Welcome to 16 weeks with John Newton! We’ll take most of these letters in two parts (Mondays & Fridays).
These are short reads but full of the very things needful for our sanctification.
Prayerfully take these readings in, try and relate to specific scripture, and reflect on how they might parallel what’s happening in your life. Also, don’t forget to leave a comment for the group if you’d like.
The School of Suffering (Part I)
by John Newton
Written to encourage a church member during a time of trial.
A Letter to a “Mrs. H.”
Long and often I have thought of writing to you; now the time is come. May the Lord help me to send a word in season! I know not how it may be with you, but He does and to Him I look to direct my thoughts accordingly. I suppose you are still in the school of the cross, learning the happy art of extracting real good out of seeming evil, and to grow tall by stooping. The flesh is a sad untoward dunce in this school; but grace makes the spirit willing to learn by suffering; yea, it cares not what it endures, so sin may be mortified, and a conformity to the image of Jesus be increased. Surely, when we see the most and the best of the Lord’s children so often in heaviness, and when we consider how much He loves them, and what He has done and prepared for them, we may take it for granted that there is a need-be for their sufferings. For it would be easy to His power, and not a thousandth part of what His love intends to do for them should He make their whole life here, from the hour of their conversion to their death, a continued course of satisfaction and comfort, without anything to distress them from within or without. But were it so, should we not miss many advantages?
In the first place, we should not then be very conformable to our Head, nor be able to say, “As He was, so are we in this world.” Methinks a believer would be ashamed to be so utterly unlike his Lord. What! the master always a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, and the servant always happy and full of comfort! Jesus despised, reproached, neglected, opposed, and betrayed, and His people admired and caressed; He living in the want of all things, and they filled with abundance; He sweating blood for anguish, and they strangers to distress! How unsuitable would these things be! How much better to be called to the honour of experiencing a measure of His sufferings! A cup was put into His hand on our account, and His love engaged Him to drink it for us. The wrath which it contained He drank wholly Himself; but He left us a little affliction to taste, that we might pledge Him, and remember how He loved us, and how much more He endured for us than He will ever call us to endure for Him.
A mark of spiritual maturity is one’s ability to be satisfied in Christ even in the midst of trial. We all know this disposition isn’t something that just drops on us from out of the sky but comes as a by-product of weathering much in this world. The fact of the matter is that we tend not to do well with discomfort of any kind. Over the course of our lives we’ve been inundated with the notion that we must be lacking somehow if there is a presence of trials. Similarly, just by the nature of our sinful flesh, we have amazingly low frustration tolerance (comfort and coddling are the preferred paths of the flesh). It’s apparent, however, that God allows difficulty (even if we’re in denial of the fact) and if He sees purpose and utility in difficulty then we should learn that we can truly can “extract real good out of seeming evil”.
1. “…..extracting real good out of seeming evil….”
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
2. “The flesh is a sad untoward dunce in this school…”
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” Galatians 5:17
3. “……we may take it for granted that there is a need-be for their sufferings.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
4. “For it would be easy to His power, and not a thousandth part of what His love intends to do for them should He make their whole life here, from the hour of their conversion to their death, a continued course of satisfaction and comfort, without anything to distress them from within or without. But were it so, should we not miss many advantages?”
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-4
5. “….but He left us a little affliction to taste, that we might pledge Him, and remember how He loved us, and how much more He endured for us than He will ever call us to endure for Him.“
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-3
Wow! Grow taller by stooping. Jesus, our savior so afflicted by adversity and yet we many times wince and cringe as we see challenge on the horizon. What deeper believers we will be when we can learn through Christ’s example to embrace both the joys of this life AND those things which test us. If we love our lives then difficulty will push us away from these things (causing anxiety, etc.). If we love Christ then difficulty will push us towards him. So, difficulty presents us with the opportunity to draw even closer to Christ and truly be satisfied in him. Think about it…..pray about it.
This Friday we’ll finish up with the remainder of “The School of Suffering”. Share your thoughts and prayers on this by leaving a comment (scroll on down a bit). Don’t be shy.Share