SUFFERING IN HIS NAME
Suffering quietly and without complaint in deference to Christ is a sacred place where the flesh is crucified and the Risen Christ is magnified.
Rom.8: 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.
II Cor.1: 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 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.
Phil.3: 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Jam.5: 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
I Pet.4: 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.
Suffering. Our flesh recoils at the word and we do our best to avoid any hint of it. The verses I provided speak of suffering mostly in the context of suffering for Christ. They speak to the 1st century believers who were being persecuted for their faith, and if they truly desired to follow Christ it would cost them dearly. It may cost them their lives. But Paul and James and Peter not only speak openly about suffering as a believer, but they exhort their fellow saints to receive it with grace, humility, and even joy. That seems so out of place in this generation of taking up the slightest offense when even criticized by others.
But before we delve into the heart of that subject, let us reveal a more disturbing aspect of the western version of Christianity. How many believers murmur and complain about things which are not even part of being persecution for their faith? The list of things about which professing believers complain is almost endless. In fact it is the exact list about which the unbelievers complain. Here are but a few:
Risqué television programs and movies
Irritating family members
Problems with the house or the car
People in general
Bad consumer service
And these are but a few of the categories about which professing believers complain. And their unbelieving brothers in Adam complain about the very same issues. And these are not issues about which believers are persecuted for Christ’s sake. These are “It rains on the just and the unjust” issues. So you would think that we as followers of Jesus and possessors of eternal life would have no problem enduring them without sinning with our lips. And by having a humble and joyful spirit in the midst of any of these adversities we could let our lights shine to those in darkness. That is what you might think, but generally you would be wrong.
The community of faith has become accomplished complainers. The words and attitudes that come forth from believer’s lips do a disservice to the gospel and actually sin against God. And although it is sometimes difficult to walk in the Spirit when the winds of life are blowing directly at you, we still should draw upon the power within us and glorify Him. But why do we complain about these things instead? It is because, again, we have become a part of this fallen culture and in many ways we emulate the unbelievers and not the Word of God. We have become immune to the ways of the Spirit and have succumbed to the ways of the heathen.
And instead of proving our commitment to the Lord Jesus by our heart attitudes and our words, we let some antiseptic statement of faith do that for us while we do and say whatever our flesh demands. I would not dare suggest we consider what He suffered for us since that is post-graduate work in the Spirit. But I would ask us to consider just how usable our lives could be if we kept our lips from sinning.
Phil.2: 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
When the Spirit exhorts us to be “holding forth the word of life” He does not speak of passing out your doctrinal views. He is speaking of living and speaking in such a way that the Word is seen and heard through a living breathing follower of Jesus. Even though written doctrine is important, we have made it the exclusive revelation of our faith. So how did the gospel spread throughout the post Pentecost world when most could not read or write and the New Testament was not even finished? It spread through the simplicity of the gospel, its inherent power, and the power of human prisms which lived according to the teachings of Jesus.
And so we are continually presented with a choice and a challenge. Do we actually believe we are joint heirs with Christ and that the glory which awaits us is incomparable to any sufferings we might endure upon this earth, or will we succumb to unbelief and bellow just like those who know not Christ? And even more specific, will we adjoin ourselves to those of a church who have no authentic desire to be conformed to His image and in so doing we think and speak and act just like the heathen culture?
We all must suffer. Sometimes it is just what is common to man and sometimes it may be for Christ’s sake. But in either case we must put on Christ and die to self and offer up a sacrifice of praise which is a fragrance which honors our Lord. Suffering is difficult and painful and humbling…like the cross.
II Sam.24: 22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.
24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
25 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
What do you actually sacrifice for Christ? Take a moment and make a mental list of things you sacrifice for Jesus’ sake. Do you ever go hungry” Do you ever go thirsty? Do you ever go without transportation? Do you even go without television or music? Do you ever go without a phone? Do you have only one or two sets of clothes? Have you gone one month without eating out? Have you ever given so much of your income to the poor and needy that you were left for a week or two without money? When was the last time you fasted any significant length of time?
Have you complained about anything this past month? Have you held in the slightest bit of unforgiveness in your heart? Have you risen an hour early or stayed up an hour late just to pray? How many times have you repented of something this past week? Have you deprived yourself of entertainment for any length of time? Have you ever worked overtime just to earn some money which you could give completely to the work of God or send directly to some missionaries? Have you gone one month without any unwholesome words coming from your lips? Have you prayed earnestly for your enemies?
So I put this question to all of us who live in the lap of luxury called America. What have we sacrificed for Jesus that actually cost us something? Notice I said “sacrifice”. Do we even understand what the word means as it pertains to serving our Lord? Are we not on autopilot much of the time? And when we suffer things that are common to man are we quick to complain or quick to praise? Who are we kidding? If you actually read the accounts concerning the lives of the early believers and then juxtapose that against the lives we lead one of two things become very clear. Either they were unenlightened and legalistic men and women who suffered needlessly, or we are unenlightened modernists who have carefully infused hedonism with Christianity.
Suffering can either be a sacred offering which glorifies our Redeemer or it can be another platform to complain about our circumstances. What would you say if Bill Gates lost a five dollar bill and loudly complained about it? Would we not think he had either lost his mind or he was the stingiest man in the world? What would you say about a man who has been given eternal life and yet complains about a bad day or a bad situation? You probably would say he either doesn’t really believe he has eternal life or he is the most ungrateful and self centered man in the world. But what would you say about a man who went through any and all trials with patience, humility, and sense of rejoicing?
You might say that he does not care about the things of this world.
And you might think he knows something we don’t.
You might think this world is not his real home.
And you would be correct.