high in his favor now.
Better to be the poorest, most despised, most afflicted creature under Heaven, and be interested in God's favor — than be the greatest, the richest, the most prosperous of mortals, without it. Rejoice then in this — that let whoever will despise you, whoever will treat you unkindly, whatever you may suffer, whatever you may endure — you have still a privilege greater than anyone out of Christ can enjoy; even the favor of your covenant God in Christ.
Thirdly, whatever may be your lot now, whatever privations you may be called to endure — you may, you should, rejoice in the prospect of the mansion reserved in Heaven for you.
Heaven is your Father's house. In Heaven he is collecting all his children around him. In Heaven he will unveil all his glories, exhibit all his stores, and give vent to the infinite fullness of his love. In Heaven we shall feel at home with saints and angels, with Christ and God, and shall sweetly realize that the peace, the bliss, the holiness enjoyed, are forever. No lack of accommodation or adaptation will ever be felt then — for you will have a mansion. No wish will remain ungratified there — for you will be with, and like your Lord. No pain, no grief, no sorrow, no sin can enter there. No enemy, no danger, no difficulty will try you there. It is your Father's house! Your Father's house furnished and fitted up by Jesus, your elder brother, purposely for you! There will be nothing missing, that you could wish to be there. O happy place! O delightful prospect!
How different to the sick bed, the chamber of affliction, the house of sorrow! O what grace, what mercy, what love — to appoint and prepare such a place for us! Let us not then dwell on our present painful lot — but remembering that it is but for a moment. Let us rejoice in the prospect of entering into rest, and possessing the place which Jesus is gone to prepare. Let us be patient in tribulation, and continue instant in prayer. If we cannot enjoy much now — let us look forward and anticipate the future. O the blessedness of that state, referred to by the Apostle when he wrote, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away. To that blessed state we are fast hastening — and soon, perhaps, very soon, we shall be there.
Let us not then listen to Satan when he tempts us, yield to unbelief or the flesh when they work within us — but let us hold fast the faithful word, cling firmly to the cross, and be much at a throne of grace. There, we may pour out our sorrows, utter our petitions, and find grace to help us. Grace, to help us to carry our cross — whatever it may be. Grace, to help us to resist Satan — however he may attack us. Grace, to help us to press on through all our difficulties, overcome all our foes, and endure unto the end.
Grace, the grace of Jesus, is sufficient for us; and blessed be his name, his strength is made perfect in our weakness. He knows our frame, he sympathizes with us in all our sufferings, and he will make us more than conquerors soon. May we never indulge one hard thought of him. May we never doubt or disbelieve him. May we never wound him, or grieve his tender, loving heart.
Brethren, let us not look at the things which are seen, and which are temporal: but let us set our hearts upon the things which are not seen, which are eternal. And in the dreariest day, in the darkest night, let us seek grace that we may rejoice that our sins are pardoned; that we are interested in the favor of God in Christ, and that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.