This is a world of loss. The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. And it’s his active role in the taking away that we often fail to reflect on. The Lord takes away by his own initiative. It’s his wisdom and his act of sovereignty in our lives when we feel the sting of personal loss. But why does God take things from us? This was the question taken up by John Piper in a recent sermon. Here’s one precious answer:
The reason this world of calamity, conflict, misery, suffering, and death exists is so that the followers of Jesus Christ would be able to experience and display the profound God-honoring truth that Christ is more precious to us than everything we could lose in this world. A world of loss exists so that you and I, by not murmuring or complaining or getting angry at God, but rather resting in him and trusting in him, could show the world and testify to our own consciences that God is more precious to us than everything that we just lost. That is why the loss exists.
And I will read the verse from which I get that. This is Philippians 3:8: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ.”
All loss is meant to show in the heart of believers that Christ is more precious than what is lost. You have two options every time you experience a loss. You can hate God or you can hate sin, because all loss entered the world through sin and is intended to portray the horrors of sin.
My wife and I were married in 1968. I was 22 and already the Lord was showing me, as I was making the transition from college to seminary, the pain of the world. I am not sure why. I was just so burdened and sensitive. So I anticipated the exquisite pleasures of sex in marriage. Who wouldn’t? And I felt the horrors of disease and the Vietnam War fiasco — 50,000 of my friends dead.
So in our wedding, the text that I asked my dad to read was Habakkuk 3:17–18, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
We have been married 46 years and it has been very hard. It still is for reasons you don’t need to know. Some of which I would be happy to tell you, others I would not be happy to tell you. And I am so thankful that the Lord put that foundation under us. I don’t believe in walking away from a spouse for any reason. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, no fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, there be no herd in the stall” — that means you are dead. There is nothing to eat. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Here is why famine exists, among other reasons: so that Christians who are swept away in the famine will bear witness. God is better than food. God is all-satisfying to my soul as I die of starvation. Yes, he is. And what a tribute you pay to him when that happens.
Murmuring is a great sin. Philippians 2:14–15 says, “Do all things without murmuring, so that you may shine like lights in a dark and crooked generation and show yourself to be pure and blameless, sons of God.” O, how many times have I failed even in the last 24 hours? I am a born murmurer — murmur, murmur, murmur. I hate myself when I murmur, because it is a statement that God is not better than what I am murmuring about.