John Piper: "I am not coming to you with a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel or a health, wealth and prosperity mission. I am not bringing a message that Christ will make you healthy, Christ will make you wealthy, Christ will make you prosperous in this life so that you can have joy. That's not my message. I am bringing you the message that Christ will give you HIMSELF, so that you don't need health, wealth, and prosperity in order to be happy, but can have so much invincible joy in Christ that you can give up health, wealth, and prosperity in the sacrifice of love if God so calls."
Paul: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that might not rely on ourselves but on God."
One of the reasons I am so grateful to God for John Piper is that he, unlike anyone else, has helped me to see how joy and suffering and pain can possibly coexist. It is a concept that I struggled with for a long time as I would read the bible. When I would hear someone say how "blessed" they were with their big house, nice car, and healthy family, something inside of me cringed. Is that what it means to be "blessed" by God? If so, what about the babies laying in their cribs, some in deplorable conditions, in the orphanage? What about Paul, what about Jesus? No, Jesus came, and turned the world's idea of "blessed" upside down. In Matthew 5 He says:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
How are those who mourn blessed? Because they will be comforted- by God Himself. In my own experience I can say that it is better to mourn and be comforted by God, than to not mourn at all. As J. Piper says, " The Lord is the Reward". It's His presence in the most difficult of places that brings joy, and develops perseverance and hope.
So this Christmas, I am more thankful than ever that God broke through time, and gave us Himself... His very presence...God With Us, Immanuel - now that is a blessing!