Today I want to address the issue of suffering in the body of Christ. This is a topic touched upon in every book of the Bible. It is also an issue that I personally wrestle with daily, such as the suffering of our boys in Africa who are doing God’s amazing work. They serve on the streets without pay, without rent, without food, and only occasionally medical care is obtained. They are beaten, thrown in jail, abused, abducted, tormented, and they all shout, “DO SOMETHING MOM!” “HELP ME!” because no one likes to suffer. Even Jesus did not want to suffer!
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Mt 26:39
Lately I had become discouraged with God’s methods of care for these guys, which to me, amounted to neglect. And I accused Him of taking terrible care of His children in Africa. That was because there was very little money to help them out of their suffering. I could no longer stand the pain of my own helplessness to remove their suffering. God even said, “That is the same pain I feel, when my children will not give financially to help their brothers.”
It was in response to my accusation against Him, that God spoke to me and asked me to give up my medications. Immediately I asked Him, “Are You going to heal me?” There was no answer. I realized I would have no direct promise of that, and as I grappled with the dangerous route I was setting upon, fear looked for a place of entrance. You see, my medications kept my stressful, emotionally pain-filled life under control; medications for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and my arthritic and lyme disease joint pain. Yet, I felt somewhat joyful that God was even asking me to give them up, inferring that He was involved in it. I trusted God.
I began to get rid of these medications one by one during the month of February 2015. At one point I thought I was having a stroke, yet it turned out to be nothing. The last medication to go was the joint pain medication that enabled me to move. The result of that medications’ finality caused me to become overnight, the slowest creature on the planet, with every movement tagged with terrible pain. This every-movement pain became my cost for obedience to Christ. Every morning a new dread of the day’s pain-filled movements would overtake me. One day during this dread, I heard, “Write on the topic of suffering.” I began my exploration into the world of redemptive suffering with that command.
Phil:1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only #1. to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
There it was in once sentence. I was shocked. All in one package: believing and suffering. And not only that but, #1. suffering for the sake of your belief in Jesus!
I already wanted to wiggle out of that one. Yet this was the daily life of our Street Pastors.
2 Tim 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Heb 10:32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
The amazing Apostle Paul who gave us most of the New Testament of Jesus Christ had this recorded about his ministry:
ACTS 9:15 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must #2. suffer for My name’s sake.”
Acts 5:41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
The Lord did not say, “My Son bore pain so that you do not have to. Go dance and enjoy your way into the establishment of my church on earth.” NO, He asked the Apostle Paul, as well as us, to follow in His footsteps of suffering. In this case it was to show glory to God’s Name. But how would suffering bring glory to God’s Name?
I thought praises did that. And what about miracles? And to that list we must add sufferings? It was blowing my previous thinking out the window.
2 Tim 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner, but join with me in #3. suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
2 Tim 2:9 for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.
Third we have discovered suffering for the preaching of the gospel with power. And 2Tim1:8 refers to joining hands with those who are suffering for the gospel. I began to think how so few join our small organization in donations and prayers, in order to fulfill the “joining in” with those suffering for the gospel. Instead we prefer our good times of fellowship, and our wonderful programs and conferences, where there is no price of suffering to be paid; just a happy life in Christ Jesus. This is the marked characteristic of the western church. But it is not found in the persecuted church of the rest of the world where Christian freedom does not exist. There are places where believers would do anything to get a bible. The places where baptism means instant end of family ties, community, all friends, accompanied with beatings, hunting you for your death, dire poverty from previous riches, etc.
Why don’t we labor with them? Wouldn’t that fulfill the believer’s judgment requirement of giving a cup of cold water to the least of these MY BRETHERN? We MUST refocus with a world-view. Even the poor in the West can have a free bible app on their cell phones!
Phil 3:8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
Phil 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
So far we have found biblical commands to suffer for:
#1 Our belief in His Name.
#2. To give God’s name Glory.
#3. To suffer for the gospel (according to the power of God.)
#4 To suffer for doing the right thing! Read on.
1 peter 3
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.
Suffering for holding God’s standards, gets you get blessings! …
For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
It seems that in the Christian life we do not get the choice to avoid suffering as it is something woven into our lives by God, for a higher good.
I remembered that worship in the old-testament involved altars and different kinds of sacrifice. Then I recalled Jesus was referred to as “the sacrifice lamb” who takes away the sins of the world. This, I realized, involved suffering for the good of others. One suffers so that many can be free. But us, His body on earth…. we are to sacrifice and suffer? And willingly?
2 Cor. 1:5,6 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,.
Lets’ take the example of fasting. Fasting involves the sacrifice of food for a higher good (our purpose for fasting) with the suffering part being our hunger. The denial of the flesh is something that brings good spiritual results. This is a way to enter into redemptive suffering for the good of others or for the spread of the Kingdom of God. In Christiandom we have a whole season of fasting called Lent leading up to the remembrance of the crucifixion of our Lord, which results in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead known as Easter.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
THE SUFFERING CREATION
What could this possibly mean? Could it be that when death entered the earth through the disobedience of Eve and Adam eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that the whole creation was affected? Perhaps more than just the earth was affected, and God’s highest creation (man) caused suffering throughout the whole creation?
Romans 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
Now I want to address the suffering that we reap from the enemy and from our fallen and unredeemed (without Christ) nature. This kind of suffering has no purpose but to lead someone on a direct path to destruction and death. The majority of the population of the world is found in this category being held in bondage through false religion or addiction, hopelessness, and pure evil. There is no redeeming value here.
Suppose you are a drug addict. Lets’ say the pain in your life (suffering ) is so great that you cannot possibly live without your drug. Eventually you die from an overdose (by choice) because it is an easy way to avoid the suffering.
For more information on the five step ladder of evil, read my $7 book, “The Ladder of Evil Revealed” by Jane Snyder …. Amazon
SUFFERING AND GLORY
There are so many scriptures relating our sharing the sufferings of Christ with sharing His Glory. It is the blessed promise we must hold onto in the midst of the sufferings.
1 Peter 4:12,13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
Romans 8:17 and if (we are) children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
New American Standard Bible Translation
Lord, we are excited over our future and thankful for your promises to us. Help us to not fall into despair over the painful circumstances, but to rejoice when called upon to suffer for: 1. Our belief, 2. Your Name, 3. For the Gospel, 4. For doing right. Make us more like Jesus we pray. Amen