Sharing In Suffering

17 07 2010

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3

There is a great deal of suffering going on in the world. Living in America sometimes we miss it. We fail to realize that believers around the world are paying a high price for following Jesus. Thirst, poverty, hunger, beatings, torture, imprisonment, homelessness, and death are being experienced by Christians in most of the world. More people died for the name of Jesus in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. In America, suffering and persecution can seem harder to come by but in reality Paul promised, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) If you’re going through life with little persecution then perhaps something is wrong with how you live. Often I find that persecution comes more strongly from within the church by professing Christians.

In America the church has become one with the culture to the point that it can seem hard to tell who sheep are and who are goats. We have abandoned the gospel, and decided to focus on improving our lives, and our self esteem. We have forsaken repentance in order to get people to “ask Jesus into their lives” We have become so like the world that being a Christian is almost fashionable. We are so comfortable living our lives for material possessions, careers, happiness and self fulfillment, and we have gotten so comfortable going to our large ornate churches, and having fashionable Bible studies at coffee houses that we think very little about what our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering. I’m not sure if it ever occurred to the American Christian but perhaps God gave us freedom not so that we could use it for our own benefit but rather that we would be faithful to pray for and encourage those who have been chosen to share in Christ’s suffering.

We in the West have convinced ourselves that we are blessed to have been given freedom, yet Scripture declares that those who suffer the most truly have achieved the abundant life. We have believed the lie that suffering is a bad thing, yet in the early church they were happy to have suffered. “And when they had called the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”(Acts 5:40-41) “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) “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. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:20-24) “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” (1 Peter 3:14)

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” (1 Peter 4:12-14) “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Jesus Himself warned us that we would (if we are truly His disciples) be loved by the world. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” (John 15:18-21) Even in America it is possible to face persecution as hundreds do but with millions claiming to be saved why are the persecuted numbers only in the hundreds or low thousands? Why don’t churches ever mention the plight of our brethren around the world? When was the last time you or a friend prayed out loud and prayed for the persecuted church? Paul made it clear in Hebrews that we are to remember (Pray) for them that are in prison, and those who are mistreated. He said that we do this because we are also in the body. What body? The body of Christ and if one member of the body is suffering, all members should share in that pain. Instead we ignore them going on with our worldly lives, vain religion, high sounding sermons and self interest. I want to encourage every Christian that reads this to take seriously the plight of those around the world that today are blessed to be taking part in the passion of Christ. They are being beaten, imprisoned, their houses are being burned, their property confiscated. I read of a 15 year old boy in Sudan that was crucified for following Christ, and of two Christians who were burned alive in their car. Keep up with our brothers and sisters overseas and above all pray, pray, pray not for their suffering to end but that their faith fail not and that Jesus be glorified. Amen

Written By: Rick Garland

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