Joy while suffering?

My friend Shafkat Khan passed away in Nairobi, Kenya recently.  Here’s my eulogy which was read at his memorial service:


There have been times when I read passages in the bible about suffering and they just didn’t make sense to me. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Can one have joy in Jesus when life stinks?

I know the answer is “yes” intellectually but in reality – I’m wasn’t so sure. That is until i met Shafkat. Shafkat was the walking answer – no, make that, he was the rolling answer – to my questions about joy in suffering.

I met Shafkat years after his accident and faith in Christ. My wife, Josephine, is from Nairobi so we’ve been making trips to visit family and friends every few years since 1991. During one of those trips, Josephine and I met Shafkat and Sabia. In their home over food, at the Muutuki’s and at New City (Nairobi), our friendship continued from one visit to the next.

Shafkat was the kind of man whom one does not easily forget. It was obvious from seeing him that there had been struggles in his life, and yet, there was a joy in his speech that was almost beyond comprehension.

The reality of a man who had suffered & was yet filled with joy was stunning.

Conversations were marked with passion and laughter and energy. Shafkat had a mind that moved – moved in ways that displayed the love of Christ he knew personally and deeply wanted to share with others.

Can God use suffering for his glory? Yes. Can those who suffer experience joy right now – not just later in some “by and by”? Yes. Can those who suffer now be used by God to bring hope and peace to others? Yes. God brought Shafkat to me and to many others to let us know that the answers are “YES and YES and YES!!”

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan. Not just because he was a godly man in a wheelchair who was used by God. If that’s all we focus on, we make him out to be some sort of unusual example that’s not really relevant for the rest of us. No – we thank God for the life of Shafkat because he was a humble and yet energetic man who loved Jesus.

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan because his life pointed us to a God who redeems us AND then uses us in all of OUR shortcomings for His glory.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. God prepared Shafkat over many years for the glory he is now experiencing.

May our lives honour Shafkat in such a way that we too, live with joy now as we are filled with hope in the days to come.

A Trinitarian Wedding Prayer

This weekend I had the privilege of asking God to bless Oong Lee IMG_2243and Elena Clemente during their beautiful wedding in southern Italy.  I was honoured to be asked. This is what I prayed in English – it was translated line by line into Italian during the service:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. We give you the honour and the praise for this day. We ask that you would receive glory through the lives of Oong and Elena for many years to come.

We thank you Father for the fact that you knew about this day from eternity past and you have already prepared the steps for Oong and Elena together.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you showed us what love looks like. This is what we see when we look at the cross. You made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live – so that Oong and Elena can live in love.

We pray that their marriage would be rooted in the gospel as they learn to repent to one another, as they learn to forgive one another and as they learn to love each other deeper and deeper as time moves on.

IMG_2267Jesus we thank you that you have not left Oong and Elena alone as they seek to create a life based on love together. For we know that marriage has difficulties – Jesus, you promised that we will have struggles in this life. But you also promised that you would send us your Spirit.

We pray that Oong and Elena would be comforted by the Spirit. As the painful times come, we ask that they would seek your face. We ask that the Spirit would be at work in their hearts that they may seek to put their spouse’s needs before their own. We ask that the Spirit would guide them through all the difficult decisions in life.

Our Father, we give Oong and Elena to you. They are your children and we ask that you would continue to bless them in the days and weeks and years to come. We ask that their lives together would be a testimony to your work.

As the world sees a British-Korean husband and an Italian wife living a life together marked by love and peace, may the world understand your gospel of grace which reconciles us to you and to each other.

We trust you for their future together – bless them and keep them for your glory.

In Jesus name we pray,


Walking into difficulties

God calls his people into difficulties.  We see this throughout the bible.

Adam was called to subdue the earth.  Noah was called to build a boat in the desert.  Abraham was called to travel to an unknown country.  Moses was called to confront the most powerful man on earth.  Esther was called to interrupt the king possibly leading to her death. Jesus called his disciples to follow him – a poor homeless teacher.

When you follow Jesus, he doesn’t just make you a comfy bed, fluff your pillow and provide “Holy Spirit room service” whenever you get hungry.

When you follow Jesus, God calls you into difficult places with difficult people doing difficult tasks.  And that is HARD!

It’s not easy to be faithful in London.  It’s not easy being faithful anywhere in the world.

But thankfully we have a God who not only calls us into difficult situations, he has gone before us and promises to be with us as we walk into the difficulties of life.

The night Jesus was arrested, he prayed “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Thankfully, Jesus continued forward into the difficulty before him.

May his followers do the same.

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