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The Call To Suffer

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.” (Romans 8:17-18)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy within the Church at this present hour is the complete and utter denial of the Christian’s call to suffer. If we are to believe the teaching coming from most pulpits (and virtually all of the “Bible teaching” being presented on Television), we would conclude that it is never the will of God for His people to endure hardship and suffering. The liberal believes that much of the suffering and hardship of church members is the result of gross social injustice and oppression, and that more programs need to be implemented in order to relieve these inequalities. The fundamentalist, on the other hand, is more often than not taught that it is the error of the one enduring the hardship who has brought the condition upon themselves and that a little more faith on their part would surely alleviate the situation.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, emphasis added)

Why is it that so often our first reaction to suffering is that something is wrong when the Lord Jesus Himself told us that we would face tribulation? The Apostle Peter urged the believer to not consider the fiery trials of life as strange, but something to be expected and even a cause for rejoicing (1 Pet. 4:12-13). Even so, the hardships that the Christian faces are usually seen as something highly undesirable, something that we seek to be out from under as quickly as possible, and, in the viewpoint of a great many church-goers, a possible indication of something wrong in the inward life of the particular person. Many sermons are preached about how to rid ourselves of trouble (or avoid trouble altogether) – we must pray more, study more, give more, fellowship more…sin less –  but it is the rare message that instructs the child of God how to patiently endure the call to suffer for our Lord’s sake (Phil. 1:29).

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Cor. 4:17)

To “rejoice in suffering” and to “praise God in the midst of persecution” is a concept that is completely foreign in an age where comfort and ease are are the chief goals of most people. Difficulty is avoided at all costs and hardship is shunned wherever possible in favor of the path of least resistance. Yet the road that follows the will of God often leads straight through the desert and dry places. Tribulation will surely come to all of us and, more often than not, the closer we walk with God the rockier the trail becomes.

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. (Romans 8:18)

We must never conclude that God delights in our suffering since He calls us into them. God is certainly no sadist; the Lord is easily touched with the feelings of our infirmities and temptations (Heb. 4:15). Neither are we instructed to be masochistic, enjoying the pain that comes our way. But we are admonished to see the big picture, to see things from God’s point of view, and realize that the sufferings of this present hour endure but for a moment.

God allows trials and hardships to come upon every believer, accomplishing His purposes in ways we do not always undertsand, and we do well to remember that the sufferings we face in this life are not even in the same ball park as the glories that await us in the next. When we put all of the sufferings we endured during this life up against all of the blessed glories that God has in store for us in the next, they will look very small and insignificant indeed. As the mother who endures the pains of child-birth for a few hours is rewarded with a child to love for a lifetime, so it is with the Christian whose sufferings will end in the blink of an eye and whose rewards will endure for eternity.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

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6 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing, Loren

    “When we put all of the sufferings we endured during this life up against all of the blessed glories that God has in store for us in the next, they will look very small and insignificant indeed.”
    There are days I feel I have already endured too much, but I know His timing is perfect. Great to be reminded that He does not delight in our sorrow/suffering.
    Blessings
    ann

    SIDEBAR: The idea of suffering for Christ is a question I ask myself when I view the Easter celebrations of some cultures, where individuals are beaten and nailed to crosses as a means of identifying with what Christ did for us… What are your thoughts

    P.S. Thanks for the Abnormal Psychology refresher :-)

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  2. “There are days I feel I have already endured too much, but I know His timing is perfect”

    Amen to that. Looking forward to that day when He shall wipe away all tears; when death and sorrow and pain have all passed away (Rev. 21:4) :)

    I actually considered mentioning in this post the Christians, particularly in the Middle Ages, who did things to themselves in order to “enter into Christ’s sufferings.” The monks who would sleep on hard boards, or wear shirts made of coarse animal hair, or spend days and weeks sitting on a small platform high above the ground. Some individuals have gone to great lengths to ensure that they were suffering and not living a life of comfort! I have seen footage of the folks you mentioned: people having themselves nailed to crosses, beaten with whips, crowned with thorns, etc.

    I don’t believe that any of us has even the slightest clue about how much the Lord Jesus endured to secure our Salvation. It is worth noting that not one of the Gospels really go into any detail about what happened during those six hours on the Cross. We know that Mankind poured out all their anger and hatred against the Son of God and did their worst. Then God the Father poured out His wrath against all the sin of man upon the Lord Jesus. The suffering that the Lord endured is unimaginable.

    With that in mind, I honestly feel that it is an insult to the sacredness of our Lord’s Passion to “re-enact” His torture. At the risk of judging motives, it seems to me that the people carrying out these rituals are looking for the praise of others (the mock crucifixions I saw footage of had quite an audience) rather than trying to get closer to God. Perhaps there are some who perform these gruesome ceremonies away from public view that we are unaware of. As you know, tradition holds that St. Peter requested to be crucified upside down rather than die in the identical manner as Jesus. He declared that he was not worthy to be put to death in the same way as his Lord. I don’t think that he would approve of what these people are doing with their mock crucifixions.

    It really strikes me as peculiar that any Christian would feel the need to seek out suffering. We don’t need to wear hair shirts, flagellate ourselves, or have our friends drive spikes through our wrists. All we need to do is take a stand for God and we can be certain that the suffering and persecution will come. Maybe it won’t be as dramatic as these other things, but it will be hardship and suffering enough (2 Tim. 3:12).

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Ann, God bless you :)

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  3. What a great post , Loren. And thank you for your careful reply to Ann too! It’s like two posts in one! Your discussion of suffering helps center me on Him again, Loren. So much around us screams out about our “rights”. The things that I “suffer,” I also see Him in, covering me and keeping me. As you explain it, I am blessed, because I get confused about both the need for a program to make it right or that it’s something that I have done wrong. God bless you and the delight He takes in you sharing His Word.

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  4. “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.” (1 Pet. 2:20)

    Gotta admit, I really have a hard time accepting suffering for doing well! You’re correct: it is the mindset of everything in this world to stand up for yourself, fight for your “rights”, don’t let people walk all over you. I once heard a sermon where the preacher pointed out that not one single time in the Gospels do we ever see the Lord Jesus asserting His rights or demanding what He was entitled to. We waste so much of our time and energy fighting for things that our Lord apparently didn’t feel were too important.

    Have you had a Gethsemane?
    Have you prayed the night through?
    Have you shed tears in agony
    when no hope was in you?

    Have you prayed, “If it is thy will
    may this cup pass from me?
    But if it’s your will, dear Lord,
    I will bear it for thee?” (“Have You Had A Gethsemane?” – lyrics by Bill Gaither)

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  5. God bless you, Loren.

    Thanks for your usual thorough response.
    A friend of mine always says “The greatest thing is to know…”, meaning lack of knowledge will be our downfall. Scriptural too!

    I don’t want to stand in the line of the disappointed who will hear Him say “That was not what I asked You to do.” Much of what I did in my earlier years came from what was taught by the elders of the church. As I allowed the Holy Spirit to lead me, I started to trust His direction and seek His face and His guidance rather than man made rules. I give Him the glory for what He has changed in me.

    That being said, there are still many who are bound by what they think they need to do…. Many remain bound by man’s interpretation and only God can bring their freedom. I am praying it will be sooner rather than later.

    Blessings
    ann

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  6. […] The Call To Suffer (answersfromthebook.org) […]

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