by Homer Slack – Article / Sept 2013

Today in the Western Hemisphere our spoilt overindulgent teenagers (may God help them) would like us to believe that we are putting them through excruciating pain and suffering for taking away their mobile phones for a few days or for telling them they will not be able to go see the release of the latest movie at the cinema or go to a party on the weekend. Against these ‘great sufferings and persecutions’ youths are now at liberty to argue, insult and use guilt to get a reverse on such ‘unfair’ decisions. What will this generation do when visited with real trouble? We will all have to suffer real loss and grief at the hands of the age old dragon the devil who Jesus assured us comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Signs indicate however, that as the generations countdown less and less people will be able to survive such times. When Jesus return will He find firm faith or only fickle failures everywhere?

Job who suffered the death of all his children, the death of almost all his servants and a total wipe-out of his livelihood, who felt great pain and discomfort due to sores that covered his whole body, is a very good example of the attitude we should have when suffering. Note however, that Job’s preferences in the matter did not factor, his opinion was not requested neither was he invited to take part in the debate over his fate. All this was done to him whether he liked it or not yet Job’s attitude in the midst of all this loss and suffering was admirable. Scripture records, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong”. For the righteous to have their goods and health taken while maintaining a good attitude is one thing but consider those who readily offered up their goods and even their lives for the sake of Christ?  This is a whole next level of commitment to Jesus. Hebrews 11:35 “Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life.” This group, unlike Job, had a choice of whether to suffer or not but yet rather than opting out they opted in. Another group is spoken of in Hebrews 10:34 who joyfully accepted the plundering of their goods. 

–But there is another kind of suffering, known only to the Christian: it is voluntary suffering deliberately and knowingly incurred for the sake of Christ. Such is a luxury, a treasure of fabulous value, a source of riches beyond the power of the mind to conceive. And it is rare  as well as precious, for there are few in this decadent age who will of their own choice go down into this dark mine looking for jewels.-(The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer, pg. 133)

Paul the apostle himself also informed us that he suffered the loss of all things. An embarrassing fact is that today the typical ‘Christian’ would lose their temper if someone cut across them in traffic. The typical, 21st Century, Western World Christian would end up having a rant at the person who stole their parking spot rather than give God thanks that they have a car. 

In Hebrews 10:34 they joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property because they believed and were convinced that they had a better and lasting possession. Such knowledge makes the pain of earthly loss so bearable one can actually be joyful in it. Both Romans 5 and James 1 confirm that our suffering is like a ‘factory’, it produces.  Suffering produces perseverance, which, if followed down the production line, is turned into character that is then transformed into hope. The ‘modern gospel’ however, focuses people on material things rather than on spiritual things and labeling those who are focused on things above as being too heavenly minded.  Those who chose death rather than denial of Jesus may not be here to do good earthly works but their sacrificial act will do people left here more good than those who deny the cross under the pretence of ‘staying around for their children and to help the needy’. Of what good are we without God’s endorsement and empowerment?

A note here to help the young, untrained and inexperienced Christian; suffering joyfully does not mean that one goes looking for trouble, or that one enjoys suffering and pain in the sadistic sense.  What it means is that when trouble comes we are so equipped with hope and knowledge of the glorious end product that the suffering is much more bearable. Paul says “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) No suffering feels good at the time and the true Christian does not need to go looking for it because it will come looking for us. Note also that apart from trouble coming to us Jesus could also take us to trouble, but remember, we only go because He leads us there. There is a saying that God can get us out the trouble He got us into. Too numerous to be expounded here are the examples of God leading people into trouble and suffering, He does not lead us there because He is mischievous or sadistic, but because there are treasures hidden in those troubles and to get them we must go there. –“But of our own choice it must be, for there is no other way to get down (into the jewel filled mine of suffering). God will not force us into this kind of suffering; He will not lay this cross upon us nor embarrass us with riches we do not want. Such riches are reserved for those who apply to serve in the legion of the expendables, who love not their lives unto the death, who volunteer to suffer for Christ’s sake and who follow up their application with lives that challenge the devil and invite the fury of hell.” – (The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer, pg. 133)

So what of this new modern, be good, feel good and look good gospel that endorses rather than rebuke this indiscipline generation? How sly a fox and subtle a serpent the devil is to slide and mix such a lie in with the truth. Approach with caution preachers and Christians whose gospel focuses on self assertion, esteem and optimisation, those who believe Jesus died and rose again to serve our needs and help us realise our carnal dreams. The emphasis of their message are always financial and material increase, they encourage all saints to start businesses or to give so they can get an increased return, but our message is Christ and Him crucified, our saviour, master and Lord. We “..follow the Lamb wherever He goes..” and do whatever He commands.

Moths and butterflies emerge from cocoons where they have sealed their chrysalis forms. To watch their struggle to free themselves is to watch the drama of life struggling to escape death. Strands of a glutinous substance hinder their emergence, attached as they are to their cocoon-tomb. The battle to free their wings from similar strands looks particularly painful. You can cut the strand to help them, but what you will wind up with is a partially formed butterfly that can’t fly. It needs to struggle or it will never attain its full development, the full spread of its wings. The absence of evidence of life and power in the lives of many Christians has a similar cause. (MONEY IS NOT GOD by John White pg. 190)

We embrace suffering because we are embracing the only process that can form us into the image of God’s son and that is what we are after, cost it what it may. What is a mobile phone, a degree, a house, a car, even my life when compared with the glories of being formed into the image of Christ? If we struggle to give up our phones how will we give up our lives?