“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Part 3” – Matthew 5:4

November 16th, 2014

Matthew 5:4

(Romans 5:1-5; 8:18-25; 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-9)

“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Pt 3”

 

Meditation/PreparationWe mourn because something is not right.  We are blessed when we consider that Jesus has come to make all that was wrong right.  Do you have faith to trust in Jesus?   If not, then you will mourn without the hope of being blessed.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  — Matthew 5:4

 

Background Information:

  • The first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is primarily intellectual (those who understand that they are spiritual beggars are blessed); the second Beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn,” is its emotional It naturally follows that when we see ourselves for what we are, our emotions will be stirred to mourning.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 26)
  • (v. 4) . . . of the nine terms used for sorrow, the one used here (pentheō, mourn) is the strongest, the most severe. It represents the deepest, most heart-felt grief, and was generally reserved for grieving over the death of a loved one.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 157)
  • (v. 4) Penthountes (mourn) is a present participle, indicating continuous action. In other words, those who are continually mourning are those who will be continually comforted.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 161)
  • (v. 4) The emphatic pronoun autos (they) indicates that only those who mourn over sin will be comforted.  The blessing of God’s comfort is reserved exclusively for the contrite of heart.  It is only those who mourn for sin who will have their tears wiped away by the loving hand of Jesus Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 161)
  • (v. 4) Comforted is from parakaleō, the same word that, as a noun, is rendered Comforter, or Helper, in Jn 14:16, where we are told that Jesus was the first Helper, and the Holy Spirit is “another Helper.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 161)

 

It is the job of the prophet or pastor to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

 

The questions to be answered are . . . Why in the world would Jesus say anything so apparently contradictory as this?   How can one who mourns possibly be supremely, divinely happy?

 

Answers:  It is only contradictory to those who think superficially and without the Holy Spirit.  The very fact that we mourn indicates that something we know should be right is, in fact, wrong.  If something is wrong, this means that there is hope that one day it will be made right.  Blessed is the one who recognizes that this world, as well as all who live in it, are screwed up and who knows that God can be trusted to make that which is wrong right.

 

  1. K. Chesterton once defined a paradox as “truth standing on its head calling for attention,” and this is certainly true here. Jesus states one of the essential truths of life in such a way that it cries for all to come and take a good long look, a look that can bring life. “Blessed/approved are those who mourn.”  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 26)

 

Now, nothing is supposed to be more inconsistent with happiness than mourning.  But Christ does not merely affirm that mourners are not unhappy.  He shows, that their very mourning contributes to a happy life, by preparing them to receive eternal joy, and by furnishing them with excitements to seek true comfort in God alone.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 261)

 

The whole organization of life, the pleasure mania, the money, energy and enthusiasm that are expended in entertaining people, are all just an expression of the great aim of the world to get away from this idea of mourning and this spirit of mourning.  But the gospel says, “Happy are they that mourn.”  Indeed they are the only ones who are happy!  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 43)

 

People mourn for many reasons:  sickness, pain, bereavement, material loss, wounded pride, etc.  In the present context, however, a basically different kind of mourning is in view.  It is the mourning of those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy (first beatitude) and are–or are presently going to be–hungering and thirsting for righteousness (fourth beatitude), that is emphasized.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 270)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Mourn

 

What does Jesus mean that those who mourn are blessed?:

I-  Those who mourn are blessed because they know something is desperately wrong with themselves and the world.   (Ps 6:3-7; 31:9-12; 32:1-5; 40:12; Ch. 51; 69:9; 119:36; Prv 17:22; Isa 6:5; Jer 8:21; 9:1; 13:17; Hab 1:4; Lk 5:8; 6:21; 19:41; Jn 11:35; Acts 20:31; Rom 3:9-23; 8:18-25; 2 Cor 5:2; 7:7-11)

 

To “mourn” is something that follows of necessity from being “poor in spirit.”  It is quite inevitable.  As I confront God and His holiness, and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself, my utter helplessness and hopelessness.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 47)

 

Christianity begins with a sense of sin.  Blessed is the man who is intensely sorry for his sin, the man who is heart-broken for what his sin has done to God and to Jesus Christ, the man who sees the Cross and who is appalled by the havoc wrought by sin.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 95)

 

O the bliss of the man whose heart is broken for the world’s suffering and for his own sin, for out of his sorrow he will find the joy of God!  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 95)

 

I cannot too strongly urge upon you my own conviction–it may be worth little, but I am bound to speak it–that there are few things which the so-called Christianity of this day needs more than an intenser realization of the fact, and the gravity of the fact, of personal sinfulness.  There lies the root of the shallowness of so much that calls itself Christianity in the world today.  It is the source of almost all the evils under which the Church is groaning.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 120)

 

Here Jesus does not mean merely mourning over the losses of this life (e.g., a job or a spouse), but also mourning over your own sins, the sins of others, and the sins that pervade our world.  We are to grieve over various injustices, but also indifference to the gospel (cf. Ps 119:36; Rom 9:1-3; 2 Cor 12:21).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 111)

 

. . . it is one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it; it is another to grieve and to mourn over it.  Or, in more theological language, confession is one thing, contrition is another.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 41)

 

Though the primary reference is to that initial mourning commonly called conviction of sin it is by no means to be limited to that.  Mourning is ever a characteristic of the normal Christian state.  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 19-20)

 

The closer the Christian lives to God, the more he will mourn over all that dishonors Him.  This is the common experience of God’s true people (Ps 119:53; Jer 13:17; 14:17; Ez 9:4).  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 20)

 

Laughter is essential, but the world despises sorrow so much that it has gone wild in its attempt to avoid it.  Moderns have structured their lives to maximize entertainment and amusement in an attempt to make life one big party.  They laugh when there is no reason to laugh.  In fact, they laugh when they ought to cry.

Solomon was right that a merry heart acts like a “good medicine.”  But that does not mean you cannot overdose!  Much of our culture has overdosed on amusement, as Neil Postman has so convincingly chronicled in his highly regarded Amusing Ourselves to Death.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 28)

 

Consolation will come in its noblest and most sufficing form to those who take their outward sorrows and link them with this sense of their own ill-dessert.  Oh, dear friends, if I am speaking to any one who today has a burdened heart, let such be sure of this, that the way to consolation lies through submission; and that the way to submission lies through recognition of our own sin.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 124)

 

Those who mourn are not simply those who have gone through difficult times but those who understand that all the suffering in the world stems from the sinful and self-destructive human tendency to act as if God did not exist.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 39)

 

Now it is obvious that it is not every species of mourning that is here referred to.  There is a “sorrow of the world [that] worketh death” (2 Cor 7:10).  The mourning for which Christ promises comfort must be restricted to that which is spiritual.  The mourning that is blessed is the result of a realization of God’s holiness and goodness that issues in a sense of the depravity of our natures and the enormous guilt of our conduct.  The mourning for which Christ promises Divine comfort is a sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow.  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 17-8)

 

Conscious of the fountain of corruption within, he cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  That man went down to his house justified, because he was poor in spirit and mourned for sin.  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 19)

 

Let us remember, then, that the Christian is a man who knows what it is to cry out, “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  That tells us something of what is meant by mourning.  Here is a man who was so grief-stricken about himself that he cries out in that agony.  All Christians are meant to be like that.  A Christian man knows that experience of feeling utterly hopeless about himself, and says about himself, as did Paul, “In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”  He knows the experience of being able to say, “the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  He is fully aware of this conflict between the law in the mind and the law in the members, and all this wretched struggling and striving.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 46-7)

 

Brethren, if our outward losses and disappointments and pains help us to apprehend, and are accepted by us in the remembrance of, our own unworthiness, then these, too, are God’s sweet gifts to us.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 123)

 

This is the mourning experienced by a man who begins to recognize the blackness of his sin, the more he is exposed to the purity of God.  Isaiah was one such, as he was accorded a vision of the Deity, in which even the very angels of heaven covered their faces and cried in solemn worship, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”  Isaiah’s reaction was utter devastation (Isa 6:5).  It is the cry of a man who goes after purity in his own strength and finds he cannot achieve it, and cries, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24).  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 19)

 

The only sorrow that brings spiritual life and growth is godly sorrow, sorrow over sin that leads to repentance.  Godly sorrow is linked to repentance, and repentance is linked to sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 54)

 

Only mourners over sin are happy because only mourners over sin have their sins forgiven.  Sin and happiness are totally incompatible.  Where one exists, the other cannot.  Until sin is forgiven and removed, happiness is locked out.  Mourning over sin brings forgiveness of sin, and forgiveness of sin brings a freedom and a joy that cannot be experienced in any other way.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 158)

 

The mark of the mature life is not sinlessness, which is reserved for heaven, but growing awareness of sinfulness.  “If we say that we have no sin,” John warns, “we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:8-9).  The subjects of God’s kingdom–the forgiven ones, the children of God and joint heirs with the Son–are characterized by continual confession of sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 160)

 

Pray for contriteness of heart, which only God can give and which He never refuses to give those who ask.  It must always be recognized that humility depends on the working of the Lord.  The way to godly mourning lies not in pre-salvation human works, but in God’s saving grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 164)

 

The godly mourner will have true sorrow for his sins.  His first concern is for the harm his sin does to God’s glory, not the harm its exposure might bring to his own reputation or welfare.

If our mourning is godly we will grieve for the sins of fellow believers and for the sins of the world.  We will cry with the psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps 119:126).  We will wish with Jeremiah that our heads were fountains of water that we could have enough tears for weeping (Jer 9:1; cf. Lam 1:16).  With Ezekiel we will search out faithful believers “who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed” around us (Ez 9:4; cf. Ps 69:9).  We will look out over the community where we live and weep, as Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept (Lk 19:41).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 164-5)

 

The beatitude also could refer to a mourning for the evil of this world, to what we could call a social conscience.  It seems to me that this comes a great deal closer to Christ’s meaning, particularly if we link it to a sorrow for the world’s sin.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 26-7)

 

In matters of spiritual life and health, mourning is not optional.  Spiritual mourning is necessary for salvation.  No one is truly a Christian who has not mourned over his or her sins.  You cannot be forgiven if you are not sorry for your sins.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 29)

 

Here is one thing worse than sin.  That is denial of sin, which makes forgiveness impossible.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 29)

 

For Christians, mourning over sin is essential to spiritual health.  The verb used here is the most intensive of the nine verbs employed in the NT for mourning, and it is continuous.  Godly believers, therefore, perpetually mourn, and thus perpetually repent of their sins.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 30)

 

Blessed are you when you mourn because you are able to recognize when something is wrong.   If there was no right that was wronged, mourning would be irrelevant.  The fact that rights are wronged and this creates mourning should allow you to rejoice that life still has purpose and meaning because there is a right and wrong and a purpose for everything. — Pastor Keith

 

True Christianity manifests itself in what we cry over and what we laugh about.  So often we laugh at the things that we should weep over and weep over the things we should laugh at.  In our heart of hearts, what do we weep about?  What do we laugh about?  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 29)

 

II-  Those who mourn are truly blessed because they know  and believe the promises of God.    (Ps 31:7; 34:18; 118:5; 119:50, 76; 147:3; Eccl 7:1-4; Isa 35:10; 40:1-2, 31; 57:15; 61:1-4; 66:1-2; Jer 31:12-13; Lk 4:16-18; 7:47;  Jn 14:1-6; 16:20-22; Rom 8:31-39; 1 Cor 4:7-5:10; ch. 15; 2 Cor 6:10; 1 Thes 4:13-5:11; 2 Tm 1:12; Jas 1:2-4; Rv 7:17; 21:3-5)

 

Such mourners, who bewail their own sinfulness, will be comforted by the only comfort which can relieve their distress, namely the free forgiveness of God.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 42)

 

Only in the final state of glory will Christ’s comfort be complete, for only then will sin be no more and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 42)

 

Hope is the anchor that keeps us from being blown all over the place.  It is the hope that God is going to do in the future every single thing he has said he will do.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 149)

 

To say simply that those who mourn are “happy” would clearly be nonsense.  Their “happiness” consists in the fact that they will be comforted.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 165)

 

The testing which God allows to take place in our lives is at the place of greatest spiritual significance–our faith.  It is by faith that we come to God; it is by faith that we follow Him, and it is by faith that we receive His wonderful promises, including life eternal.  As we are tried, our faith grows.  We trust God more fully and ourselves less fully.  Indeed, “this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith” (1 Jn 5:4).  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 23)

 

“They shall be comforted.”  By these words Christ refers primarily to the removal of the guilt that burdens the conscience.  This is accomplished by the Spirit’s application of the Gospel of God’s grace to one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Savior.  The result is a sense of free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ.  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 20)

 

The mourning which is based, as our text bases it, on poverty of spirit, will certainly bring after it the consolation of forgiveness and of cleansing.  Christ’s gentle hand laid upon us, to cause our guilt to pass away, and the inveterate habits of inclination towards evil to melt out of our nature, is His answer to His child’s cry, “Woe is me, for I am undone!”  And anything is more probable than that Christ, hearing a man thus complain of himself before Him, should fail to send His swift answer.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 124)

 

You will never know how deep and ineffably precious are the consolations which Christ can give, unless you have learned despair of self, and have come helpless, hopeless, and yet confident, to that great Lord.  Make your hearts empty, and He will fill them; recognize your desperate condition, and He will lift you up.  The deeper down we go into the depths, the surer is the rebound and the higher the soaring to the zenith.  It is they who have poverty of spirit, and mourning based upon it, and only they, who pass into the sweetest, sacredest, secretest recesses of Christ’s heart, and there find all-sufficient consolation.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 124)

 

These petitions to God (psalms of lament) are the worship songs of a broken people.  But almost without exception they also display an underlying confidence and trust in God, and so are truly worship.  As B. W. Anderson explains, “The laments are really expressions of praise–praise offered in a minor key in the confidence that Yahweh is faithful.  (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 28)

 

Is there anything to say about that future consolation?  Very little, for we know very little.  But “God Himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”  The hope of that consolation is itself consolation, and the hope becomes all the more bright when we know and measure the depths of our own evil.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 125)

 

The words “they shall be comforted” also receive a constant fulfillment in the experience of the Christian.  Though he mourns his excuseless failures and confesses them to God, yet he is comforted by the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses him from all sin (1 Jn 1:7).  Though he groans over the dishonor done to God on every side, yet is he comforted by the knowledge that the day is rapidly approaching when Satan shall be cast into hell forever and when the saints shall reign with the Lord Jesus in “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pt 3:13).  Though the chastening hand of the Lord is often laid upon him and though “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” (Heb 12:11), nevertheless, he is consoled by the realization that this is all working out for him “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17).  Like the apostle Paul, the believer who is in communion with his Lord can say, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10).  (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 21)

 

When our Lord said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” the blessing is not in the mourning; it is in the comfort.  The comfort God’s people can expect, in part now but in full at the final day, is that spoken by the prophet:  “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.  “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa 40:1-2).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 81)

 

He finds himself guilty of sin, and at first it casts him down and makes him mourn.  But that in turn drives him back to Christ; and the moment he goes back to Christ, his peace and happiness return and he is comforted.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 49)

 

Godly sorrow turns the soul toward God.  God, in turn, grants comfort to those who seek their help from him.  It is he who pardons, delivers, strengthens, reassures (Ps 30:5; 50:15; Isa 55:6, 7; Mic 7:18-20; Mt 11:28-30).  Thus tears, like raindrops, fall to the ground and come up in flowers (Ps 126:5; Eccl 7:3; Jn 14; 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 1:3, 4; Rv 7:14-17; 21:4).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 271)

 

Jesus was speaking of an individual mourning, but he also spoke of an individual comforting.  And the combination seems to suggest that the primary mourning should be for the individual himself and for his own spiritual condition.  This is a mourning for sin.  And if this is the primary interpretation of the verse, then it is a promise that God himself will comfort the one who sees his own unworthiness before him.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 28)

 

In the first place there is comfort in a deliverance from sin’s penalty.  The sensitive soul will grieve for his sins and see them as the great offense to God that they are.  But he may also experience the comfort that God has provided through Christ’s cross.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 29)

 

The deliverance of Jesus Christ also means a deliverance from present sin and from its power.  If you are a Christian, Christ lives in you through his Holy Spirit.  You are united to him.  And you are united to him in order to make a victorious, triumphant life possible.

I know that there are some who teach that there is no victory over sin in this world.  And I know that, even according to the Bible, sin will always be with us.  John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).  This is true.  But in spite of the fact that sin will always be with the Christian so long as he lives, it is simply not true that he needs to be defeated by it.  Paul in Galatians says, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (5:16).  The book then goes on to tell what sins we shall not fulfill if we do walk in the Spirit: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, drunkenness, reveling, and the like.  According to Galatians the Christian is supposed to have victory over these things.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 29)

 

Notice, above all, that the basis of comfort is forgiveness.  Believers are the only people in the world who are free from the guilt of their sins.  The word “they” is emphatic.  The sense is:  “Blessed are those mourn, for they alone will be comforted.”  We actually know we are mourners if we have the paradoxically comforting sense of God’s forgiveness.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 30)

 

The thing which amazed the heathen in the centuries of persecution was that the martyrs did not die grimly, they died singing.  One smiled in the flames; they asked him what he found to smile at there.  “I saw the glory of God,” he said, “and was glad.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 43)

 

The Greek verb for consider (from Jas 1:2) is an imperative because joy is not the natural human response to trouble.  Christians are under divine command not simply to be somewhat joyful in their trials but to look upon them with all joy.  That phrase is variously interpreted by commentators as meaning pure joy, unmixed joy, complete and total joy, or sheer joy.  From the context, it seems that all of those meanings are fitting.  James is speaking of a unique fullness of joy that the Lord graciously provides His children when they willingly and uncomplainingly endure troubles while trusting in Him–regardless of the cause, type, or severity of the distress.  He will always use them for our benefit and for His own glory.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 21)

 

We are not just to act joyful, in reluctant pretense, but to be genuinely joyful.  It is a matter of will, not of feelings, and should be the conscious, determined commitment of every faithful believer.  And because God commands it, it is within the ability, under the Spirit’s provision, of every true Christian.  When faith in Jesus Christ is genuine, James assures us, even the worst of troubles can and should be cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 21)

 

If a Christian cannot rejoice in his trials, his values are not godly and biblical.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 24)

 

Happiness is a subjective state, whereas James is instructing us to make a more objective judgment when he says consider it pure joy.  “Happiness” might encourage readers to expect a carefree life or a constantly cheerful mood.  Neither of these is what James has in mind.  He acknowledges the presence of extremely unhappy experiences in his readers’ lives.  At the same time, and with no perception of any contradiction, James counsels these readers to rejoice during those very experiences of hardship.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 35)

 

Paul is saying that if God is in control, then the most bitter human experiences we are called upon to endure (death, disease, the loss of loved ones, war, terror, all of these things that we dread in the depths of our beings) become not only tolerable, but we can actually glory in them because we know that God has promised to redeem every pain that we experience.  (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 94)

 

An easy life does nothing to produce character.  Character is forged in the crucible of pain.  Character is built when we have no alternative but to persevere in tribulation.  Those who come out on the other side are those in whose souls God has built character.  The result of character is hope (v. 4)–there it is again.  Authentically joyful people are those who know where their hope is.  They have been through the crucible.  They have been through afflictions, persecution, and rejection from their friends.  They have been through pain.  They have identified with the humiliation of Christ.  They have been crucified with Christ and raised in his resurrection and now participate in his exultation.  That is the hope that Christian character produces.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 151)

 

Suffering is the best context in which to become assured of God’s love.  Of course many people will immediately assert the contrary, since it is suffering which makes them doubt God’s love.  But consider Paul’s argument.  He has traced the sequence of chain reactions from tribulation to perseverance, from perseverance to character, and from character to hope.  Now he adds that hope does not disappoint us (5a), and never will.  It will never betray us by proving to be an illusion after all.  “Such hope is no fantasy” (REB).  But how do we know this?  What is the ultimate ground on which our Christian hope rests, our hope of glory?  It is the steadfast love of God.  The reason our hope will never let us down is that God will never let us down.  His love will never give us up.  (John Stott, Romans, God’s Good News for the World, 142)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: Some thoughts Pastor Keith would like to share in light of what Jesus has to say in Matthew 5:4:

 

 

A-  Only those who believe in God have a right or rational reason to mourn.  Atheists who mourn are simply being babies.  (Psa ch. 14; ch 53; Bk of Eccl; Isa ch. 22; 1 Cor 15:22; )

 

What hope has the man who is not a Christian?  Look at your world; read your newspaper.  What can you bank upon?  Fifty years ago they used to bank on the fact that man was rapidly improving and getting better.  You cannot do that now.  You cannot bank on education; you cannot bank on the United Nations any more than you could on the League of Nations.  All that has been tried and failed.  What hope is there for the world?  There is none.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 50)

 

There are those who say, “I don’t believe really in a god because of the injustice”.  But, if there is no God there is no basis for being outraged . . .  If there is a God evil is a problem.  A big problem.  But if evil is a problem for you then there must be a God.   (Tim Keller in a sermon entitled “The Search for Justice”)

 

Why are you outraged at trials, trouble, suffering, and tribulations?

     Madeline Murry Ohara “I don’t believe in truth because look at Hitler.  He believed he had the truth and he killed the Jews.  Look at the Inquisition:  the church thought it had the truth and it did that.  Therefore, I refuse to believe in truth or a God of truth.

But wait Madeline,  If there is no truth what are you upset about?

If you don’t believe in God because of suffering, you’ve created a much more huger problem than Christians have.  Because now you can’t even define suffering.   You can’t even be disgusted about it.   You can only be disgusted about it (suffering) if you know that deep in your heart this isn’t right.  And that can only happen if there is a place where this (suffering) doesn’t exist.  (Tim Keller sermon, “Power for Facing Trouble”)

 

A Christian has superficial sorrow and central gladness; a nonbeliever has superficial gladness and central sorrow.  (David Jeremiah; Jesus’ Final Warning, 184)

 

In the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found that I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense.  Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.  If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning:  just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 42)

 

What if being human means to keep vigil, to long to be free, to battle with pain, to be discontented with the fallen world in which we live to weep, to hunger, thirst, to mourn to wait.  What if to become inhumane is to accept this fallen world as the norm?  (Paraphrase of Henri Nouwen; Reaching Out, 24)

 

“Andrew Delbonco in one of his books comments on an incident in one of Walker Percy’s novels Called “Love in the Ruins.

Max is a psychiatrist for whom pleasure without guilt is the essence of the happy and enlightened life.  We are modern people, we realize that we need to decide what is right or wrong for us so we should never feel guilty.  We should never let other people’s standards oppress you.

But, he has a patient named Tom, who has just had an affair.  And he (Max) is having trouble understanding Tom.  Because Tom has said, “I don’t feel guilty about the affair.  But, I am still troubled.”

At one point Max says, “Well, then, what worries you if you don’t feel guilty?”

Tom says, “That is what worries me.  I don’t feel guilty.

The psychiatrist then says, “I don’t see then, what is it that is a problem?  If there is no guilt after an affair, then what is the problem?”

Tom says, “It means you don’t have life in you.”

DelBonco comments and says, “What the psychiatrist does not understand, is that the guilt he no longer feels, is his last reassurance that there was something in the world that transcended him.”  What DelBonco goes on to say is this, “If there is no guilt or shame because you decide what is right or wrong for you, because everything is relative; then, yeah, there is no guilt but there is also no meaning.  Because if there is no truth, out here, above us, not created by us, sitting in judgment on us, so that we can have guilt if we do not live up to it . . . if there is no truth, if there is no right or wrong out here; then, it really doesn’t matter how we live at all because there is no meaning.  There is no guilt but there is no meaning.  (Tim Keller sermon, “By the Blood of Jesus”)

 

Goodness is always relative to purpose.  —Alistair MacIntyre, (Tim Keller sermon, “The Search for Justice”)

 

I remember driving one day with a man who is a convinced skeptic, a self-confessed atheist.  As we approached an intersection, a car ran a red light and headed toward us.  Only because I had very good brakes was I able to avoid what would have been a serious accident.  My friend started shaking his fist at the other driver, exclaiming, “You’ll get your due someday.  You’ll get yours.”

I told him that he was asserting a very problematic proposition for an atheist.  If an atheist really believes that there is no God and that the universe is simply cruel, unjust, and random, he has to explain how he gets the idea of just and unjust.  If there is no sense of justice or right and wrong, no standard for behavior, no universal judge in the universe, why would you expect wrongdoers to “get their due”?  How would you even know they were wrongdoers?  My friend was asking a God he didn’t believe in to administer what only God can finally supply:  justice.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 277)

 

In calling for a reevaluation of morals, Nietzsche is not asking for a new system of morality based on absolute norms; he rejects all such systems.  Rather, he calls for a revolt against the entrenched herd morality, for unmasking it and exposing its hypocrisy.  It must be shown that what herd morality deems “good” is not real virtue but merely a guise for weakness.  Life is will to power and nothing else.  Man must be free to exercise his own nature.

It is odd that Nietzsche complains about the “dishonesty” of traditional morality.  Apparently he thinks honesty is a transcendent virtue that is normative even for the master.  But what if honesty conflicts with one’s will to power?  Then it too must give way.  Even while attacking herd morality, Nietzsche retreats behind one of the virtues he is trying to overcome.  (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 165-66)

 

B-  If you understand God and the world He created (and will one day re-create), then pain, suffering and loss are not necessarily evil but can become indicators and reminders of the future glory, joy and peace God will endow believers in Jesus.    (Mt 19:28; Jn 16:33; Rom 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jas 1:2-4)

 

To him who lives his life only in the present age and in this world, the sufferings which come to him can only be something negative.  But for the Christian, suffering is precisely the point where the power of hope most clearly proves itself.  He knows “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (8:18).  Suffering receives a new meaning.  It becomes a means in God’s hand to carry us on toward the consummation.  When God lets the weight of suffering rest on us, He does so to exercise us in patience and endurance.  (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 195-6)

 

The Christian Way—the Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.   A baby feels hunger:  well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim:  well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire:  well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 120)

 

At times the comfort consists in this, that the affliction itself is removed (2 Chr 20:1-30; 32:9-23; Ps 116; Isa 38; Acts 12:5 ff.; etc.).  Often, however, the affliction remains for a while but a weight of glory outbalances the grief (2 Cor 4:17; 12:8, 9).  Think also of Rom 8:28; even better, of 8:28-39.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 271)

 

“Read the story of the Martyrs in every age throughout the centuries, and in each case you will find that their secret was that they knew exactly where they were going.  They had had such views of the glory to which they were going, such glimpses of it, that they were certain of it.    D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 5, Assurance, 77)

 

“We even exult in our sufferings.”  This cheerful statement becomes even more meaningful when we bear in mind that it was uttered by one who had already experienced a lengthy series of most bitter agonies for the sake of Christ.  See 1 Cor 4:11-13; 15:30-32a; 2 Cor 11:24-32.  Cf. Rom 8:35.  Such exultation in suffering is possible because of the truths expressed in Rom 8:18, 28.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Romans, 188-9)

 

All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.  The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever. (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain)

 

Only suffering will pry me from this world and its pleasures.  (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 177)

 

God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  —C. S. Lewis

 

The Arabs have a proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.”  The land on which the sun always shines will soon become an arid place in which no fruit will grow.  There are certain things which only the rains will produce; and certain experiences which only sorrow can beget.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 93)

 

How can you tell if he is working on you now?  If you begin to sense your lostness and find yourself wanting to escape it, you should realize that that desire is not something you could have generated on your own.  Such a process requires Help, and if it is happening it is a good indication that he is even now at your side.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 75)

 

Sorrow gives spice to life.  It teaches us to appreciate good things.  It increases our sensitivity, particularly to the needs and sorrows of others.  Moreover, such sorrow will sometimes drive a man to God.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 26)

 

Suffering is an essential part of the Christian’s identification with the fate and work of Christ.  Paul was not an exponent of a health and wealth gospel.  He knew firsthand that the Christian life is one of “conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Cor 7:5; see his list of hardships in 2 Cor 11:32ff.).  He knew that suffering, loathsome as it is, strips away false securities and drives believers to God, the source of all hope and compassion.  He knew, bewildering as it may seem, that hardships and sufferings were necessary to prepare believers for the weight of glory prepared for them (2 Cor 4:16-18).  (James R. Edwards, New International Biblical Commentary: Romans, 136)

 

The actual word Paul used is not the normal word for joy or rejoicing; it is the word more often translated “boasting.” (Rom 5:1-5)  In both the Greek and Latin texts we see a play on words:  we “glory now in glory.”  We have a sense of celebration and ecstasy beyond normal levels of joy, and the target of our joy is the hope directed toward the manifestation of the glory of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 148)

 

God uses suffering to accomplish his purposes.  What Paul says about suffering in verses 3-4 is echoed in Jas 1:2-4 and 1 Pt 1:6.  The trials of life are a means of testing our faith and giving substance and strength to our Christian commitment.  I wish this were not so.  I do not take any perverse pleasure in going through hard times.  I certainly do not look forward to painful experiences that will undoubtedly yet come.  But if I am honest, I must also admit that I too easily settle down in this world.  I am prone to lose my fervor for God and his work and to seek security and comfort in this life at the expense of my Christian values.  (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 177)

 

“Joy does not mean the absence of sorrow, but the capacity to rejoice in the midst of it.”  (Gordon Fee; Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 280)

 

As Christians, we know–or at least have heard–the glorious words of Christ and his people about their future life in the presence of God.  But frankly, few really believe them.  To really believe them would be to act straightforwardly and spontaneously as if they were true.  It would be to be confident with every pore of our being that any friend of Jesus is far better off dead.  It would be to rejoice, in the midst of our parting sorrows, over the indescribably greater well-being of our loved one who has moved on “further up and further into” the greatness of God and His world.  Jesus quite reasonably said to his closest friends: “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28).

Jesus’s attitude toward death is frankly quite cavalier. (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 221-2)

 

C-  Christians are truly blessed when they mourn because they have trusted in the providence and sovereignty of an almighty, all-knowing, ever-present, loving, gracious and merciful God Who promises us that everything in this life is only temporary and serves to make you more like Jesus. (Eccl 7:2-4; Rom 5:1-5; 8:28-29; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jas 1:2-4)

 

If the aims which usually engross us are really the true aims of life, then there is no meaning in this saying of our Lord, for then it had been better not to sorrow at all than to sorrow and be comforted.  But if the true purpose for which we are all gifted with this solemn gift of life is that we may become “imitators of God as dear children,” then there are few things for which men should be more thankful than the sacred sorrow, than which there are few instruments more powerful for creating the type of character which we are set here to make our own.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 118)

 

Our attitude is to be one of pure joy (genuine rejoicing).  This is not joyful anticipation for trials.  Instead, it is joy during trials.  The joy is based on confidence in the outcome of the trial.  It is the startling realization that trials represent the possibility of growth.  In contrast, most people are happy when they escape trials.  But James encourages us to consider it pure joy in the very face of trials.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 5)

 

Most of our school tests are designed primarily to reveal what knowledge the students already have in them.  The biblical concept of a testing, as James uses it here, is one that does reveal the genuineness of the person’s faith; but James says the test is also designed to develop something that is not yet present in full measure in the person.

This is why, for the one who wants to live by faith, the trial can be a time for rejoicing.  How many people today suffer in trials of many kinds, thinking that the issue is whether they have the faith to pass the test?  The spiritual reality is that God will use the trial to develop something that they admittedly do not yet possess.  James says, “Rejoice in that prospect!”  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 36-7)

 

The reference to God’s “making crooked” (cf. Eccl 7:13) does not make a moral judgment on God (cf. 1:15).  It is meant to stress his sovereign control over all events.  There are some things that we cannot alter, at least for the time being.  This does not mean that we should not try to right wrongs and relieve suffering; the Teacher frequently protests against those who permit oppression (e.g., vv. 7-8).  It is easy to blame God when things go wrong and to forget to thank him when good things come (v. 14).  As children of God, we commonly experience both good and bad and may even thank God for allowing hardships rather than giving us an entirely smooth passage (cf. Mt 8:20; Lk 10:38; 2 Cor 1:4-7).  Part of the life of faith is accepting prosperity and adversity from God’s hand without being able to explain just how everything will be worked out for the future (v. 14; Rom 8:28).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1175)

 

Do you ever mourn that you are not as impoverished of spirit as you know you should be?   Be glad, Rejoice!   You are blessed.  Because the Holy Spirit is working in you to complete the work that He has begun in allowing you to recognize that you still have a long ways to go to become what God wants you to become.  — Pastor Keith

 

James invites you to envision yourself in the state of spiritual maturity, rid of the jealousy or laziness or impulsiveness or impatience or bitterness or self-pity or selfishness that now mars the wholeness of your fellowship with God and the completeness of your spirituality.  Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Do you long to be fully the person God desires you to be?  If so, then you now have the full reason for considering it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.  The trials can be opportunities for testing to develop in you the perseverance which, when it finishes its work, will leave you mature in Christ!  For those who have set their hearts on becoming Christ like, this is wonderful reason for pure joy.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 38-9)

 

We must see the world as a place of constant testing.  Peace is rare, almost abnormal, and trials are common.  Rather than blaming God for this (Jas 1:13-15), we should regard it as joy, because trials produce maturity, especially if we seek God’s wisdom in them (1:5).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 17)

 

How a person handles trouble will reveal whether his faith is living or dead, genuine or imitation, saving or non-saving.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 15)

 

When you go through a period of life in which your life is going smoothly, you’re in very dangerous territory spiritually . . . There is no greater spiritual crisis than to have no crisis in your life.  There is not greater spiritual trial than to have no trials in your life.  There is no more spiritually dangerous place than to have a trouble-free stretch when you see towers falling on other people but not you.  (Tim Keller message, “The Falling Tower” )

 

Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  — Tim Keller

 

Do with me whatever it shall please thee.  For it cannot be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me.  If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed.  If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed.  My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me.  Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice.  Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)

 

Apart from God life seems only vain, wrong, and not the way it’s supposed to be.  However, “under the heavens”, we know that there is a time and a place for everything.  We even understand why the things that “aren’t supposed to be” actually are.  And even though we can’t always understand why things happen the way they do, we trust in the Lord, Who rules all things and is infinitely wise and good (Eccl 3).  If you try to make sense of life “under the sun” you’ll only end up despairing.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, June 21, 2011)

 

The one thing which ought to move a man to sadness is his own character.  For all other causes of grief are instruments for good.  And be sure of this, too, that the one thing which can ensure consolation adequate to the grief is bringing the grief to the Lord Christ and asking Him to deal with it.  His first word of ministry ran parallel with these two Beatitudes.  When He spoke them He began with poverty of spirit, and passed to mourning and consolation, and when He opened His lips in the synagogue of Nazareth He began with, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the poor, to give unto them that mourn in Zion a diadem for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise of the spirit of heaviness.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 125-6)

 

Jesus explained to his disciples that following him would not involve fame, popularity, and wealth.  Instead, it could very well mean sorrow, mourning, and suffering.  But they would always know that God would be their comfort.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 77)

 

Herman Melville once observed, “Until we understand that one grief outweighs a thousand joys, we will never understand what Christianity is trying to make us.”  Our Lord was known as a man of sorrows, and He was acquainted with grief.  There is a mourning beyond the mourning of sin that is part of the believer’s life even to this day.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 80)

 

The man who truly mourns because of his sinful state and condition is a man who is going to repent; he is, indeed, actually repenting already.  And the man who truly repents as the result of the work of the Holy Spirit upon him, is a man who is certain to be led to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Having seen his utter sinfulness and hopelessness, he looks for a Savior, and he finds Him in Christ.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 49)

 

Let us, then, try to define this man who mourns.  What sort of a man is he?  He is a sorrowful man, but he is not morose.  He is a sorrowful man, but he is not a miserable man.  He is a serious man, but he is not a solemn man.  He is a sober-minded man, but he is not a sullen man.  He is a grave man, but he is never cold or prohibitive.  There is with his gravity a warmth and attraction.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 50-1)

 

Happiness, or blessedness, does not come in the mourning itself.  Happiness comes with what God does in response to it, with the forgiveness that such mourning brings.  Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness.  Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better.  It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality–the reality of divine forgiveness!

David experienced and expressed many kinds of common human sorrow, both proper and improper.  He mourned over being lonely, over being rejected, over being discouraged and disappointed, and over losing an infant child.  He also mourned inordinately over the death of Absalom, whom God had removed to protect Israel and the messianic throne of David.  But nothing broke the heart of David like his own sin.  No anguish was as deep as the anguish he felt when he finally saw the awfulness of his offenses against the Lord.  That is when David became happy, when he became truly sad over his transgressions.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 158)

 

Without problems, we would never develop endurance.  Even men of the world realize that problems strengthen character.  Charles Kettering, noted industrialist once said, “Problems are the price of progress.  Don’t bring me anything but problems.  Good news weakens me.”  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  The Epistle of James, 5)

 

It is an excellent exchange to part with outward comforts for inward graces.  Fiery trials are nothing if you gain patience.  Sickness, with patience, is better than health; loss, with patience, is better than gain.  If earthly affections were more mortified, we should value inward enjoyments and experiences of God more than we do.  Paul saith, 2 Cor 12:9, ‘I will glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me:’ misery and calamities should be welcome, because they gave him further experiences of Christ.  Certainly, nothing maketh afflictions burthensome to us but our own carnal affections.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 33)

 

The Lord then afflicts us in various ways, because ambition, avarice, envy, gluttony, intemperance, excessive love of the world, and the innumerable lusts in which we abound, cannot be cured by the same medicine.  (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of James, 279)

 

There is no denial that trials also produce strain and pain; there is, however, the reminder that, when they come, and when we evaluate them aright, we ought to bear them with joy.  The flesh will not like them, but the spirit will rejoice to prove itself and to gain from the trials what Christ intended should be gained.  (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle of James, 524)

 

If there were no suffering, would there be compassion? If there were no discipline and hardship, would we ever learn patience and endurance? Construct a universe with no trouble in it and immediately you banish some of the finest qualities in the world.” — James Stewart

 

If your goal is to be complete in Christ, these things (trials) are a means of grace, a means by which God is bringing for the fruitfulness out of your soul.  We are his handiwork, we are his craftsmanship, and the pain by which He molds us and shapes us is only for a moment that we might be renewed in the image of Christ Himself.  (R. C. Sproul sermon, “Trials or Trails”)

 

All of our suffering, all of our tribulations, all of our testing, always takes place Corum Deo (Before the face of God).  I couldn’t stand the thought of having to suffer away from the face of God where the light of His countenance doesn’t shine, to think that God is not aware of my suffering.  But, all of our suffering takes place before His face, and by His purpose.   And He is using it for our sanctification.  It is one thing to suffer.  It is another thing to suffer in a meaningless way.  The worse thing that can befall a human being is to suffer for no reason.  As long as we understand that there is fruit to be delivered at the end of the pain, we can be like women who are willing to endure the pangs and travail of childbirth that they may see the fruit of their own wombs, their babies.  (R. C. Sproul sermon, “Trials or Trails”)

 

Suffering is like the pressure put on carbon to produce a diamond.  As we persevere, we are being formed and molded on the inside–God is producing his character within us.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 102)

 

Justification is no escape from the trials of life.  “In this world ye shall have tribulation” (Jn 16:33).  But for the believer, trials work for him and not against him.  No amount of suffering can separate us from the Lord (Rom 8:35-39); instead, trials bring us closer to the Lord and make us more like the Lord.  Suffering builds Christian character.  (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right, 50)

 

Our English word “tribulation” comes from a Latin word tribulum.  In Paul’s day, a tribulum was a heavy piece of timber with spikes in it, used for threshing the grain.  The tribulum was drawn over the grain and it separated the wheat from the chaff.  As we go through tribulations, and depend on God’s grace, the trials only purify us and help to get rid of the chaff.  (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right, 51)

 

If there were no suffering, hope would never have opportunity to attain to its full strength.  It is by suffering that hope is tested and strengthened.  The role of suffering in the Christian life is to develop endurance, “and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 196)

 

We exult in suffering because it is the path to spiritual maturity and glory.  The great saints of God all agree.  Ask Abraham and he will direct your attention to the sacrifice on Mount Moriah.  Ask Jacob and he will point you to his stone pillow.  Ask Joseph and he will tell you about the dungeon.  Ask Moses and he will remind you of his trials with Pharaoh.  David will tell you his songs came in the night.  Peter will speak of his denial, John of Patmos, and Jesus of the cross.  Blessings are poured out in bitter cups.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 109)

 

Just as a metal smith uses intense heat to melt silver and gold in order to cleanse them of physical impurities, so does God use tribulations to cleanse His children of spiritual impurities.  “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial,” James assures believers; “for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas 1:12).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8, 282)

 

When push comes to shove, we will seldom disappoint ourselves.  We all harbor greater stores of courage than we think.  Adversity brings the opportunity to test our mettle and discover for ourselves the stuff of which we are made.  (Jeff Salz, Reader’s Digest, 2/2001, 32)

 

In God’s economy, a person must go down into the valley of grief before he or she can scale the heights of spiritual glory…One must come to the end of “self” before one can really begin to live.  (Billy Graham;  The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 286)

 

Trials will either turn you into Gold or cinders. — Tim Keller

 

This is a soft age in the West, an age in which ease and comfort are seen by the world as life’s supreme values.  Affluence and medical resources have brought secular people to the point of feeling they have a right to a long life, and a right to be free of poverty and pain for the whole of that life.  Many even cherish a grudge against God and society if these hopes do not materialize.  Nothing, however, as we now see, could be further from the true, tough, hard-gaining holiness that expresses true Christianity. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 270)

 

When a little boy skins his knee, his mommy runs and comforts him until the crying stops.  But a father is just as likely to examine the knee and, seeing no blood, say, “You’re not hurt.  Get back out there and play.”  This toughening seems cruel, but it serves a boy well as he progresses towards manhood.

The current lack of fathers has led to a culture of self-absorption in the church.  Tim Stafford observes a growing epidemic of people who are wounded by their congregations, something unknown in previous generations.  In today’s therapeutic church we comfort people until the crying stops.  But Stafford warns, “People’s expectations may be impossible, and their neediness endless.  We may help them more by challenging them to serve others than by trying to fill their empty holes.”  Self-absorbed men need spiritual fathers who will examine the wounds in their lives and , seeing no blood, say, “You’re not hurt.  Get back out there and play.” (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 219-20).

 

“I’m not comfortable . . . so God can’t want me there.”  (Fred Saunders at Sunday School Class 2-8-09)

 

Wilderness?  Exodus?  Exile?  Incarnation?  Crucifixion?  Taking up your cross?  These elements of the biblical narrative suggest that God does not prize comfort.   (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 57)

 

There is something about an absolute demand for comfort, even in the littlest things, that wrecks our communion with God.  My natural man tells me I have a right to live in total comfort, so whenever this comfort is threatened because the climate control malfunctions or life circumstances push back a meal for an hour or two, I get a true picture of the demandingness of my heart and the bitterness and anger that cause my spirit to growl, like an untamed beast, at the slightest discomfort or inconvenience.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 179)

 

Jesus promised us that everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt (see Mk 9:49, NKJV).  The desire for ease, comfort, and stress-free living is an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned,” immature Christian.  Struggle makes us stronger; it builds us up and deepens our faith.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 129)

 

Real friends are more concerned about your character instead of your comfort.

 

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has. (Billy Graham, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 189)

 

WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND:  Joy. . . until we face sorrow.  Faith. . . until it is tested. ..  Peace. . . until faced with conflict.  Trust. . . until we are betrayed.  Love. . .until it is lost. Hope . . . until confronted with doubts.

 

D-  By recognizing the comfort God brings to us through faith in Christ’s sorrow and mourning; we are able to bring comfort to others and thus, in a small way, allow God’s kingdom to come and  His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  (Ps 23:4; 86:17; Isa 49:13; 53:3-5; Mt 11:28; Jn 16:33; Rom 7:14-25; 1 Cor 1:3-7; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 7:10-11)

 

I imagine that for every believer who is suffering with a particular form of cancer there is also a nonbeliever in exactly the same condition and that the Christian praises and worships God in spite of his afflictions while the unbeliever curses God and bitterly resents his fate.  God is showing that the purpose of life lies in a right relationship to him and not in pleasant circumstances.  For every Christian who loses a son or daughter there is a non-Christian who experiences the same thing.  For every Christian who loses a job there is a non-Christian in like circumstances.  This is the explanation of life’s struggles, in my opinion.  It is the ultimate reason for the drama of history.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 2, 531)

 

“The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this world as can one human being broken on the wheels of living… In love’s service only wounded soldiers can serve.”  (Thornton Wilder; The Angel that Troubled the Waters).

 

Sorrow can do two things for us.  It can show us, as nothing else can, the essential kindness of our fellow-men; and it can show us as nothing else can the comfort and the compassion of God.  Many and many a man in the hour of his sorrow has discovered his fellow-men and his God as he never did before.  When things go well it is possible to live for years on the surface of things; but when sorrow comes a man is driven to the deep things of life, and, if he accepts it aright, a new strength and beauty enter into his soul.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 93)

 

“Anyone who has gone through great suffering is bound to have a greater sympathy and understanding of the problems of mankind.”  — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“Suffering people are often our best teachers”  — Kenneth Czillinger

 

“When someone we love suffers, we suffer with that person, and we would not have it otherwise, because the suffering and the love are one, just as it is with God’s love for us.”  (Frederick Buechner; The Hungering Dark)

 

“I think only through suffering all our wonderful human qualities come out in us. Unless and until you suffer, how will you understand other suffering ?” (See Chakravarti; A Healing Journey)

 

“Trials make room for consolation. There is nothing that makes man have a big heart like a great trial. I have found that those people who have no sympathy for their fellows, who never weep for the sorrows of others very seldom have any trials of their own. Great hearts could be made only by great troubles.”  —Charles Spurgeon

 

“It is more than comforting to realize that it is those who have plumbed the depth of failure to whom invariably God gives the call to shepherd others.  This is not a call given to the gifted, the highly trained or the polished, as such, without a bitter experience of their own inadequacy and poverty.  They are quite unfitted to bear the burden of spiritual ministry.  It takes a man who has discovered something of the measures of his own weakness to be patient with the sins of others.  Such a man also has firsthand knowledge of the loving care of the chief shepherd in his ability to heal one who has come humbly to trust him.”  — JC Medcalf

 

“In whatever God does in the course of our lives, he gives us, through the experience, some power to help others.”  — Elisabeth Elliot

 

It must be a terrible thing for a man to have never to have suffered physical pain.  You say, ‘I should like to be that man.’  Ah, unless you had extraordinary grace, you would grow hard and cold; you would get to be a sort of cast iron man, breaking other people with your touch.  No, let my heart be tender, even be soft, if it must be softened by pain, for I would fain know how to bind up my fellow’s wound.  Let my eye have a tear ready for my brother’s sorrows, even if in order to that, I should have to shed ten thousand for my own.  As escape from suffering would be escape from the power to sympathize, and that were to be deprecated beyond all things.” — Charles Spurgeon

 

“Sympathy is a shallow stream in the souls of those who have not suffered.” — William E. Sangster

 

“It is Christlike work to soothe and sympathize, and only those who have drunk the cup of sorrow are fully equipped to do it.” — William E. Sangster

 

When we suffer and handle it with grace, we’re like walking billboards advertising the positive way God works in the life of someone who suffers.”  — Joni Eareckson Tada

 

There is no learning sympathy except by suffering.  It cannot be studied in a book, it must be written on the heart.  You must go through the fire if you would have sympathy with others who tread the glowing coals.  You must yourself bear the cross if you would feel for those whose life is a burden to them.  — Charles Spurgeon

 

Our Lord Himself mourned, that is why He was “a man or sorrows, and acquainted with grief”; that is why He wept at the grave of Lazarus.  He saw this horrid, ugly, foul thing called sin which had come into life and introduced death into life, and had upset life and made life unhappy.  He wept because of that; He groaned in His spirit.  And as He saw the city of Jerusalem rejecting Him and bringing upon itself its own damnation, He wept because of it.  He mourned over it and so does His true follower, the one who has received His nature.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 48)

 

As our mourning rises to the throne of God, His unsurpassed and matchless comfort descends from Him by Christ to us.  Ours is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3), who is always ready to meet our need, admonishing, sympathizing, encouraging, and strengthening.  God is a God of comfort, Christ is a Christ of comfort, and the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of comfort.  As believers we have the comfort of the entire Trinity!  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 161)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the righteous, merciful, gracious, almighty, wise and loving God who will one day make everything right.

 

The longing in the human breast for the eternal judgment when wrongs will be righted, when Rom 8:28 will be fully understood, and when there will be no more such change as is described in verses 1 through 8, lies within the heart of every true believer.  So, all the unknowable, the incomprehensible, the misunderstandable ought to make us long all the more for eternity.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 32)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus came to seek and save all that was lost.  Not only the world that has slipped into depravity and decay; but we ourselves.  Jesus has done and will do all that is necessary to redeem and restore all that was lost by our sin.  (Mt 1:21; 11:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 19:10; Rom 8:18-25; Rv 21:5)

 

“Surely HE hath borne OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows… HE was wounded for OUR transgressions; HE was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of OUR peace was upon HIM, and with HIS stripes WE are healed…The Lord hath laid on HIM the iniquity of US all.”  (Isa 53:4-6)

 

Joy is the realization that Jesus Christ has denied death its finality.  Its sting is not fatal, because there is a boundary beyond it.  When we glimpse that greater boundary on Easter we rejoice.  (Earl Palmer; Joy: Spiritual Health Made Visible)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Consider yourself  blessed whenever you mourn because you know the truth about the reason for your mourning.  Endeavor to be so heavenly minded that you are of unfathomable earthly good.  Endeavor to make earthly pain, suffering and mourning motivation to promote God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”:  aim at earth and you will get neither.  It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.  Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you.  You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more–food, games, work, fun, open air.  In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object.  We must learn to want something else even more.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 118-9)

 

Our values determine our evaluations.  If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us.  If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.”  If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better.  Job had the right outlook when he said, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 23)

 

Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people.  It is more like the smelling salts.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 113)

Hardships do not change our character . . . they reveal it or they expose it.

 

 

Quotes to Note:

We follow that philosophy vicariously, if not actually, when we laugh at the world’s crude and immoral jokes even though we do not retell them, when we are entertained by a sin even though we do not indulge in it, when we smile at ungodly talk even though we do not repeat the words.  To joke about divorce, to make light of brutality, to be intrigued by sexual immorality is to rejoice when we should be mourning, to be laughing when we should be crying.  To “rejoice in the perversity of evil” is placed alongside “delight in doing evil” (Prv 2:14).  To take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thes 2:12) is to be a part of the wickedness, whether or not we commit the specific sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 54)

 

Whatever (virtues) tribulation finds in us, it develops more fully.  If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable.  On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble, as the Psalmist says in Ps 4:1: “Thou has enlarged me when I was in distress.”

Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation.  Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient.  So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.  (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, 90-1)

 

Churches are comforting Christians to death, because the feminine spirit has taken over and the masculine spirit has withdrawn.  In time, so do men.  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 27).

 

Everywhere Christ went, He created uproar and discomfort.  He made it a point to insult people (Mt 23:13-39).  He even called His best friend “Satan” (Mk 8:33).  That was a horrendous insult, akin to calling a Holocaust survivor “Hitler”) Although He comforted the needy, an encounter with Jesus was often an uncomfortable experience, especially for religious people.  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 27)

 

A fear that we evangelical Christians, by making much of grace, sometimes thereby make light of sin.  There is not enough sorrow for sin among us.  We should experience more “godly grief” of Christian penitence.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 42)

 

I cannot help feeling that the final explanation of the state of the Church today is a defective sense of sin and a defective doctrine of sin.  Coupled with that, of course, is a failure to understand the true nature of Christian joy.  There is the double failure.  There is not the real, deep conviction of sin as was once the case; and on the other hand there is this superficial conception of joy and happiness which is very different indeed from that which we find in the NT.  Thus the defective doctrine of sin and the shallow idea of joy, working together, of necessity produce a superficial kind of person and a very inadequate kind of Christian life.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 45)

 

When a person grieves so hard and so long over the loss of a loved one that he cannot function normally, his grief becomes sinful and destructive.  Such depressing sorrow is usually related to guilt, essentially selfish, and, for a Christian, is a mark of unfaithfulness and lack of trust in God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 154)

 

But the comfort of Mt 5:4 is future only in the sense that the blessing comes after the obedience; the comfort comes after the mourning.  As we continually mourn over our sin, we shall be continually comforted–now, in this present life.  God is not only the God of future comfort but of present comfort.  “God our Father” already has “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thes 2:16).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 162)

 

A stony heart does not mourn.  It is insensitive to God, and His plow of grace cannot break it up.  It only stores up wrath till the day of wrath.

Love of sin is the primary hindrance to mourning.  Holding on to sin will freeze and petrify a heart.  Despair hinders mourning because despair is giving up on God, refusing to believe that He can save and help.  Despair is putting ourselves outside God’s grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 162)

 

Another hindrance is conceit, which tries to hide the sin itself, choosing to believe that there is nothing over which to mourn.  It is the spiritual counterpart of a doctor treating a cancer as if it were a cold.  If it was necessary for Jesus Christ to shed His blood on the cross to save us from our sin, our sin must be great indeed!

Presumption hinders mourning because it is really a form of pride.  It recognizes the need for grace, but not much grace.  It is satisfied with cheap grace, expecting God to forgive little because it sees little to be forgiven.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 162-3)

 

Sin tramples on God’s laws, makes light of His love, grieves His Spirit, spurns His forgiveness and blessing, and in every way resists His grace.  Sin makes us weak and makes us impure.  It robs us of comfort and, much more importantly, robs God of glory.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 164)

 

For those who, as God’s people, find their current situation intolerable and incomprehensible, there are better times ahead.  When they will be is not stated; experience indicates that while for some there will be a reversal of fortunes in this life, this is not always so.  The statement in 9:15 that the wedding guests (the disciples) cannot mourn while the bridegroom (Jesus) is with them speaks of the specific contrast between the period of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the time to follow, whereas this beatitude speaks of a general characteristic of God’s people:  there will be times of rejoicing, but their situation in the world is generally one of disadvantage and therefore of mourning.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 166)

 

. . . God often works by contraries:  when he means to give victory, he will allow us to be foiled at first; when he means to comfort, he will terrify first; when he means to justify, he will condemn us first; when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first.  A Christian conquers, even when he is conquered.  When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security. (Richard Sibbes; The Bruised Reed, 95)

 

 

Christ:

He Mourns

For Our Comfort

 

 

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