ENJOYING ALL THINGS RICHLY BY SUFFERING
In our article last week, we saw that God wants us to enjoy all things richly in this life (1 Tim. 6:17, Mk.10:29-30, Job.36:11), as we fulfill the fullness of our divine destiny to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29, 1 Jn. 4:17): doing the works He did and greater (Jn. 14:12) destroying the works of the devil (1 Jn.3:8) for the blessing of humanity and the glory of God!
This week, we will see how to, like the Lord Jesus did, learn obedience by the things we suffer:
Hebrews 5:8 MKJV: Though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
What are we to suffer as Christians?
Everything we suffer can be grouped in these 3 categories: self-denial, persecutions and afflictions.
Self-denial of food (in fasting and living a fasted life), sleep, and pleasures of this life to give extra time to prayer and the Word and so generate and release more of power of God in our lives.
Luke 9:23 ESV: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
We take up our cross daily by using the power of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, to crucify the lusts of the flesh that would other wise choke the Word of God in our lives:
Mark 4:19 ESV: But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word and it proves unfruitful.
Romans 8:11-13 ESV: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (12) So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. (13) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:26-27 ESV: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (27) And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Persecutions and afflictions arise for the Word’s sake: Satan attacks us with persecutions and afflictions to discourage and weary us so that we may give up our faith in God’s Word:
Mark 4:17 MKJV: But they have no root in themselves, but are temporary. Afterward when affliction or persecution arises for the Word’s sake, they are immediately offended.
Persecutions are the criticisms and rejection of men because of what we believe:
Matthew 5:11-12 ESV: Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Afflictions are circumstantial and/or bodily attacks:
2 Timothy 3:11 MKJV: Persecutions, afflictions, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra. What persecutions I endured! But the Lord delivered me out of all.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 ESV: (23) Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. (24) Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; (26) on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; (27) in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Now, the good news concerning persecutions and afflictions is that if you suffer self-denial properly and give sufficient time in the Word and effectual, fervent prayer, you will generate a sufficient amount of the power of God to reduce the persecutions and afflictions to the barest minimum and easily overcome them when they do come.
Notice Paul said in 2 Tim 3:11 above that the Lord delivered him out of ALL (not just some!) afflictions.
Furthermore, we read in
Psalms 119:107 MKJV: I am afflicted very much; O Jehovah, give me life according to Your Word.
Here, we see that the extra measure of the life of God that is being asked for will reduce and overcome the heaviness or severity of the affliction.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV: (7) So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. (8) Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (9) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We see here that God did not remove from Paul the afflictions being caused by the messenger of Satan. Rather, God showed Paul that he needed to humble himself in prayer through self-denial to receive and release a sufficient amount of the grace and consequently, the life (1 Pet. 3.7) and power of God that would overcome ALL the persecutions and afflictions, while at the same time keep Paul humble and totally dependent on God and not on his knowledge!
Paul learnt this lesson and so declared, he takes ‘pleasure’ or is not disturbed by afflictions and persecutions for they make him more conscious of his weakness and so more dependent on God’s grace and strength and so keep him in a position of constant strength and triumph:
2 Corinthians 2:14 MKJV: Now thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and He revealing through us the odour of the knowledge of Him in every place.
In our article next week, we will see how to cause our years of glory to far outnumber our years of training and suffering.