Wednesday, September 4, 2013

For Christ's Sake: Think it Not Strange (Why We Suffer)













That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death.

(Philippians 3:10)












Many believers today suffer through situations and the cares of this life without really understanding why.  Some bow out of their relationship with God while others accept it with tired resignation as the life that they are to live as a Christian or a believer.  Still others buck and kick against their suffering never understanding why they are suffering.   Some even indict God and become angry with Him.  Think about this, without a situation of suffering, you'll never come to know the power of Jesus in your life.  Suffering can actually become an opportunity for the power of God to be demonstrated in our life.

The word of God is full of accounts of people, even Jesus, who suffered.  There are several reasons why we, as believers, suffer.  No one is raising their hand or signing up to suffer but yet, we must go through it in one form or another.  It is the disciple, Peter, who he himself suffered, tells us:   

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;  I Peter 4:1

We often view suffering through our own limited intellect, but if you view it spiritually, you will see, for instance, in the life of Jesus, that it was the greatest demonstration of God’s power because it resulted in mankind’s salvation.  Jesus knew that He was to suffer greatly in order to complete His God-given assignment and prayed to His heavenly father:

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.  Luke 22:42

Apostle Paul, who most definitely suffered for his belief and assignment from God, understood the demonstration of God’s power behind the suffering.  In this instance, God spoke to his disciple, Ananias, and told him about Apostle Paul:

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.  Acts 9:16

 Paul spoke of his suffering, saying:   

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Because you are suffering through something; going through a test or a trial, whatever hard thing you may be experiencing, it is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed over as if you have done something wrong (although this may be the cause in some cases).  Because of our human reasoning, we never see power in weakness or failure. This is a strange attitude for people whose center of faith is the cross. Jesus experienced the resurrection after He had suffered.  Resurrection power came through the fellowship of His suffering.  Apostle Paul understood it.  He said:  

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death.  Philippians 3:10

For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.  II Corinthians 13:4

If there is never any suffering, or problems or crisis in your life,  then there will never be a demonstration of true spiritual power.  Power turns what the world calls an ordeal into an opportunity for the demonstration of the power of God.  The glory of God is revealed in your suffering as you see a situation that you could not handle on your own work itself out through the demonstration of the power of God.

There must first be a clear understanding that God did not create suffering. It originally entered the world through man’s sin which was instigated by Satan. (Genesis 3) When man yielded to Satan's temptation and sinned, suffering entered the world. Sin, which resulted in all suffering, can be traced to its originator, Satan. Although there are different reasons why suffering enters your life, all suffering can be traced back to this original source. 

However, God can take suffering, which Satan intends for evil, and turn it for good to accomplish His purposes. Let me repeat this:  


It can actually become an opportunity for the power of God 
to be demonstrated in your life.

You will find in God’s word that it speaks volumes on our suffering, our problems, crisis, afflictions including illnesses, etc.  It lets you know that we will suffer in one form or another but all suffering, regardless of its nature is due to one of 5 reasons.  All suffering we face in life will come through one of these ways:

v      OTHERS AROUND YOU:

Suffering and difficult circumstances of life may come through others around us.

Examine the life of young Joseph as an example of this type of suffering. Through no fault of his own, Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers, was imprisoned falsely by Potiphar's wife, and was forgotten by those he helped in prison. But read his response. Joseph said: 

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. . . so now it was not you that sent me hither but God. (Genesis 45:5, 7)

v      CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE:

The second way suffering comes to us is through the circumstances of life. This is illustrated by the experiences of Naomi recorded in the book of Ruth in the Bible. She was blindsided with sorrow because of the death of her husband and sons. When Naomi experienced these difficult circumstances of life, she said, 

"No longer call me Naomi (which means blessed), but call me Mara." The name Mara means "bitter."  (Ruth 1:20)

However, Naomi did not let the bitter circumstances of her life cripple her.  She took measures to be closer to her God in her decision to return to Judah and was blessed for it in the end.


v       YOUR MINISTRY:

Another reason for suffering is because of our ministry for the Lord. The word of God speaks of suffering in the following ways because of your ministry:

        • for His name's sake                  (Acts 9:16), 
        • in behalf of Christ,                    (Philippians 1:29), 
        • for the Kingdom of God           (II Thessalonians 1:5), 
        • for the Gospel                             (II Timothy 1:11-12), 
        • for well-doing                             (I Peter 2:19-20; 3:17), 
        • for righteousness sake              (I Peter 3:14), 
        • as a Christian                              (I Peter 4:15-16), 
      • and according to the will of God       (I Peter 4:19).

Examine the life of Apostle Paul.  His was an excellent example of suffering resulting from ministry. Some people view suffering as a sign of failure or lack of faith. If this is true, then the Apostle Paul had no faith and was the greatest failure in the history of the church.

When Paul was first called of God to ministry he was told of great things he would suffer for the sake of the Lord 

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.  (Acts 9:16) 


Paul's response to suffering was to endure "the loss of all things to win some for Christ." He wrote to believers:


For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (Philippians 1:29)

Paul was not alone in suffering for the ministry. The whole church suffered in New Testament times (Acts 8).   Hebrews 11 records the accounts of some of the cruel persecutions endured by the servants of God.   But some of these believers, who are also called men and women of faith, did not receive such deliverance. They were imprisoned, afflicted, tormented, and even martyred because of their testimony of the Gospel. 

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
 (Hebrews 11:36-40) 

We focus on living faith but God also reveals His power in dying faith. This is a faith that stands true in the bad times, not just in good times when mighty deliverance is manifested.

The encouragement today is to: 


Stand strong in your faith in God and know this one thing:  
Either God willed it or He allowed it.  
Either way, know by your faith in Him that He will see you through it!


(Biblical Studies)

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03/06/17
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