Suffering and Jesus (a must see)

Hi TD,

Suffering as a Christian is an integral part of being a Christian.  Period.  Nabeel Quereshi (former Muslim, author of the multi-award winning book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) is no stranger to this, as he endured emotional and relational suffering after leaving Islam and surrendering to Christ, a cost he knew he would have to pay to come to the Truth. The above testimony/lecture and Q&A, Suffering and Jesus, is valuable teaching, perspective aligning, and very insightful.

The sub-title is “How Suffering Transformed My Life”  and was given earlier this year. imagesLittle did he know at the time  what other suffering God had in His plans for him.This week Nabeel announced a new suffering that God has placed in his life: advanced stomach cancer.  We just saw Nabeel, Michelle, and their new baby girl in June.  The thought of her possibly growing up without her dad is quite sobering:

Dear Friends and Family,

This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in His infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray He will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim. Nonetheless, we are going to pursue healing aggressively, both medical and miraculous, relying on God and the fact that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.

Unfortunately this means I am no longer able to engage in traveling ministry for the time being. I am canceling almost all my speaking events, with a few exceptions. From this point on until such a time as the Lord might choose to heal me, I intend to blog or vlog about my journey with cancer, transparently offering my heart, thoughts, and struggles in case they might encourage others and glorify God. I will no longer be with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, though it has been an absolute privilege to be on the team for the past 3 years. My third book, No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, launched today, and I still intend to write my next book, 20 Questions Muslims Ask and the Answers that Convert Them. Beyond that, the Lord knows.

Friends and family, may I ask you to fast and pray fervently for my healing? I do not profess to know the will of the Lord, but many of my close friends and confidants are convinced that this is a trial through which the Lord intends to bring me alive and refined. May His will be done, and may I invite you to seek Him in earnest, on your knees, fasting on my behalf, asking our Yahweh Rapha for healing in Jesus’ name.

And as you pray and fast, “I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18-20)

For His Glory,
-Nabeel

Would you please join us in praying for Nabeel and his family?  Thank you. – Arthur

2 Days Until “The Great Confrontation”!

Hey TD!

I hope you got a chance to watch the video on the last post.  Today’s interview with RC Sproul, Jr. is insightful, challenging, and very personal, as he discusses difficult issues, including the passing of his wife and then his disabled daughter, Shannon, less than a year later (see the 8/27/13 post, “A Difficult Message” with the video of him speaking at her memorial service).  As FW Boreham would say, it puts iron into the blood.

I want you to get to know RC, Jr. before he comes to be with us, so you can appreciate him as a person, as a brother, and so you can glean more from this weekend.

Here’s the video interview, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”:

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/72771958]

The Suffering of Forgiveness

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Hey TD,

This is a must read.  Truly forgiving someone can be one of the hardest things to do in life.  As this essay from our friend Jill Carattini of RZIM uncovers, it’s partly because there is suffering in forgiveness.  And this is at the heart of the gospel.  Please take the time to READ this and let it affect the way you live life for the Lord! – Arthur

The Suffering of Forgiveness

In four horrific months in 1994, at the urging of the Rwandan government, the poorer Hutu majority took up bayonets and machetes and committed genocide against the wealthier Tutsi minority. In the wake of this unspeakable tragedy, nearly a million people had been murdered.

In August of 2003, driven by overcrowded prisons and backlogged court systems, 50,000 genocide criminals, people who had already confessed to killing their neighbors, were released again into society. Murderers were sent back to their homes, back to neighborhoods literally destroyed at their own hands, to live beside the few surviving relatives of the very men, women, and children they killed.

With eyes still bloodshot at visions of a genocide it failed to see, the world still watches Rwanda, looking with a sense of foreboding, wondering what happens when a killer comes home; what happens when victims, widows, orphans, and murderers look each other in the eyes again; what happens when the neighbor who killed your family asks to be forgiven. For the people of Rwanda, the description of the Hebrew prophet is a reality with which they live: “And if anyone asks them, ‘What are these wounds on your chest?’ the answer will be, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends’” (Zechariah 13:6). How does a culture bear the wounds of genocide?

For Steven Gahigi, that question is answered in a valley of dry bones which cannot be forgotten. An Anglican clergyman who lost 142 members of his family in the Rwandan genocide, he thought he had lost the ability to forgive. Though his inability plagued him, he had no idea how to navigate through a forgiveness so costly. “I prayed until one night I saw an image of Jesus Christ on the cross…I thought of how he forgave, and I knew that I and others could also do it.”(1) Inspired by this vision, Gahigi somehow found the words to begin preaching forgiveness. He first did this in the prisons where Hutu perpetrators sat awaiting trial, and today he continues in neighborhoods where the victims of genocide live beside its perpetrators. For Gahigi, wounds received in the house of friends can only be soothed with truth-telling, restitution, interdependence, and reconciliation, all of which he finds accessible because of Christ.

In fact, the work of reconciliation that is taking place in Rwanda in lives on every side of the genocide may be difficult to describe apart from the cross of Christ. While it is true that forgiveness can be explained in therapeutic terms, that the act of forgiving is beneficial to the forgiver, and forgiveness releases the victim from the one who has wronged them, from chains of the past, and a cell of resentment; what Rwandans are facing today undoubtedly reaches far beyond this. While forgiveness is certainly a form of healing in lives changed forever by genocide, it is also very much a form of suffering. Miroslav Volf, himself familiar with horrendous violence in Croatia and Serbia, describes forgiveness as the exchange of one form of suffering for another, modeled to the world by the crucified Christ. He writes, “[I]n a world of irreversible deeds and partisan judgments redemption from the passive suffering of victimization cannot happen without the active suffering of forgiveness.”(2) For Rwandans, this is a reality well understood.

And for Christ, who extends to the world the possibility of reconciliation by embodying it, this suffering, this willingness to be broken by the very people with whom he is trying to reconcile, is the very road to healing and wholeness. “More than just the passive suffering of an innocent person,” writes Volf, “the passion of Christ is the agony of a tortured soul and a wrecked body offered as a prayer for the forgiveness of the torturers.”(3) There is no clearer picture of Zechariah’s depiction of wounds received at the house of friends than in a crucifixion ordered by an angry crowd that lauded Christ as king only hours before. And yet, it is this house of both murderous and weeping friends for which Jesus prays on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Far from the suggestion of a moralistic god watching a world of suffering and brokenness from a distance, the costly ministry of reconciliation comes to a world of violence and victims through arms that first bore the weight of the cross. For Steven Gahigi, who facilitates the difficult dialogue now taking place in Rwanda, who helps perpetrators of genocide to build homes for their victims’ families, forgiveness is indeed a active form of suffering, but one through which Christ has paved the hopeful, surprising way of redemption. Today, wherever forgiveness is a form of suffering, Christ accompanies the broken, leading both the guilty and the victimized through valleys of dry bones and signs of a coming resurrection.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Johann Christoph Arnold, Why Forgive? (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis books, 2010), 202.
(2) Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 125.