The SBJT Forum: Biblical Perspectives on Suffering -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:2 (Summer 2000)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Biblical Perspectives on Suffering
Author: Anonymous


The SBJT Forum:
Biblical Perspectives on Suffering

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Ajith Fernando, Duane Garrett, C. Ben Mitchell, Mark Dever, and Timothy George have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: Is Western Ministry Training neglecting the cross?1

Ajith Fernando: I believe that western theological education is not preparing Christians adequately for suffering, and that this is having negative influences upon the church in the non-western world. My biblical reflections on this matter inevitably intersect with my own experience. Hence, the autobiographical character of what follows.

The Biblical Basis

Commitment to Joy and to the Cross

I suppose you could call me a “Christian hedonist.” I do not like this phrase (popularized by John Piper), but it correctly describes my desire. I am a pleasure seeker, seeking the joy of the Lord in my life. I resonate with George Müller who said that the first and primary business to which he ought to attend to everyday was to have his soul happy in the Lord.

However, I want to have this joy coming out of a lifestyle of taking up the cross. Jesus said that he wants us to have his joy so that our joy may be complete (John 15:11). But soon after that, he commanded us to love each other as he has loved us, that is, to die for each other (vv. 12, 13). Jesus said that unlike the hired hand he would die for the sheep (John 10:11–15). If we are sent into the world as the Father has sent Jesus (John 20:21), then we too must die for the sheep. So I want to pursue joy on the one hand and pursue death for the sake of the people to whom I am called to minister on the other. Over the past few years I have been attempting to grapple with this paradox. How can you have joy while you are dying for a cause?

Paul’s life and ministry have influenced me greatly in this process. In Philippians he states that the joy of the Lord is an imperative for Christians (Phil 4:4). But he wrote this while suffering in a Roman pri...

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