Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Mosaic Address:
    606 West 3rd Ave., Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday:  8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am
  • Infant through 5th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!



Back To List

Mar 17, 2013

The Path to Victory...Runs through Pain and Pleasure

Passage: John 16:17-33

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Path to Victory

Keywords: suffering, pain, trials, joy, sorrow, difficulties


Pain, difficulty and sometimes suffering is a part of every person's life. But those experiences have particular value in a Christian's life. This message looks at the reasons Jesus gives us in John 16 for why God permits suffering in the life of his children and the good that can come from it.


The Path of Victory Runs through Pain and Pleasure

John 16:17-33

March 17, 2013


MIXING IT UP:  Do you ever struggle with difficult, hard things in life and find yourself asking, “What’s the point?”  Life’s difficulties have an amazing way of generating hard questions. 

So let’s start this morning with an event…and then a “hard questions.” 

EVENT:  In the next 90 seconds, meet someone near you who is not a family member, introduce yourself and name for them, in 5 words or less, one of life’s more difficult experiences you’ve had.

HARD QUESTION:  In 90 seconds, come up with as many good reasons for or good results from suffering.  You may want to write them down because I’m going to ask you to mention some of them later on this morning.  GO!


Jerry Sittser teaches in the religion department at Whitworth University.  Some of you have had him as your professor.  When we first moved to Spokane, he was our neighbor for 7 months on the north side of town. 

That was just months after 3 generations of women in his family had been killed by a drunk driver on a local highway near Spokane.  Jerry and his 3 surviving children lost their mother, his wife and their grandmother in one horrific accident they all experienced.  Having survived…and triumphed… through that unimaginable loss puts Jerry, in my estimation, in a very unique and special class of people. When Jerry speaks, I listen!

In his new book A Grace Revealed, which is sort of a sequel to his first book A Grace Disguised now 20 years after the accident, Jerry talks about a common sight you will encounter in one of my favorite places in the world to vacation, Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Having talked about the beautifully gnarled white pine that populate the rugged, inhospitable and majestic mountains of Banff, Canada, he says this about life,

“Those trees symbolize what I believe God wants to accomplish in our lives, which is to work complete redemption.  He wants to use the harsh conditions of life to shape us—and eventually the whole world—into something extraordinarily beautiful. 

Redemption promises to transform us, completely so.  Once broken, we become whole again; once selfish and insecure, we become stately and serene and self-giving; once rabid sinner, we become glorious saints.  In short, God purposes to claim us as his own—no matter how far we are from him, how fallen into sin, how lost and lonely.  He wants to restore us to a right relationship with him and to remake us according to the image of Jesus Christ, which will ultimately lead to the renewal of the whole world.  This is God’s doing, from beginning to end.  God is the one—the only one—who can, does, and will work redemption.” (Pages 18-19)

            He goes on to say, “In the months and years following the accident, I realized that the tragedy itself, however catastrophic, could actually play a less significant role than what God could do with it and how I would respond to it.  Would it cause a downward spiral of destruction, or would it illumine and illustrate a story of grace and redemption?  I chose to believe it would tell a redemptive story, trusting that God was still God, sovereign and wise and good, however miserable I felt and distant God seemed to be.  I set my mind to ponder the redemptive course that was laid out before me, shrouded, as it was, in mystery.”  (Page 20)


Just in case you are wondering what Jerry means by “the redemptive course that was laid out before me,” this is what he means by “redemption.”  “The goal of redemption is not immediate happiness as we might define it now, but holiness of life; not the good life as we imagine it on Earth, but the perfection of Heaven itself, (p. 27).”


We’re in a concluding series of messages in the Gospel of John that we’re calling “The Path to Victory.” And in today’s passage, Jesus is talking to his closest friends, men who are more like family than his own family.  He’s telling them what is about to happen AND what it is going to do to them when it does happen.  Let’s pick it up in John 16:17-24, 33 (read).


Anybody here just LOVE grief and sorrow?  Anybody here wake up first thing in the morning and think, “Boy, I hope this day is filled with lots of difficulty, lots of struggle, a bunch of heartache, suffering and sadness!” Hopefully not.  We have special places called mental hospitals for people like that! 

            Trouble and trials in life come unbidden.  We don’t have to go looking for them; they find us…every one of us… given enough time and life.  God’s word makes it clear that this was not God’s “Plan A” for human experience. Suffering of all kinds is the direct and indirect result of human sin.

However suffering and difficulties in life became the new “Plan A” from the moment Adam and Eve introduced sin into the human experience.  God took what was to become universally the most difficult human experience and fashioned it to become one of the most powerful and potent tools in The Redeemer’s tool box. 


In this text in John 16, Jesus is addressing with the 12 Apostles a particular event of suffering that is about to rock their world.  It is going to shatter dreams they have had for decades.  It is going to lead one of them to commit suicide.  It will be an experience that will flood their lives with sorrow and grief like Grand Coolie Dam would flood the Columbia Basin if it ever burst in an earthquake. 

            So Jesus is trying to prepare them.  He not only wants them to survive this cataclysmic event that is about to unfold; he wants them to triumph in and through it.  And by teaching them what they need to know, he is laying out for every one of them and us some of the biblical truths any of us will need to embrace if trials, suffering and sorrow are to ever be redemptive in our own lives. 


This part of the Upper Room Discourse that unfolded that night Jesus was betrayed and arrested starts with some rather confused disciples. 

Vs. 17­“Some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he [Jesus] mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father?’  They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’?  We don’t understand what he is saying.’”

            Ever feel that way about God’s word?  If you have, you’re in good company…with the Apostles!  The way the Greek is constructed in this text (imperfect tense), it appears that there was considerable discussion going on that evening to try and figure out how Jesus’ departure/death could possibly fit with their idea of what He was supposed to be doing in setting up and building God’s kingdom on earth. 

            Do you ever feel that way about your life?  “God, how on earth can this event, this experience, this pain be part of anything good you are doing in my life?  If this is redemptive, I thought all that was settled at the cross.”

            Now notice that according to vs. 19, they weren’t asking Jesus about their questions.  They were muttering among themselves, wandering around, trying to find the right answer to a not-so-pleasant fireside chat Jesus was having with them. 

            So Jesus makes it all better with these words beginning in vs. 20—“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.”  WOW!  I’ll bet that had them feeling better immediately, right?

            “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  Really?  When?  Can’t we just go straight to the “joy” part of the story? 

            Then he draws them a picture that I’m sure made it all better.  Vs. 21“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” 

            Right about now I’m sure that some of you women who thought ‘natural childbirth’ was the way to go when you delivered your little bambino are thinking, “This sounds like something a man would say.  “Forgets the anguish”??? He’s got the “anguish” part right.  But the “forgets” part just isn’t even close to reality!” 

Jesus is making a comparison here, not an absolute statement about childbirth.  Most women never forget the pain they went through delivering a child.  But what Jesus is focusing on here is that while that pain was indeed “anguish,” in comparison with the joy that followed for a lifetime of having children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren from that one birthing experience, the pain fades but the party (joy) continues.


Here is one of the important things that suffering has to teach us in this life:  Pain is temporary for the child of God but the pleasure that can result is eternal.  (If you don’t like my term “pleasure”, substitute “joy”…and read John Piper’s book Desiring God which brilliantly lays out that yes, in fact, God has created us to long for pleasure in this life and the next.  The problem is we settle for the wrong, the inferior pleasures of the flesh and the world rather than holding out for the right, superior pleasures of

God and life in the Spirit.)


Where did pain come from in childbirth?  Genesis 3:16 leaves no doubt.  “To the woman he [God] said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children….”  Pain in childbirth is a direct result of sin in humanity.  And when a woman willingly chooses to get pregnant because she wants to fulfill that God-given longing to have children and raise up the next generation, she knows that childbirth is going to be painful.  But billions of women keep choosing that pain of childbirth over the pain that childlessness may bring.  Why?  They believe that the rewards they will experience for a lifetime will far outweigh the pain…the “anguish”…they will experience for a few hours of delivery.


This is precisely what Jesus is telling his disciples…and what he wants us to know and experience in the middle of life’s suffering:  pain is temporary but the pleasure/joy that can result from it is eternal for the child of God.  That’s one reason why the world without Christ has very little use for pain and suffering.  For them it is just a nuisance, something to be avoided at all cost.  That’s why our culture is addicted to everything from creature comforts to medical care. We will spend a fortune avoiding or managing pain through modern medicine yet spend virtually nothing trying to understand what the good might be on the other side of that pain that can only come to our lives through painful processes. 

            The old adage, “No pain, no gain,” is strangely true in so much of life.     


John Bryant, business leader and contributing author to Business News magazine had this to say about suffering and loss in a 2009 article.  He said, “Loss creates leaders.”

He continues, “I think a great deal about the kind of character you need to lead.

  • There's Candy Lightner.  On three separate occasions, three of her children were injured or killed by drug and alcohol impaired drivers.  It was on May 3, 1980, that her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was walking in her residential neighborhood in Fair Oaks, California, on her way to a church carnival when she was struck from behind by a drunken driver.  The crime was committed by a repeat DWI offender who had been released on bail for a hit and run drunken driving crash only two days before he killed Cari, his fifth offense in four years.  Candy Lightner started the MADD in her den on May 7, 1980, four days after the tragedy and a day after Cari's funeral.  Just 2 years later, after President Reagan appointed a blue-ribbon panel to suggest legal changes, over 400 laws nationwide were enacted to combat drunk driving.
  • Or take the childhood struggles of a Sam Walton, who understood poverty firsthand and later was able to build and expand a global business built on a simple premise: quality products for the working man at an affordable price. Of course that company today is Wal-Mart, and Mr. Walton drove the same pickup truck until the day he died. For him and many others, struggles and challenges translated into strengths and triumphs.”
  • Bryant says of his own life, “I grew up surrounded by a lack of hope in South Central Los Angeles, and later found[ed] Operation HOPE to make free enterprise and capitalism actually work for the poor.”  [John Hope Bryant, Business News,  Sept. 10, 2009]

Friends, there is a whole lot of good in this life and the next that can only come to us through painful experiences.  Despise them, run from them or avoid at all costs those experiences now and you will lose some of the BEST growth, joy and pleasures in the future.  But learn from them…and in them…and life will take on a whole new joy and depth you could never know without suffering.  Pain is temporary but the pleasure/joy that can result from it is eternal for the child of God. 


Jesus tells us something else here about something good that comes from hard things.  Vs. 20“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.”  Sorrow over evil in this world sets a Christ-follower apart from the world. 

            Sometimes it feels very strange living in this world as a child of God.  I’ve personally felt it more and more in the last few years than ever before. 

  • The world rejoices at its new-found “rights” that result in the death of millions of unborn children world-wide year after year.  They are rejoicing, but God’s children feel only sorrow every time we see what makes them rejoice.
  • The world literally parades its pride of sexual perversion before the cheers and applause of the culture, be it Friday nights on college campuses across the land… or during spring break at Florida beaches… or in broad daylight of city after city celebrating “Gay Pride” events.  Yet Christ-followers grieve and feel sorrow at the sight of the very same events because the Father has told us how destructive and damaging they are to the souls, hearts, minds and bodies of people.  But this world “rejoices.” 
  • The world throws lavish parties and celebrates the amassing of wealth, the rich in material goods.  It honors and holds up as models those who hoard massive amounts of wealth.  Meanwhile, the hearts of Christ-followers grieve knowing that “it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”
  • This world rejoices the more God-fearing Christ-followers are driven from the public square, silenced in the workplace, the school room, the university classroom and the courts across this nation. But the hearts of those who have walked with Christ grieve because we know what this will mean for our nation, our children and our cities.  “Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord,” but sadness and sorrow await those who reject the living God.   

The fact is, sorrow over evil in this world sets a Christ-follower apart from this world…and that is a good thing!


Here’s another GOOD that comes from times of trouble, sorrow and suffering: Vs. 20b—“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  Times of suffering make times of joy richer. Now certainly Jesus was telling them that their grief over his upcoming death would give way to greater joy over his soon-to-come resurrection.  For all the times Jesus told them, they didn’t really grasp nor believe it.  Christ’s resurrection would instantaneously change their despair into unmitigated joy. 

            Jesus knows that there are days of sadness and grief ahead for most of us.  But he also knows there is even greater joy on the other side of that grief. 

ILLSandy and I dated pretty steadily for about three years during and after college.  It was a wonderful time in our life and our relationship.  And then came that horrible realization in me that, for some strange reason, I just wasn’t sure that we were supposed to get married.  So I told her…stupidly, I might add… that I thought I needed to call it off.  That was a painful time in our relationship.  I wounded her deeply.  And it took me about 4 months to figure out that what we shared in love for each other was really an amazing thing. 

            So when I finally got my head screwed on right…and she found it in her heart to keep loving me despite the previous 4 months…the joy at finally knowing that we were moving towards marriage was something I had never experienced before.  And even with the occasional hard things of marriage, the joy we have experienced over the past 30 years of marriage truly makes those 4 months seem like a bad dream. 

            Sometimes we need to experience the darkness of the valley in order to grow room in our souls for a greater appreciation for the sunshine of the mountain tops. 


Maybe in a bigger sense all of life here on earth is somehow going to enhance the joys of heaven and life uninterrupted with God himself.  Jesus told his disciples in vs. 22 that “now [was their] time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  And he has told us that there will be sorrow in this life.  But he has also told us that the joy to come is truly “great.”  That wonderful doxology in Jude 1:24 speaks about, “…Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that it was future joy itself that enabled Jesus to endure the cross.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame….”  What do you suppose was that joy?  I think first it was the near, unfiltered, reunited presence of God the Father. And then I think it was the joy of redeeming people from every tribe and tongue, language and nation who will forever enjoy relationship with God at its finest. 

Even now, life is constructed such that joy is a powerful motivator.  Athletes endure years of pain and arduous training in order to experience the joy of winning.  Business people work and sacrifice and labor for the joy that comes with building something, with having more money, with helping others be employed and enjoy life. 

If there is NO joy or hope of joy in an arduous activity, we usually stop doing it, right? God wants us to be reminded by hardship and suffering that joy awaits us on the other side.  The world without Christ cannot say that.  They have no assurance that the future holds better days, eternal days of joy in the presence of God.  But we do.  And that reality should change what suffering does to us.  It should pin our hope on the joy to come.

In a very real sense, sorrow and suffering get us ready for heaven.   It prepares us for heaven by teaching us how unfulfilling life on earth is. Our souls know life can and will be better than this.  Aren’t we all longing and hoping for more heaven on earth…whether that is in the way government runs…or nations should deal with each other…or how families should be, etc., etc.?  Suffering makes us homesick for heaven.

One suffering saint put it this way.  “I have an appreciation of heaven gained from [illness]. As my body weakens from the lifelong impact of polio, to be honest, I have a deep frustration with it that makes me grateful for the perfect, beautiful, completely working resurrection body waiting for me on the other side. Suffering has done that for me. Paul explained what happens in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

One of the effects of suffering is to loosen our grasp on this life, because we shouldn't be thinking that life in a fallen world is as wonderful as we sometimes think it is. If this life were easy, we'd just love it too much. If God didn't make it painful, we'd never let go of it. Suffering reminds us that we live in an abnormal world. Suffering is abnormal—our souls protest, "This isn't right!" We need to be reminded that we are living in "Plan B." The perfect “Plan A” of God's beautiful, suffering-free creation was ruined when Adam and Eve fell. So God takes the pain of “Plan B” and uses it to grow us still. 

Vss. 22-24 bring in yet another very good result that can happen from sorrow and suffering.  “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Jesus was preparing his followers for precisely what you and I have experienced our entire life—the absence of Jesus in bodily form BUT the presence of His Spirit within our bodies.  Jesus is telling them that there is going to be a change of relationship.  No longer will they speak directly to Him about their needs and questions.  Rather they will speak directly with God the Father.  And when they would do that just as Jesus had shown them to do it…when they communicated with God the Father in Jesus name…then they would experience the joy Jesus had at embracing and doing the Father’s will. 

            Suffering draws us into a deeper prayer relationship with the Father that life without suffering will not bring us.  Suffering actually enhances our ability to pray like nothing else can. Praying is an instinctive human response to severe hardship. But effective prayer is a learned exercise.

            The prayer experience Jesus is talking about here is not one which the disciples would develop for simply the 3 days he was in the tomb.  It was one they would develop over their remaining lifetime as they learned to truly as “in Jesus’ name.”  I’m sorry, but I find that a really hard thing to do sometimes!   Just as Jesus learned through suffering to submit to the will of His Father, so we learn through suffering to submit to the will of our Lord Jesus.

It’s easy to ask the Father for something when what we really want is what he wants too.  But when we’re not sure if our longings are his will, then prayer takes on a new dimension.  It develops a submissive attitude that makes room for difficulty in a heart that would otherwise just want what will make life easier.  Then, too, what we think may make life better really won’t always do that.  Unable to see the end from the present like God does, we cannot know which course of difficulty will actually be the best in the end. 

Jesus most difficult hour on earth led him into perhaps his deepest praying in life.  The prospect of horrible suffering and death moved him into the place of deepest prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.


Finally, Jesus ends this discussion of difficulty and suffering in life with these words in verse 33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  I this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Suffering teaches us to abide in Christ. 

            The term here for “trouble” is, in some versions, translated “tribulation.”  It’s a Greek term that is also used of the process of treading grapes.  It’s what happens when you stomp grapes:  they are crushed and the wonderful grape juice is released that would otherwise cause them to rot or be lost to the process of drying them into raisins. 

            The difficulties of living in this world are “trouble.”  They are “tribulation,” a stomping of all we are.  They will be the very things that crush us and, in the process, release the life of Christ hidden within us.  

            “In the world” we have been promised trouble.  But “in Christ” we have been promised “peace” even in the midst of trouble.  Jesus didn’t say peace would be in our lives when troubles aren’t.  Rather he said HIS peace would show up when we showed up with our problems and made living “in Christ” more important to us than living comfortably in this world. 

            Jesus has already “overcome the world.”  There is not a single grief or hardship or challenge or “tribulation” we will face in life which Jesus has not already “overcome.” He didn’t bypass them.  He didn’t sidestep them.  He didn’t even  get crushed under them.  He OVERCAME them.  And he offers that same “overcoming” experience to anyone who will make it their goal in life’s sufferings to be found “in Christ”—embracing whatever tribulations this world can throw at us as God’s tools to grow us up in Christ.  


Remember Jerry Sittser whom I talked about at the beginning of this message?  In his latest book, he talks about how the terrible pain of grief he has walked through over the past 20 years has actually turned out to be just more of God’s redemptive miracle in his life.  He puts it this way.

“As I recall the joys and sorrows I did not know, nor could have anticipated, at the birth of my children, my mind wanders back to Banff National park.  I have two photos in an album, situated side by side. One is dated August 1991.  Four little children stand at the shore of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, the calm azure water stretching out behind them, a massive glacier looming in the background.  The other is dated July 2006.  Only three children stand at that shore of Lake Louise; they are tall and strong and beautiful, and they are making a silly pose, smiling playfully and contagiously.  The same lake stretches out behind them; the same glacier looms in the background. 

            Quite by accident, they are standing in the same place they were when that first photo was taken in 1991.  But a sibling is absent, and so is a mother.  I stare at those photos from time to time, my mind reviewing all that happened between those two occasions—so much that was hard, so much that was lovely and holy.  The time between those two photos constitutes a long chapter in our story, a story of paradox.  A family already redeemed through Jesus Christ, experiences redemption as an ongoing story of suffering, grace and growth.” (p. 24ff)

Robert Browning Hamilton expressed this truth in verse when he wrote:

I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!