Having had the chance to publish John Stott’s 1952 Parochial Evangelism online, back in January, here is another next instalment from the archives. I was sorting out my bookshelves (at last) and came across his little booklet called “Why Do The Innocent Suffer? The Message of Job” (from 1956). Once again Uncle John has given his permission to have this released in this way, so that we can see what he was up to over 50 years ago!
How this came about:
- It started life as a talk given at the All Souls Doctors’ service (in 1955): because All Souls sits in the heart of London’s medical fraternity (Wigmore St & Harley St are in the parish), this service used to be a regular occurrence.
- Then it was written up for the the Evangelical Alliance’s national magazine
- Then it was published as a small booklet (for all of 6d!) and re-released several times
As with the 1952 booklet, all the hallmarks of Stott’s writing are already clearly evident:
- a thorough,detailed grasp of the text in hand
- a crystal clarity and succinctness
- nice symmetry in the headings (but shock horror – 4 points here not 3!)
- apt (if brief) pastoral applications
There are some brilliant moments. I was particularly struck by the beauty as well as the profound challenge of this paragraph on the 4th comforter, Elihu:
Do not the buds of Christlikeness break into their finest blossom during or after a period of trial? Do not the flowers of faith and fortitude grow best in a sickroom? Does not the Lord Jesus become more real and precious when we lie on our back and are forced to look up into His face? Does not our moral and spiritual perspective become adjusted when we are snatched from the fevered rush of life and are transferred into the seclusion and the tranquillity of illness? Do we not come to value our heavenly treasure more highly when we have lost our earthly health or possessions, relatives or friends? God’s purpose is to transform us into the beautiful image of His Son Jesus, and one of His methods is to allow us to suffer. Elihu has a real contribution to make in this debate. But his is not the last word.
Read the whole thing to see what the last word is!