Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Surprised by Suffering- Listener's Guide Entry

Surprised by Suffering?
Big Juice from Cleveland produced this anthem like beat and I chose for it to be the first actual song on the album due to its energy and adventurous feel. I felt this song was fitting for starting the journey of talking about suffering. Some people questioned if I abandoned by underground boom bap roots on this song and I don’t feel I did. I think it is good for artists to step out of their comfort zone and try new things as long as it fits right. 

The theme scripture of this song is 1 Peter 4:12-13:
“Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
The song was inspired by a book called “Surprised by Suffering” written by R.C. Sproul. Sproul is my favorite author and he handles the topic of suffering exceptionally well in this book. I echo some of the main points he made in the book on my song;
-          We should be prepared to suffer. We live in a fallen world and have evil hearts. Therefore it is inevitable that we will go through suffering.
-          Jesus suffered more than any of us can ever imagine. If he is our master and had to undergo suffering we should also expect to undergo suffering! We are given the duty and privilege to suffer with Christ (Philippians 3:10)
-          God is a sovereign God and sovereign over suffering. Nothing occurs in our lives that is random or chaotic
-          Suffering tests the genuineness of our faith.  Anyone can believe God when things are going well in their life but the true test is when things go wrong. In tough times we run to God for comfort and He delights in ministering to us in times of pain. We can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear because Christ is with us and goes through the valley with us!
-          Our divine vocation is not ultimately to suffering, but to a hope that triumphs over suffering (a future inheritance with Christ) * I recommend checking out for more info on Sproul’s ministry.

On the first verse I urge the listener to not be surprised when trials come. Especially when passages like 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 tell us we’ve been destined for affliction as Christians. I also remind the listener to have the proper perspective when it comes to suffering and remember that we are called to suffer with joy knowing that suffering produces  perseverance, character and hope (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6)
On the second verse I start off by talking about churches that preach the prosperity gospel. The lyrics don’t talk about one specific experience I had at churches with bad doctrine but a combination of experiences that I summed up in the first 8 bars. The following line is key:
There’s nothing wrong with being extra paid
But we’ll still suffer, let me set the stage
It is foolishness to treat God like a genie in the bottle and only give more tithes or more sacrifice to God in order to get desired material blessings out of God. It is also foolishness to think that if you tithe a certain amount that you will be exempt from suffering. It’s also erroneous to think that if God does not heal you from your sickness that you did not have enough faith in Him. The bottom line is that we will all suffer and we will all grow old and die someday.
I want to break down some lyrics from the end of this verse that should help you understand them better. In 1998 the basketball player Ray Allen was featured in a movie called “He Got Game”. Ray Allen was the main character in the movie and his name was Jesus Shuttlesworth. If you were unfamiliar with that movie the lines below probably did not make sense but hopefully now they do 
All the godly will suffer while cats stay wilin
We need Jesus, NO Ray Allen
Not Shuttlesworth, but Christ Jesus
Defeated death then flexed, NO wife beater”

On the third verse I bring the message home and ask the listener if their faith would remain if they had to suffer for the sake of His name. This is a question we should all ponder during our walk because one day it may come down to that. I believe it is much easier said than done. However, if we are PREPARED for suffering then when trials or persecution come we will be better able to respond well in these situations. I will use a sports/weight room analogy here. Scientific research has proven that athletes who were on a consistent weight training program prior to getting injured recover quicker from injuries than athletes who were not on a consistent weight training program prior to getting injured. The injury was still painful for the athlete but they were better prepared to bounce back from the injury due to their previous strength training. If we are spiritually training before the trial (injury) comes when things get rugged we will be better prepared to bounce back from the trial. It’s still going to hurt and be tough but we’ll be better equipped in the difficult times. Throughout the whole of Scripture you see stories of characters that walked with God. Many of these men suffered immensely such as Joseph, Job, David, Jeremiah, and Paul. The Bible shows their vulnerabilities and how they went through times of doubt and despair. It also shows how their trials produced great character in these men’s lives. 

Another key point made in the third verse is that as sinners we are deserving of death. Therefore, anything good we get from God is only grace. Many times when things go wrong we act like God is being unfair and that we deserve much better. Nothing could be further from the truth. When things go wrong we are just getting what we deserve from God.  Keeping this in mind will cause us to not be surprised when fiery trials come our way. We’ll be less likely to point the finger at God, and sin in our rebellion and more likely to be thankful that the suffering is conforming us into the image of Christ. This is the last key point I make in this song. Sanctification is a continual process where God is making us more and more like Christ. This can’t happen unless we suffer. You can call them “growing pains” if you’d like but growth is never easy and because we are born with sinful hearts we need heart surgery. Surgery is always a painful procedure. God gradually prunes us from our pleasures in this world to help prepare us for better pleasures in heaven. He is sovereign over our suffering and our suffering is for our own good!