Staff Corner - Pastor Greg Spires
In the movie “The Princess Bride,” one scene depicts the hero, Westley, captured by his enemies and being mistreated. In a moment of great pain, he cries out so loudly that people hear his cry throughout the land. His enemies have pushed him to the point of being “mostly dead.”
Two of his companions hear his cry. Inigo says to his friend, “Fezzik, Fezzik, listen, do you hear? -- That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The Man in Black makes it now.”
Fezzik replies, “The man in black?”
“His true love is marrying another tonight,” Inigo replies, “so who else has cause for Ultimate Suffering?”
With the pain Westley was enduring at the hands of his enemy, it would seem safe to assume that his cries were the result of physical discomfort. However, Inigo understood the actual cause of Westley’s distress: his true love would marry someone else.
While the movie takes a comedic view of harrowing events, we see a similarly counterintuitive point of suffering in the Apostle Paul's life. Listen to just a few of the things Paul suffered at the hands of the Jews in 2 Corinthians 11:24-25, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.”
As such, you would think that the sorrow Paul experienced was the result of mistreatment. But he doesn’t describe his sorrow that way. Listen to what he says about his sorrow in Romans 9:1-3, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Paul’s sorrow was the result of seeing his fellow Israelites reject the Savior and Messiah, Jesus. Even though they treated Paul as an enemy, he desired that they would find hope in the risen savior and forgiveness of sins. The love of Christ had captured Paul’s heart. He loved the lost people of Israel as Christ did.
We need to remember that Jesus didn’t die for sinners because He found it inconvenient, bothersome, or offensive to have sinners running around. He died for sinners because He loves them and wants them to experience His love and righteousness.
It is worth taking some time to consider why we want to see salvation come to the world. Do we want people to find Jesus, so they will act the way we prefer? Do we want the gospel to make the world operate more conveniently for believers? Do we want revival in our country so that institutions and authorities will finally agree with us?
One way the gospel transforms us as believers is to fill our hearts with a deep love for the lost, just like Jesus. The Spirit of Christ fills us with His love so that our desire is for lost sinners to find Jesus because that is the best thing for them.
And when the world rejects Christ, we experience sorrow. However, the sorrow that the Spirit moves is not sadness that the world disagrees with us. Instead, it is sorrow that in blindness, they have chosen the world over the better thing: Life in Christ.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Romans 9:1-13.
Praying with you,