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Matt Chandler says Christianity is only religion that handles suffering honestly: 'God's at work in the mess'

Matt Chandler
Pastor Matt Chandler preaches a sermon titled "What We'll Face" at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, on March 20, 2022. |

Village Church Pastor Matt Chandler told his congregation that, for Christians, “suffering is normal” and stressed that only Christianity — not the secular world or other religions — handles suffering, trials and pain “honestly.”

“Christianity doesn’t pretend that suffering is not real. It doesn’t pretend that it’s fair. It doesn’t pretend that it’s not really there. It doesn’t do that. Nor does it pretend that it doesn’t have meaning,” the 47-year-old pastor said in a March 20 sermon titled “What We’ll Face.”

The pastor told those gathered at the church’s Flower Mound, Texas, campus that God’s “at work in the mess.” He said God “strengthens and refines and calls into Himself, and grants life with and empowers through not the good times, but through the difficult times that expose our idols, shows us as weak and makes us desperate for His presence.”

Chandler said suffering is not abnormal because humans have been experiencing trials throughout history. But amid this reality, “Jesus is good,” he said, citing 1 Peter 3:18-22.

“Jesus’ pathway of suffering is the path to glory. It’s not a life of ease and comfort that’s the path to glory. We see in the suffering of Jesus Christ that once and for all He broke the back of sin.” 

Jesus Christ went to the cross, Chandler said, and absorbed God’s wrath toward all of humanity’s sin. 

“He hands to you His righteousness so that when God sees you, when the just Judge of the universe sees you, He sees the righteousness of Christ, which is why He delights in you and rejoices in you and celebrates you if you put your faith in His saving work,” Chandler said.

“He doesn’t come with new law. He doesn’t come with a new set of rules,” he added, referring to John 3:17, which says Jesus will return not to condemn but to save. 

Jesus has saved humans from sin and death, Chandler noted.

“I don’t know where I would be if He didn’t get me. ... I know what happens to us if God didn’t intervene,” the pastor elaborated.

When he looks at his wife, his children, his relationship with his church congregants and how God has healed him, Chandler realizes God is good even amid suffering.

“Like King David, He lifted me out of the muck and mire, and He set my feet on a rock. He’s good. And I’ve had brain cancer and a difficult marriage and all sorts of other issues and He’s good,” Chandler said.

“For nothing else, but He saved me. He rescued me, opened my eyes,” he continued.

Earlier in his sermon, Chandler shared how Christians can exist and thrive as they face the kind of suffering resulting from living in a world that is hostile to their faith. 

“We are a nuisance. We can kind of feel that,” he posited. “The predominant culture kind of sees us as a hurdle to get to the utopia that they have in view, our sexual ethic, our belief about marriage. ... ‘If you guys would just get over your archaic backward, historically abusive trauma-causing nonsense, we could get to the utopia of where we’re trying to go.’”

Chandler emphasized that Christians should submit to God's moral law to reveal His wisdom, beauty, and glory through suffering. On top of that, he said Christians should live a life of boldness. 

“How are we to live? … You live lives of beauty. God’s moral law matters. We pursue goodness. We live lives of beauty. We let the Word of God conform our lives into something that will be beautiful to those who will be saved and will be indicting and rage-causing for those who will not,” Chandler said. 

The Explicit Gospel author warned parents that it is vital to not only point their children to Jesus as they go through trials, but it’s also essential to refrain from enabling their children as they face struggles.

“What service do we do to our children when we coddle their disappointments?” he asked. “I’m not talking about comforting. Please comfort them. Life is brutal. You’re mom and dad. You’re meant to comfort them. But if you save them and treat them like candles, you are setting them up.”

“If all we’re perpetually doing is saving them from disappointment, you’re treating them like a candle. ... That’s on us to teach them fortitude; to let them own some of the pain that comes from dumb mistakes, to not constantly rescue,” he stressed.

Chandler told the congregation that they are stronger than they believe they are.  

“You are not that candle easily extinguished in the wind,” the pastor said. “You’re a bonfire. The wind makes you stronger, makes you burn hotter, it makes you brighter. So don’t always shield yourself from the wind. … Your growth as a person, it happens not in comfort but at the edge of your growth, where it feels stressful and painful. And that’s when you’re growing as a person.”

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