Desiring God Conference – Session Six

Today’s fourth session, featuring Steve Saint, is entitled “Sovereignty, Suffering and the Work of Missions.” Steve is the son of a missionary who was killed by natives in Ecuador some forty years ago. His father was part of the missionary group of which the better-known Jim Elliot was also a member. Steve has since become a missionary and worked among the very people who killed his father, even embracing as a close friend one of the men who ran a spear through his father.

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He provided the following definition of suffering: suffering is our expectation divided by our experience. Interestingly, he feels that “blessing” has the very same definition and that both are relative to what we expect. He also wished for us to understand that our own suffering is the greatest suffering that we can truly understand.

Saint then asked, “What is the purpose of suffering?” and answered the question by providing three of the many reasons we find in Scripture. Suffering may be God’s punishment; it may also be a revelation of God’s power, for God reveals His power to us through suffering; finally, it may be promote humility. He said also that while in North America it is considered noble to seek to avoid suffering and to shelter others from it, because we have not suffered we lose much of our effectiveness in ministering to those who have suffered since the suffering want to be ministered to from those who have likewise experienced suffering.

The bulk of the session was testimony from Saint’s life. He shared how he came to believe that God planned his father’s death. It was not something that happened or surprised God, but it was something He ordained. He realized that if God planned the death of His own righteous Son, it would not be inconsistent for Him to also plan the death of another of His people.

It was just a beautiful speech about the suffering Steve has experienced. What stood out is not the depth of the suffering, but the height of his faith and his growing acceptance of the total sovereignty of God. Steve’s story will be available in a book and in a motion picture, both of which are set to release next year.

Quote of the Session: “Why do we want every chapter to be good when God only promises that the final chapter will be good?”