ACCEPTING SUFFERING AS A GIFT FROM GOD
Scripture: Philippians 3:10
Main Theme: How do we view suffering? Many would say that they do not think that God wants His kids to suffer. Therefore let us seek our answer from the Word of God, and see what we are told?
Why then, I would say, that Jesus said of the apostle Paul in Acts 9:16, “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” If one takes the time to study the life of the apostle Paul, one will come to see that he most definitely not only did he suffer, but he suffered almost unbearably. Had it not been for the grace and strength of God, Paul would have never been the man God used to pen thirteen books of the Bible (Hebrews being attributed as one of those books, which some may argue over, but in this preacher’s, mind, and heart Hebrews was also written by Paul). The apostle Paul speaks of his suffering in 2 Corinthians 11:21-33, which as one reads, it would help greatly if one would meditate on exactly what the apostle is talking about. I would say that many of us cannot even begin to imagine the suffering Paul speaks about because we live in such a world of comfort, and because so few “Christians” are following Christ, and facing persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), few know the true meaning of suffering for Christ. Biblically speaking, according to Philippians 3:10, if we want the power of God, then we must want fellowship with the sufferings that come as a child of God.
Dr. Harold L. Willmington had made him a wall plaque. On it, he had, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.” One day a friend, walked in, admiring the plaque that Dr. Willmington had that he used as his life verse. His friend told him that although he had Philippians 3:10 on the plaque, he had left off a portion of the verse. The verse says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Dr. Willmington had been greatly inspired by the first portion of the verse, but not so much about the second. He wanted the power of Jesus’ resurrection, without the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, which is an impossibility.” I think it safe to say that if we could have his power without the sufferings, we would all choose to do so. However, if you have ever suffered for the cause of Christ in any way, in any form, regardless of what it may be, then as I have found, we would rejoice, just as Peter and the disciples of Jesus as we read in Acts 5:41, which says, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. Here we see Peter, the one who denied Jesus, and the others who fled when Jesus was taken prisoner in the garden, because of fear that they too would be treated just as Jesus, now have the power to stand before this set of hypocritical religious leaders not concerned now with what would happen to them. I hope you see what is being said here by Luke, the writer of Acts, God is the Author. We should be so joyful when times come, because of our Christian testimony, our stand for Christ, even if it seems we may stand alone (though Jesus is ever with us in the Person of The Holy Spirit), or even others with us, that we are identified with Christ. We, who are so unworthy, especially this preacher, are viewed by the world as ambassadors of Christ, members of His body, and eventually of His eternal Kingdom.
Many in our day would say that they suffer, but is that suffering for the cause of Christ. If one looks back into church history and would get a copy of Fox’s Book of Martyrs (2), then you will find out just what suffering for the cause of Christ is, because many of those suffered to the point of giving their life, some being tortured before death, even in at least one case and entire family put to death, with the mother being forced to watch her children killed one by one before her, then she was put to death. In the Word of God, in the book of Hebrews, in the chapter, we see what some call “the hall of Faith”, how many suffered for the cause of Christ. Hebrews 11, and especially once one gets to Hebrews 11:34-41, we see several ways Christians suffered, especially in the early years, and continuing through the present history of the church, suffered. Tortured, having the opportunity to avoid death by denying Christ, yet chose death over denying the Christ in whom they knew to be their Savior, the One in Whom their eternal life with God has been secured, by paying a sin debt that wasn’t his, but by doing so satisfied the justice of God, thus making a way to God for all who accept Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. Then we are told others were mocked, scourged, put into prisons, being bound, some stoned, such as the first martyr, Stephen, some “sawn asunder”, cut up, probably being alive as those who did this horrific act of using a saw and cutting a living human being and killing them. Can we even begin to imagine the awful screams that one would wail when the blade began to saw into them, cutting first through their flesh, then the muscles, then to and through their bones? I can honestly say that even though we can only imagine, we cannot fathom such a thing. If we have surgery, because of the pain of being cut, we are put into a state of sleep, and even then being given something for the pain. Therefore to say that we have no idea of what these great warriors of Christ went through this preacher feels would be a correct statement. This preacher has been cut into due to operations at least eighteen times, and take my word for it, without DRUGS, the ones they use to knock me out with, I would have never consented to have any of those surgeries, but these Christians had no choice, because of their relationship with Christ was real.
Though many in America do not know about it, there are still many going through persecution and violence which can lead to death in many countries. If you get the chance, go to the website for “Voice of the Martyr’s”. I would also recommend the following books: “HATED WITHOUT A REASON”, “Hearts of FIRE”, “NO LONGER A SLUMDOG”, as well as a book I spoke of earlier, “FOX’S BOOK OF MARTYR’S”. These resources will enlighten our minds and hearts to what others have done to make sure that we can hear the gospel and those who even today are giving their lives for the cause of Christ.
I leave you with one question? If in the event time comes when you have the chance to either proclaim Christ, but by doing so die a hideous and violent death, or deny Christ, and be spared the vicious acts of sinful men towards you, what would you do? How about we with families? Would we be able to stand by, and taking that stand for Christ, and see them violently put to death, being tortured, or even beheaded, that family in whom we treasure, the ones we see as a gift from God in our lives. I tell you now, that what I have just stated will happen. There will come a day when some will have to be willing to give up everything they have, as we need to realize that we own nothing, for what we have are the tools and things God has given us to accomplish His will, but they belong still only to Him. Many will die as a result of their stand, some seeing their own families brutally murdered before their own eyes, as well as themselves. I can say with a heart that loves my God, “I AM WILLING TO LOSE ALL I HAVE, THAT I MAY KNOW CHRIST, AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, BEING MADE CONFORMABLE UNTO HIS DEATH;”, however, I can only answer for me. To make that statement, God must be your everything, because when we die, unless Jesus takes us in the Rapture, then we will most certainly attend a funeral one day “as the guest of honor”, our bodies lying in a coffin, or being tossed into a mass grave with the bodies of other believers. Having taken our last breath, we will go directly to either heaven (Genesis 35:18/Luke 16:20-22) or hell (Luke 16:19-31). The choice is yours, and today could well be your last chance to decide your eternal fate. You may be skeptical and say that by saying nothing you are making no-decision. However, if you fail to accept Christ, then to hell you will go because your sin debt was never paid, and you have been guilty also of calling God a liar (John 3:18). God the Father made a way for it to be paid through His Son Jesus Christ, but to receive that gift (Romans 6:23), you must accept it. Allow me this final illustration. Let’s imagine that I give you a check in the amount that will pay all you owe to everyone for your entire life. Once I offer the check, you must do two things. First, you must accept it (that’s salvation, accepting what Jesus did for us with His life and death). Secondly, you must cash it (that’s allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life, Him becoming the one in control, which is a way we can view both the Lordship of Jesus Christ). As a Christian, once accepting the payment Jesus offered, and now having Him as Lord, each day we live is a life of sanctification, which means not only has God set us apart, but He prepares us to do that for which we were created to do, making us the people He has called us to be. To do this, I would liken it to taking off old clothes, getting rid of them (as God little by little strips off of us the dirt and vile of sinful habits, out of sinful thinking, and sinful situations). As God removes those old clothes, old sins, ways, etc., He replaces then with that which is so much better that we wonder what took us so long to get to where we are, because we have spent our lives searching for happiness, and after a long search, we find that happiness can only be found in Jesus, and we now have a joy inwards, deeply rooted into our heart, that nothing can ever take it away. What a glorious feeling to come to this point in life. But you will only get here by Jesus, and even in suffering, we can rejoice.
- 30th Anniversary edition, Willmington’s GUIDE to the BIBLE, DR. HAROLD L. WILLMINGTON, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois, 2011, pg. 750
- “FOX’S BOOK OF MARTYR’S”, John Fox, SwordSearcher 8.4, Brandon Staggs, Broken Arrow, OK. 74014 (THIS BOOK IS ON THE PROGRAM LISTED, BUT CAN BE PURCHASED SEPARATELY BY SIMPLY SEARCHING FOR IT IN BOOKSTORES OR IN GOOGLE)
- “HATED WITHOUT A REASON”, PATRICK SOOKHDEO, Issac Publishing, 1934 Old Gallows Road, Suite 350, Vienna, VA 22182, 2019-2020
- “Hearts of FIRE”, The Voice of the Martyrs team writers, VOM Books, P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, OK 74005-0443, 2015
- “NO LONGER A SLUMDOG”, K.P. YOHANNAN, GFA Books, 1116 St. Thomas Way, Wills Point, TX. 75169, 2017