Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Suffering part III

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death – Philippians 3:12

I have been talking a lot a lot about suffering.  If it seems that I’m lingering on the subject, I do so unapologetically; I do not want any to become disqualified in the race.  I do not want believers to be misinformed.  The whole Gospel must be preached.  We cannot afford to proclaim the, “Come to Jesus and all your sickness will be healed,” or the “Come to Jesus and all of your financial concerns will get taken care of approach.”

Yes, God is able to heal us but not all get healed.  Paul didn’t get healed (2 Corinthians 12:9).  When Timothy was having stomach difficulties, he wasn’t healed (1 Timothy 5:23).  Epaphroditus wasn’t instantly and miraculously healed (Philippians 2:25).  Remember, that if a piece of cloth touched Paul’s skin, it could be used to heal people (Acts 19) and Paul healed people in Malta (Acts 28).  And if Peter’s shadow fell upon someone, they would be healed (Acts 5).  Yet, God did not miraculously heal Paul, Timothy, or Epaphroditus.

Yes, God does prosper us and meet our needs, but Jesus also said that if He was persecuted, His followers would also be persecuted (John 15:20).

What I am saying is this; if a new believer comes to Christ under the false precept that all of their financial difficulties will be taken care of, what happens if the new believer’s financial woes are not lifted instantly?  This may be damaging to someone so young in their faith.

So, this suffering stuff, what’s that got to do with me?  Read the rest of Philippians chapter 3.  Paul said that he is pressing toward the goal which is attaining resurrection from the dead.  Paul is focused on reaching the end that he forgets all that is behind him (verse 13).  Then Paul says that all mature believers should think that way and if they don’t, God’s going to reveal that to them (verse 15).  Then in verse 17, Paul tells us that we should be imitators of him, and desire to know the sufferings of Christ and becoming like in His death.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).  And again in 2 Timothy 2:3, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”  And again in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul writes, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul equates suffering with being a leader in the church, but also with being a believer.  Paul wrote this in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

The very instant we accepted Jesus, we now have an enemy.  Peter said that the devil is wandering around like a roaring lion looking for victims to devour.  Then Peter writes, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:8-10).

Remember, there is a much higher calling.  We shouldn’t settle for living in a comfortable home, financial blessing, and a life without struggle.  This life is temporary, heaven is eternal.  This life is but a breath and a whisper compared to what is to come.  As the moon reflects the glory of the sun, the world we are living in is just a small reflection of the glory that awaits; or rather it is a shadow.

To remind you of this, I will leave you with a few closing verses.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:16-18

The struggles and the hardships that we will face are nothing compared with the glory that has been revealed to us.  If we are not healed in this present age, we will be given an imperishable body in resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42).  If in this present age we face strife and hardships, Jesus returns we will be in a place without tears, without mourning, and without pain (Revelation 21:4).  If in this present age we are homeless, there will be a mansion waiting for us in heaven (John 14:1-3).  If we are lacking financially in this present age, in the New Jerusalem gold is just pavement (Revelation 21:21).