Tautolo puts ‘no pain, no gain’ in spiritual sense
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
We walk around with a miniature computer in our hand, able to search for whatever we need – the nearest coffee shop, the latest news or just about whatever our heart desires – in seconds. Technology is supposed to solve the world’s ills, and yet there still is suffering, there still is pain, and people search for new solutions.
Just as they did 2,000 years ago, without the help of a cell phone.
Emma Tautolo of Athletes in Action brought a spiritual GPS to Chapel on Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena. The answers, she said, are in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and Philippians – that’s the only location you need to plug in.
It comes down to this: Suffering is part of the deal, no matter whether you’re a Christian or not. No matter what.
“This gospel that Paul is preaching, it seems a little different from the one that we might hear in our culture’s rhetoric today that resists anything uncomfortable, especially if it affects me or mine or my autonomy,” she said.
“… I think at times I have either bought into that lie or I even wonder to myself, ‘Have I sold that lie to someone else?’ Have I presented the choice to follow Jesus as this really fluffy, cute nature walk with the perfectly manicured path?’”
Paul encountered similar sentiments, Tautolo noted. That’s why he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:6:
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
“So it seems that while the church was on the struggle bus because affliction and suffering were kicking their butts,” Tautolo said. “Paul is trying to remind them that, hey, the Good News was never meant to insulate believers from suffering and affliction. Instead, the Good News is always accompanied by them.”
Later, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while chained in prison, and Tautolo pointed out that the chains were “no joke.”
“While they were used to keep prisoners from escaping,” she said, “just the mere weight of the chains was part of the prisoner’s punishment.”
In Philippians 3:19, he warned them not to be concerned about avoiding the discomfort of suffering, of not letting suffering affect their faith:
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
The Philippians, like the Thessalonians before them, thought that following Christ would solve their problems — and yet Paul was so joyful even though his main problem was far bigger than any of theirs. His faith was the reason why. He had rejected all those earthly things.
“Paul wanted his converts in Philippi to understand that when believers participate in suffering like Christ, it will lead to resurrection and to light,” Tautolo said.
That doesn’t mean that suffering will be easy to accept, and Tautolo brought with her a pain that is still fresh: Her mother was diagnosed with cancer just weeks after Tautolo’s previous Chapel talk, in January 2017, and died two months ago.
She had begun her talk by telling the story of being asked, when she was a college sophomore, whether her faith would be remain strong amid the suffering she was sure to encounter in her life. Losing her mother at such a young age was a classic example of suffering that would test her affirmative answer.
“Even though I’ve walked with Jesus for a decently long time at this point,” she said, “I’m still the one who cries out, ‘Why me? Why this? Why our family? How long, O Lord? Where the heck is the hope and the joy that Paul keeps talking about when he talks about suffering?”
The words of Paul have reminded her of three things:
- We weren’t made for suffering, and it will not be forever. “If there was no sin,” she said, “there would be no suffering. But since every part of our world has been broken and distorted by sin, we as believers are called to be participants in the sometimes painful process of pointing toward a new age when sin will be no more … all while we still suffer in the waiting.”
- Those who know suffering know great joy. “Joy does not come out of a pain-free environment but a suffering one,” Tautolo said. “And there is a difference between joy and happiness because the roots that produce joy grow strong and deep and rich in the soil of much affliction.”
- Following Jesus is a community activity. That is why believers come together in worship and prayer, she said. “We are not superheroes, y’all, but we are a people,” she said. “And we are a people who bear one another’s burdens.”
Tautolo wanted to make sure her audience understood that this does not mean people should look for suffering as a way to validate their faith.
“That would maybe be the most asinine, foolish, unwise anybody could ever do,” she said. “… As a believer, suffering will find you eventually.”
No matter how much you try to steer your GPS away from it.
● For a replay of Chapel, including the music by the Worship team, click here.
● Next week’s speaker will be Sean Moore, Faith Christian Center
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.