Sunday, September 16, 2007

Suffering: What the Word Says

SUFFERING (In the Christian context) : To be abused for Christ’s sake.

Of the all the subjects covered by the Word of God, the subject of suffering is one of the most neglected by preachers, evangelists, and teachers. No one likes to think about the possibility of having to suffer or face persecution for their faith, but many have and continue to do so around the world. And this should come as no surprise, for God’s dealt at length with the subject and it can be found in some form in nearly every book of the bible. Suffering for Christ’s sake is so much a part of God’s will for believers, that He admonishes us to bear it patiently and to look ahead (just as Christ did) to our future reward.

As always, we at feel a calling to bring forth the topics the church needs to hear, even if it is a word she may not want to hear. For those who have experienced suffering for the cause of Christ firsthand, we pray this unit will minister to your spirit and draw you into ever increasing intimacy with the One Who came to suffer so unjustly for us all. Amen.

Matthew 26: 38 – 39, 42 - 44 (KJV)

38) Then He saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.

39) And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.

42) He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O My father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.

43) And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44) And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

...And so begins the loneliest journey ever made. It is quite impossible for anyone to adequately comprehend what was facing Jesus Christ our Lord. He was about to take on the guilt for personally committing every filthy, defiling, and bloody sin of the human race. – And you think you’ve felt loneliness! Even He, as God in human form, felt the immense pressure of such an act. The man in Him cried out for mercy. If there could be ANY OTHER WAY Father, - let it happen!

The silence from heaven was deafening. Nothing. No compromise would be offered. And so the innocent became the guilty. - For you. - For me. - For “whosoever will.”

Thank you Lord Jesus!

1st Peter 5: 6 – 11 (KJV)
6) Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exhalt you in due time:

7) Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.

8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

9) Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

10) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

11) To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Here we see that nothing comes our way that escapes the knowledge of God. So if He allows us to suffer, it has a higher purpose. It isn’t because He’s quit loving us. He cares for us more than we understand. We’re told to be sober and vigilant because we have an adversary that wishes to harm us. He’s the one behind the persecution. Yet God allows it. Why? Because He’s called us unto His eternal glory. What does that mean?

1st Peter 4: 12 – 14 (KJV)

12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.

There will be no higher honor in heaven than to be known for having suffered for Christ’s name on earth and to have successfully overcome. God loves us enough that He will not remove that opportunity for our future and eternal honor when it comes our way. The fact is that it is worth whatever it costs us now. And truly loving God enough to live for Him will cost us something. Be it family, friends, or fortune. Just remember what Jesus said in the book of Mark:

Mark 8: 34 – 37 (KJV)

34) And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

35) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

36) For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

37) Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus never minced words, did He? Unfortunately, we can’t make the same claim.
Church has sure come along way. It’s casual, It’s compromised, It’s carnal. Not much danger of hearing a sermon on the hardships of taking up your cross and following Christ. Not today. Why we wouldn’t want to scare off the ones we’re trying to induce to come in, would we? Cheap grace, that’s all folks want. Just some “warm fuzzies” to make them feel good and a fire escape from hell. I fear that if many people who claim to be saved today were to encounter real suffering for the name of Christ, they wouldn’t last too long. I can hear it now: “Sorry, I didn’t sign on for this! Hey, you never said anything about persecution, - I’m outta here, Dude!

And I can almost imagine a voice from above saying, - “Good riddance!”

Yeah, I thought that line would surprise you. Too harsh? Not really. Not when you consider the price that was paid for our salvation. We owe everything to Jesus, and if our association with Him ends up costing us something along the way, - so be it. His association with us cost Him, - everything! - Selah, (think about it).

Hebrews 12: 2 – 4 (Amp)

2) Looking Jesus, Who is the Leader and Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and also its Finisher [bring to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1].

3) Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

4) You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood.

Isaiah 53 (KJV)

1) Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

2) For he shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

3) He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we his as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

4) Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7) He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.

8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off from out of the land of the living: for the transgression of My people He was stricken.

9) And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.

10) Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

11) He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.

12) Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

...What an AWESOME God we serve!!! Angels bow before Him. Heaven and earth adore Him. What an AWESOME God we serve!!!

As we see, Jesus suffered more than we can ever expect to. Still, He has promised rewards to those who’s lives lead them down the path of suffering for His sake.

Matthew 5: 10 – 12 (KJV)

10) Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11) Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

13) Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Hebrews 13: 3, 12 – 13 (Amp)

3) Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings.

12) Therefore Jesus also suffered and died outside the [city’s] gate in order that He might purify and consecrate the people through [the shedding of] His own blood and set them apart as holy [for God].

14) Let us then go forth [from all that would prevent us] to Him outside the camp [at Calvary], bearing the contempt and abuse and shame with Him. [Lev. 16:27.]

The Holy Spirit also constantly monitors the treatment of God’s children, and gives them consolation, comfort, and assurance they are indeed the children of God:

Romans 8: 16 –18 (KJV)

16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.

18) For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

...And that brings us back to the glory again! God irrefutably ties our suffering here to our glory there! With all the suffering God’s people have gone through, through the ages, no wonder heaven’s such a glorious place! There you have it. If you find yourself in the midst of persecution or if you suffer for your Christian commitment take heart oh child of God! Just remember, it truly IS an honor to be counted worthy to suffer on His account!
Not only that, but you’re in some extremely good company...

Acts 5: 40 – 42 (KJV)

40) And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41) And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

42) And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

One final verse comes to mind that reveals God has higher purposes than we see and/or understand here on earth. Listen to what He told Pharaoh when he refused to obey Moses...

Romans 9 : 17 (KJV)

17) ...Even for this purpose have I raised you up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

May we as Christians be found worthy of accomplishing God’s highest purposes for our brief time on earth!

...Well, - “GLORY!!!”



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