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Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (And Its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler and Friends. The Good Book Company, 240 pages. 2019

David Roark, Communications and Resources Director at The Village Church, is the General Editor of this unique book. He writes that the hope of the book is to tell you that even though we will all suffer; we can find hope and purpose in that suffering. The book includes chapters from pastors and ministers and members, and former pastors and ministers and members, of The Village, a church located in Texas, where Matt Chandler is one the lead pastors.
Each chapter of the book represents someone’s story—and what God has shown that individual in and through their suffering—that has been a part of the church’s bigger story. Some of the chapters are written by people I was familiar with (Matt Chandler, his wife Lauren Chandler, hip-hop artist Tedashii and his wife Danielle, and writer Lore Ferguson Wilbert), and some were written by people from the church that I was not familiar with.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

Between chapters are included excerpts from the video blogs that Matt Chandler recorded for the church as he walked through his own suffering in the wake of collapsing with a brain tumor (oligodendroglioma) on Thanksgiving, 2009, and his subsequent surgery and treatment. Together, the stories are a reminder that they are people who have learned to suffer well together as they’ve walked together and leaned on the Lord together through so much.
Matt Chandler writes the opening and closing chapters. He tells us that we will all suffer at some point; it’s just a matter of when. He writes that one of the more significant revelations that he gained from watching believers suffer faithfully was that you’re going to get the grace of God when you need it. He tells us that joy and sorrow can co-exist for the Christian. We can be totally confused, and yet at peace, at the same time.
He writes of studying and teaching about suffering to his growing church, and how that became foundational to the life of the church. He tells us that one of the greatest ironies and joys of his life is that while he was preparing to help his people suffer, God was preparing him to suffer. After suffering a seizure from a brain tumor on Thanksgiving, 2009, and being told that he probably only had 2-3 years to live, he wasn’t walking alongside those in our church who were suffering anymore. He was now the one walking through the valley. He writes that the book is about what happened to him and in him after that Thanksgiving Day—how the Lord showed up, and what he did, and what Chandler learned. But more than that, it’s about those who he has learned from. It’s the stories of the precious brothers and sisters who taught him in their lives how to suffer well. These chapters reflect how the Lord showed up in their lives. These are accounts of how, through their faithfulness and joy in the valley, they showed their church, and have taught their pastor, how to suffer well.
This is a difficult book to read as it is about very real suffering, sorrow and loss. But it is also a book that shows us how they (and we) can have joy in the sorrow.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • It doesn’t make any sense to try to hide suffering and brokenness, when it’s clearly a part of life in this world; and when it’s clearly a part of the gospel that Jesus is with us in the mess, in the storms, and in the pain. Matt Chandler
  • God is with his people through suffering and through difficulty, so that they come out on the other side as a picture of grace and glory, and he uses them in their pain and changes the world through the results of their trials. Matt Chandler
  • If you’re not real about the reality of sorrow, you end up creating guilt and shame in people around suffering. Matt Chandler
  • Whatever God has ordained for us today is for our good: not only the things that are fun and comfortable, but the fire as well. For only when the gold has been purified can it reflect the Refiner’s face. Jeanne Damoff
  • In each overwhelming moment, Christ has already paid your passage. There is not a single moment in this life that need crush you. Guy Delcambre
  • No matter how many days we live on earth, God sovereignly reigns over every one of them. Kyle Porter
  • Suffering serves a purpose beyond what we can see or understand. Kyle Porter
  • When we suffer, we will either run to God or away from him. God wants us to run to him. Charity Ready
  • Suffering is an assumed reality in the Scriptures. The world is broken because of our sin, which means no one escapes hardship on this side of heaven. Anne Lincoln Holibaugh
  • Could God still be good and therefore do good by withholding one blessing (children) and in its place giving another, stranger and unsought, blessing (childlessness)? Lore Ferguson Wilbert
  • God used my bout with cancer to lower me, to change me, and to exalt himself. Matt Chandler

  • God’s Providence in 2020. On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, Tony Reinke talks to John Piper about his major new book Providence, which will be published January 12.
  • 10 Things You Should Know about the Sexual Revolution. I enjoyed a January term course at Covenant Seminary with Carl Trueman on B.B. Warfield a few years back. This list is from Trueman’s new book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.  
  • Keep a Close Watch on Your Tongue (and Thumb). Jeff Robinson reviews Daniel Darling’s latest book A Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good. He writes “Darling’s book is well-written, humorous at times and, because it’s rooted in Scripture, convicting in a way that’s compelling without being preachy. The book teaches us much about our proclivity toward sinful communication, and it provides wisdom as to how we should treat one another online as followers of Christ.” You can read my review of the book here.
  • Upcoming R.C. Sproul Biography. I’m looking forward to Stephen Nichol’s upcoming biography of R. C. Sproul, titled R.C. Sproul: A Life, to be published March 2.
  • Scott Sauls’ Antidote for Outrage. Andrew Shaughnessy interviews Scott Sauls about his new book A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them. You can read my review of the book here.

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur
We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”?  MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer.  For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges.  The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 21: The Certainty of Judgment. Here are a few of my takeaways from the chapter:

  • While justification and sanctification are distinct theological concepts, both are essential elements of salvation.
  • God will not declare a person righteous without also making him or her righteous.
  • Those whose faith is authentic are certain to become holy, and those who lack true faith can never be holy. They have no hope of seeing God, except to stand before Him in judgment.
  • Many who think they are saved but live unholy lives will be shocked to discover in the final judgment that heaven is not their destiny.
  • Real faith is as concerned with doing the will of God as with affirming the facts of true doctrine.
  • Periodic doubts about one’s salvation are not necessarily wrong. Such doubts must be confronted and dealt with honestly and biblically.
  • It has become quite popular to teach professing Christians that they can enjoy assurance of salvation no matter what their lives are like. That teaching is nothing but practical antinomianism. It encourages people living in hypocrisy, disobedience, and sin by offering them a false assurance. It discourages self-examination. And that clearly violates Scripture.
  • Whatever the reasons, many (Matt. 7:22) who have identified themselves with Christ and Christianity will be turned away at the judgment.
  • If your life does not reveal growth in grace and righteousness and holiness, you need to examine the reality of your faith — even if you believe you have done great things in the name of Christ.
  • The validation of salvation is a life of obedience. It is the only possible proof that a person really knows Jesus Christ. If one does not obey Christ as a pattern of life, then professing to know Him is an empty verbal exercise.
  • Some will stand, and some will fall. Those who stand are true believers; those who fall are those who never really believed at all. The difference will be seen in whether obedience followed the hearing, whether a life of righteousness followed the profession of faith.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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