I recently watched on YouTube a sermon by Bill Johnson, a Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in the USA. He gave the message only three days after his 67-year-old wife passed away from cancer.
Bill makes some bold statements in this sermon including the following interesting comments, which I’ve paraphrased:
Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose a “no pain option” in our spiritual journey. God says in His Word, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Bill makes the statement that these words only have meaning when you experience pain. Judgement is a heart attitude and “backsliders in heart” will always judge God by what He didn’t do. The question “why” should never take us away from God.
Loss is in fact a special moment and an opportunity to grow down into a more childlike faith; to learn to trust Him no matter what. Faith will always have an element of mystery to it. Unlike popular culture suggests, God does not operate as a vending machine on demand.
There are many more gems in this sermon. There is an integrity in Bill’s words as he shares the reality of pain and loss. This is a man whose ministry has been marked with the outpouring of incredible teaching. A man with a close walk with God and whose ministry has been blessed with many signs and wonders and the power of God.
Yet, he like you and I, has also suffered great pain and loss. But it hasn’t shaken his faith in God.
The Bible is very clear that there are seasons in life when pain and loss will occur. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
As I have proceeded through life, I have experienced loss and pain. I’ve learnt to grieve healthily, to adjust and move on strengthened by the experience. The key for me to process the loss and pain, is my hope in an absolutely good God and Heavenly Father.
The comment of Bill’s that impacted me the most was, “There is an aspect and measure of His presence that can only be found in the valley of the shadow of death.”
When I was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, the Lord took me to Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
That day my specialist had said there was a shadow of death over my life. What he didn’t tell me was that they didn’t expect me to survive more than five years.
That night in my time of reflection with God, He walked me through the valley of the shadow of death and revealed to me that it was but a shadow, not death itself. This encounter with His presence brought me into a confidence in Him, that death was not to be feared and that He would heal me. What I missed that night was the revelation of His great love for me. When I heard Bill’s words, they took me back to that night’s encounter with God and I saw the revelation that I hadn’t fully embraced. Ah, the depth of His presence.
What I missed that night God spoke again to me about three weeks later. My daughter was at a conference. A stranger said to her that God had a message for her. That Psalm 23:4 was special for her. When she told me, I cried as the revelation of His love hit me.
Over the last 17 years I have faced death several times, but I have found the peace of God and learnt that I can always trust Him.
I recommend that you watch this video, but please before you watch it, can I ask that you ponder and reflect on the issues of loss, pain and even death in your life to date. Click here to watch: Bill Johnson preaching after his wife's passing