Saturday, November 07, 2009

Called to Suffer for His Sake

Perhaps the greatest non-verbal witness for Jesus Christ is when a believer’s suffering produces a humble and grateful joy.

Rom.8:17-18 - 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.

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.

II Cor.1:5-7 - For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

Phil.3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

I Pet.4:12-14 - Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

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.

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.

Acts 5:40-42 - 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.

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

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

II Cor.6:3-10 - Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Phil.1:28-30 - And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

I Thess.3:3- That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

II Tim.2:11-12 - It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:

I Pet.:18-24 - Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Pet.3:14 - 17 - But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

II Cor.4:15-18 - For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.


This is not a post; this is a message to the church. I have no credentials but God’s Spirit and I claim no special revelation apart from that which is clear in Scripture and illuminated by the Spirit of God. But this message can change the spiritual direction of some if they sense the Spirit’s enlightenment, and let it never be that anyone would change because of the persuasiveness of my words. But there just may be those out there who sense that something is wrong in the church apart from the usual battles concerning the gospel. Somewhere we have taken a detour and everyday much of the church moves further away from Christ, even as some stand for Biblical truth.

There came a time when the Deceiver presented his case to the church. He suggested strongly to us that God desired us to stand up for our rights and be bold in our culture. This boldness, Satan suggested, must recoil at persecution and resist any suffering whether it be political, financial, or even spiritual. This philosophy has taught us to attack back when we are attacked by the world, and we have learned how to complain and murmur when persecution and suffering is brought upon us.

No longer do we endure patiently for Christ’s sake and, in fact, we are vigilant for any hint of inconvenience, much less persecution, and we quickly and aggressively challenge anything that in context is just a mild irritant. We are ready to exhibit outrage when we perceive that “Christianity” is under “attack”, and without hesitation we rise to castigate our tormentors and organize campaigns to confront these unwarranted afflictions. Suffering is foreign to us and we refuse to receive it unchallenged. The church demands to be respected and heard in any issue, be it moral or political, that she deems necessary. While Christ was called “that fellow” and worse yet “Beelzebub”, we renounce anyone who would dare assail us in any manner.

The world has forgotten the picture of the Suffering Servant since the church has long since discarded that tired and worn caricature. People now see Jesus as a moral crusader who spoils the enemy’s camp with caustic words, political leverage, and a host of soldiers who demand their rights in this earthly kingdom. Silence is not an option and patience is now weakness. Suffering to the glory of God is completely out of vogue in this new and political ecclesiastical atmosphere. Revival comes every four years in November, and after the election the church either declares victory or begins a four year campaign of bellyaching and evil speaking.

Humility has been lost long ago and self righteousness is now called “standing for truth”. And when you read the Scriptures I gave and discern the principle teaching that is open and obvious, we should ask ourselves how we ever morphed into a cultural machine rather than a dramatic redemptive light embedded in a world of darkness. The distinctive characteristics of the church, those reenactments of the Lord Jesus, have been pushed aside. And the cross, the pinnacle of Christlikeness, is now just a tenant of our faith, neatly printed in our statements of faith, gospel tracts, and systematic theologies. The sufferings of that event are long gone, and the church seems profoundly uninterested in replicating them on any level.

We do not want sickness, we do not want poverty, we do not want shame, we do not want to be marginalized, we do not want humiliation, we do not want persecution, and we do not want to suffer. And we can complain with the unsaved when general financial or healthcare sufferings come to all of us, but when we are singled out for criticism as believers we will burn the bridges and return fire for fire. There is nothing different or remarkable about us since those in darkness see how we react when attacked or inconvenienced; we react just like they do. If you complain, it is not suffering.

But these are not the commandments we were given, and these are not the manifestations of the One we profess to follow. In fact, we were told to expect persecution and suffering. And we were told that they are miraculous opportunities to demonstrate the reality of a kingdom not of this world and a King who is above all. The evil one is quite satisfied with our tit for tat games, but he is terrified should we ever seriously take upon the lowly and meek yoke of our Redeemer. Instead of the church being the unchallenged example of power through humility, most people today assign that to Gandhi. How pitiful.

I have heard people attempt to dilute this teaching and make room for the flesh by asking, “Are we just supposed to be doormats?” That sentence represents an attitude that is blind to our calling, and in most cases we are indeed made to be suffering doormats. Is the cross better than a doormat? All our lives we have been raised in a culture of competition and bravado, and the church has significantly bought into that philosophy. We cannot compete on the battlefield of western self esteem and power shifts. Our power is made perfect in weakness and our strength is in Him. Our light is diffused in earthly battles and Christ as brought down when we leave our calling for self platitudes of moral courage. It requires the greatest of courage to deny ourselves and allow His gospel to radiate, especially when it is so tempting to confront evil through arguments and political savvy. And when our so called “rights” have been removed, we must view it as an opportunity for a greater and more perfect revelation of Him who laid down His rights.

Does true spiritual boldness come through the same venues as does earthly boldness? Or does spiritual boldness take on a unique manifestation, one that defies human reasoning and that has no logical chance to accomplish anything? Are we to throw our hats into the constant harangue of moral and political disputes, or is our calling dramatically different than the accepted norm? Somehow we have lost the will to suffer for His sake, and we have redesigned a suffering construct that allows us to feel persecuted about moral and political issues, many times because believers are just as verbally violent as their unsaved counter parts.

I do not have the faith to expect the church as a whole to awaken to the pitiful expression of Christ we have now become. The evangelical machine with all its nationalistic and political accoutrements will continue to march to some mirage they call victory. But there just may be some individual believers who have had enough. And in these moments of frustration, they can reassess the entire Christian experience juxtaposed against the teachings of the New Testament. But this will not be easy since the Spirit may lead us into areas of startling discomfort and profound redirection. And there will be those around us, some very committed to Christ, who will attempt to dilute and dissuade us from this journey back into the Scriptures.

And our flesh will rise up and resist any significant change. And if our flesh cannot keep us from our task, it will fill us with judgment and self righteousness and a feeling of spiritual superiority; all of which is completely at odds with our pursuit. For a start I suggest reading the verses I printed at the beginning. Meditate on them and read the chapters from which they came. Ask the Spirit to sweep away entrenched thoughts and beliefs you have that are road blocks to being like Jesus. And when you find teachings that are thoroughly against what you have been led to believe, then repent and begin to believe the truth. And in all things pray, pray, and pray some more.

This is still a journey and not a destination. The reward will be the journey itself, and the glory will be the extent to which He shines through you. Stumbling will sometimes be steps forward, and frustration will be learning. And there may be an instant, perhaps a startling instant, when you consider the thought that this modern expression of Christianity is in many ways a contradiction to the New Testament itself. Never leave the redemption that is found in Christ alone. Never leave this so great salvation that is by faith alone. Never leave the gospel of Jesus Christ. But place your life upon the overhead projector, place Christ on top of your life, turn the projector of the Spirit on, and look at the screen and see how much of you is projected and how much of Him is projected.

And when you see it…
start to make the necessary adjustments with joy, humility,
and a constant vision of Him on your horizon.
But be prepared to endure the greatest suffering of all.
The denial of yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Revival comes every four years in November...." A stunning indictment and all too true. Relieved to say I "saw the light" on this form of entrapment back in 2000. Fellow believers are simply aghast at my refusal to join any crusade that smacks of politics. Any efforts along those lines do not further God's kingdom. Period.