Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Is there anyone reading these words who does not like to wake to a day when the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is shining brightly? In summertime, when we have planned a day outside with the family, this is certainly a welcome sight. Yet we all know that sometimes we awake to ominous, dark clouds and gusting storm winds.
One of the first lessons I learned from my seminary professors was the importance of preaching the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27 NKJV). We were instructed to preach not only the love, grace, mercy, and kindness of God, but also to preach His holiness, justice, and judgment too—what the Puritans called “the stormy north side of Christ.” It will serve us well on our way to the Celestial City to remember that God has two sides, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ by both of those sides, perhaps even more so from the stormy north side.
It has been said that it must be the business of the preacher to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The only way this will be accomplished is by preaching the whole counsel of God, which includes His stormy north side. John Henry Newman put it this way:
Those who make comfort the great subject of their preaching seem to mistake the end of their ministry. Holiness is the great end, comfort is a cordial, but no one drinks cordials from morning to night.
The problem for many in the church today is that they are looking for happiness, not holiness—the good life, not the godly life—and I can assure you these are as far apart as the east is from the west! God is in the business of conforming us to the image of His beloved Son, so we should expect to spend some time on the stormy north side of our Savior. Remember that our Lord experienced more than His share of trials and difficulties during His time on earth! Peter exhorts us to remember that “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Christian, keep in mind that our Savior is not just there with us in the boat in the middle of the storm; He is the One who sent the storm. And if Jesus is the One who has ordained the storm, we can be fully confident that it is ultimately designed to wean us away from the things of this world and cause us to cling to Christ.
To be sure, the stormy north side of our Savior is not a place of comfort. The writer of Hebrews acknowledged that “No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful,” but he went on to provide a promise that you and I can cling to in the most ferocious storms: “Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). The harvest of righteousness and peace is promised to those who receive and rest in the stormy north side of the Savior.
May that be the confession of your life today . . . and every day on this side of the grave.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!