Christians can find comfort in God, even in suffering

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Christians can be confident in God’s purposes for their lives because he has demonstrated his covenant faithfulness to his people, said Juan Sanchez in a March 1 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Remember God’s covenant faithfulness, and on the basis of his covenant faithfulness, you can look to the future and trust him for his future faithfulness,” said Sanchez, assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary and three-time graduate of the school. He was voted president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in November 2017.

Life as a believer in a sinful, fallen world remains as difficult as ever. Incurable illnesses, marital strife, overwhelming coursework, or few options for ministry can distract seminary students and cause them to despair. Christians who are called to the proclamation and ministry of the gospel are not spared the pain of sin, suffering or confusion.

Using God’s promise to deliver his people from Egypt in Exodus 6, Sanchez said just as he did not forsake his people when they were enslaved, he does not forsake his people today. Recounting the history of Israel, Sanchez demonstrated that God was repeatedly faithful to his promises despite Israel’s repeated unfaithfulness. Even though Israel did not uphold their end of the covenant a few chapters later on Mount Sinai, God brought them back to himself under a new and better covenant through a new and better king, Jesus Christ.

Believers who feel alone and tempted to despair can look back not only upon God’s faithfulness to Israel, but to his faithfulness to them through Jesus. Christians enjoy a special relationship with their heavenly Father, who invites them to seek him in their distress and promises to listen.

“When you feel forsaken, when you feel forgotten by God and are tempted to discouragement and despair, cry out to God,” Sanchez said. “Cry out in prayer. In Christ, you have access to the very throne room of God, and he invites you to draw near to him. You don’t have to find some kind of special language, you don’t have to have some kind of special knowledge to come to the Lord in prayer. He is our Father and we are his children, and we come to him as children using children’s words — just asking God to help us.”

God uses the present suffering of believers as a means of their perseverance through life’s challenges, Sanchez said. Although there is no guarantee that God will decisively relieve one’s suffering quickly, he does promise to be faithful to his covenant and enable the faith necessary to endure difficult circumstances. The realization of God’s promises may not come during the time Christians desire, but they can overcome despair by remembering the Father’s past and future provisions.

“We are marching to Zion — that’s where we’re going,” he said. “Based upon God’s covenant faithfulness, we can trust God to bring us to these future promises in Christ.”

Sanchez became assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern in 2016 as part of Hispanic Initiatives, which is designed to help the seminary serve more effectively those called to ministry in the Spanish-speaking world. He is also lead strategist for Hispanic Initiatives in North America. Sanchez earned his masters of divinity from Southern in 1999, his Th.M in 2002, and his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 2015. Since 2005, he has served as senior pastor at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

Audio and video of the chapel message are available at equip.sbts.edu.

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