OF HIS SUFFERINGS"
The truth we shall endeavor to bring forth here may be hard to be heard by some. But, for those that are given to hear, we present a scriptural answer to the mystery of suffering, tribulation and death, especially as it applies to the true church of Jesus Christ.
In first coming to the realization of personal salvation, many look upon this as a means of being PRESERVED from spiritual death. But is this so in the fullest sense of the meanings of death? Are the immature in Christ to be sanctified WHOLLY and "PRESERVED BLAMELESS" in spirit, soul and body--in their immature state? 1Ths. 5:23. Can the bread rise before it is leavened and baked? Lk.13:21.
The scriptures teach there is a step by step but often painful process that one must endure if they truly desire to walk on into the fullness and perfection of our Saviour's love in the coming kingdom age- Eph. 3:19-21. Actually, our salvation involves not the PRESERVING OF WHAT WE ARE but rather a progressive CHANGING INTO WHAT HE IS.
We are not called to hold fast to, or even to try to PRESERVE what we are nor what we were. Rather we are called to be continually RENEWED by the transforming of our minds that we may "with ONE MIND AND ONE MOUTH glorify God." Ro.15:6; 12:2. Therefore, having this revelation, se "that YE PUT OFF concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lust; and be RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND; And that YE PUT ON the new man, which after God is [progressively being] created in righteousness and true holiness - Eph.4:22-24.
We must be freely willing to be changed and transformed according to God's ways. Not instantly, but constantly and completely. We, as rough "lively stones" (1Ptr.2:5) must allow ourselves to be shapen, polished and made ready as worthy (1Thes.2:12; 2Ths.1:5; Rev.3:4) servants, if we hope to be a part of the completed living temple in the coming earthly kingdom - 1Kgs.6:7.
The rule of self-life must steadily decrease in order for the rule and testimony of Christ in us to constantly increase - Jn.3:30. This necessitates counting the cost and paying the full price until the work be competed - Lk.4:28. Resistance is rebellion and the sin of rebellion which abides in all flesh must of necessity, be dealt with accordingly by the will of the Spirit. This is in order to sanctify us unto obedience - 1Ptr.1:2.
One of the important ways the Spirit uses to accomplish man's sanctification, is in the painfulness of human SUFFERING. This suffering if triumphantly accepted, slays self-life, delivers one from self-centeredness, and frees one to truly love. It contains sufficient intrinsic power to bring about positive changes in the "I will" attitudes [see our article entitled "A World Of Iniquity"] of human iniquity. However, we must make it clear, it is the Spirit of God that saves and sanctifies---not the suffering in itself.
Kinds Of Suffering
To effectuate God's ultimate purpose, there exits in this present lowered creation, many forms of TRIAL S, TRIBULATIONS, SORROWS, SUFFERINGS (Lk.17:25) and AFFLICTIONS (1Ths.3:3) such as infirmities (Jb.2:7; 2Cor.12:5 -10; Heb.5:2), persecution (Matt.5:11; 10:22; Jn.15:20), injustice (1Cor.6:7), reproach (Lk.6:22; 1Ptr.4:14), loss of reputation (1Cor.4:10; 2Cor.4:5), shameful treatment (1Ths.2:2), stripes, imprisonment, death to self-life (2Cor. 4:11; 11:23; 1Cor.15:31; Matt.10:39), physical perils (2Cor.11:25, 26), even death (Ac.7:51-60), weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst (2Cor.11:27) and many other such things - Heb.11:33-39; 1Cor.4:11- 13; 2Tim.3:11-12; Jn.15:18-21. Even the sin of unforgiveness brings ongoing suffering and torment - Matt.18:34, 35. Yet through it all, these negatives have a share in bringing forth positive, and ultimately holy sanctified human character. See our articles entitled "Compassed With Infirmity" for more details on this truth.
Beloved of the Lord, are you presently being brought into a state of seeming despair and hopelessness? Are you being "troubled on every side" (2Cor.4:8; 7:5), perplexed, persecuted, cast down? Then it is to you primarily, that we bring forth this word. If you can endure the first bitter taste of this truth, the eating of it shall become truly sweet and joyful (Rev.10:9, 10; Jer.15:15, 16), and ye shall know [by experiencing] the truth, and the truth shall set you free - Jn. 8:32.
Know that you need not be overly distressed; you need not be in an attitude of despair or hopelessness, nor believe that you are being forsaken or even destroyed - 2Cor.4:8, 9. In actual truth and in spiritual reality, it is altogther nothing more than a "light affliction which is but FOR A MOMENT, WORKING FOR US a far more exceedingly and ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY." 2Cor.4:7.
Meditate on this revelation. Let the sweetness of its honey begin to cover the sorrow and bitterness of your LIGHT AFFLICTION." Rejoice that this light weight of affliction is designed and ordained to produce an "eternal weight of glory" which is an exceedingly "better and enduring substance" (Heb.10:32-34); a substance which shall forever remain as glory and never be shaken nor even touched by fire - Heb.12:26-29.
Oh yes, the flesh would prefer to be in total control of whatever is happening in our lives. But the sovereign Spirit of God which worketh in you has another plan and will of His own. True, we as Christians can surely resist the Spirit's will for a given period. But shall not eventually "He who has begun a good work in you...perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil.1:6)...even until that glorious day of your perfection in Him?
Our growth and victory in this present life and even beyond, as is explained from another perspective in some of our other study booklets ["Life From the Dead", "Compassed With Infirmity"], truly depends on how we NOW see and RESPOND to our prison-houses of so called circumstances - Gal.3:3, 4. Yielding now to the will of our sovereign Lord and King "pacifieth great offenses." Eccl.10:4.
We have at least two basic ways available to us by which we may freely respond to any unavoidable or adverse circumstance in our lives. That is part of the limited free will which we have all been granted. Remember that Jesus our forerunner refused to call down the angels, He refused to justify Himself and He refused the hyssop at His crucifixion. He refused to partake of that which would for the sake of His flesh relieve His pain and suffering, knowing full well that enduring crucifixion would result in the promise of a better and more enduring substance---even a glorified body. His motives and goal were not for self but for the whole of mankind. Should we who have been given the right and the power to exercise the mind of Christ, rightfully have motives and goals that differ?
Firstly, we can choose to respond in a daily death to self-life and in the ACCEPTANCE OF SUFFERING, especially if it be long term and seemingly beyond any of our controllable circumstances. We are assured by the Word of God that these things lead to an eternal change from our present state of glory unto an exceedingly high and eternal state of love and glory---even into the glorious likeness and image of our Lord - 2Cor.3:18. We all need to complete our change of glory and raiment (Zec.3:4), putting off that old vulnerable and corruptible nature and putting on the new armour of God (Eph.6:13), that we may be able to enter unscathed, as firstfruits without blemish into the full promises and glory of the kingdom of God - 1Cor.15:50; Eph.5:27.
In order to learn and to grow, to fully become what we are & what He is, we must be ever willing to take the yoke of Christ [even in the realm of servitude to suffer if so be it] upon us (Matt.11:29), "Always bearing about IN THE BODY, the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be MANIFEST [even now to an extent] IN OUR BODY. For we which live ARE ALWAYS DELIVERED UNTO DEATH FOR JESUS SAKE, that [ultimately] the life also of Jesus might be made [fully] manifest IN OUR MORTAL FLESH." 2Cor.4:10 -11. Then shall our mortal bodies be totally quickened by His Spirit (Ro.8:11) becoming "like unto His glorious body." Phil.3:21.
The apostle Paul, being among the first to understand, believe and walk in this truth, could truthfully say, "I die daily." 1Cor.15:31. In order to do this it was God's purpose to afflict Paul with "a thorn IN THE FLESH, a messenger of Satan" to BUFFET him lest he be exalted - 2Cor.12:7. We have the same power to say as did Paul..."I WILL NOT GLORY, BUT IN MY INFIRMITIES." 2Cor.12:5.
Though we may not be called upon to suffer in the same manner as Paul, nevertheless, we should be learning that God's grace in our lives is sufficient for us and our real STRENGTH IS BEING MADE PERFECT THROUGH OUR WEAKNESSES - 2Cor.12:9. Nothing short of an acceptable newness of life (Ro.6:4) will be accounted worthy to attain that final conformity to the resurrection power of His life in the kingdom - Phil.3:10.
As we have mentioned, there is a basic alternative response to all this. We can respond by resisting or rejecting any or all forms of suffering as being apart from the will of God in our lives. This choice of action leads to an attitude of self-preservation (Mk.8:35) wherein one can actually miss God's PERFECT will for their lives now (Mk.8:36), as well as for unknown and undetermined times to come.
Murmuring, complaining, resentment, undue frustration, self pity and depression through out the duration of the trial is often the result or fruit of this attitude, and blame can be placed upon anything or anyone rather than face and deal with the true source of the problem. The resulting sorrows and sufferings become wasted and vain in negative responses. They only serve to prolong the final results God would have us attain.
Spiritual - Natural
We must ever be careful not to equate our physical state and whatever condition it my be in with our spiritual state - Jn.9:1-3; Psa.73; Jb. chptr.2 etc. This is a mistake and only serves to condemn. Suffering in the flesh is very often needful to give up the deceptive "love of the world.'' 1Ptr.4:1-3. Life is first of all for learning agape love, not far anything else. All else is self-centered. Suffering is ordained as part of the process in bringing about the death of our self life. It is one thing that enables the love of self to decrease and the selfless love of God to increase in us.
Does worldly prosperity, success, or perfect health have anything to do with the ultimate purposes of life? Ecc1.5:10-17. Beloved, there is hardly a more deceptive doctrine today that hinders true transformation in God's children, than that of the faith-prosperity teaching...which although it is of a partial truth, when put forth in an overbalanced way as it often is ...advocates ultimately as the goal of this belief, that all children of God should be enjoying the best of comforts and all other delicacies that the world has to offer in this life.
Often, along with the foregoing false notion is the just as false teaching that it is not in God's will to suffer in any way whatsoever, whether it be in matters concerning health, finances, material possessions and provisions, success in worldly personal endeavors, or in conforming to society in general. In the religious world the teaching often is that it is not God's will far a believer to go through many kinds of tribulation, and most certainly not through such great tribulation such as is spoken of in Matt. chptr.24. Most believers of the "pre-tribulation rapture" escapist theory might well be surprised as was Peter, when Jesus rebuked him for his lack of understanding of the truth concerning suffering, & for the contrary expression of his thoughts of.."this shall not be unto thee." Jesus replied to the effect that this was natural, carnal, human reasoning & was offensive to God - Matt.16:21-25.
A Choice In Some Suffering
Who are we as children of God now, that we should receive any different than our brethren of the past? Do you suffer in seemingly undue ways for the love of God and the love of others. If you do, you most assuredly suffer in the will of God. Observing the lives of suffering, overcoming saints throughout the ages, teaches us that ALL the Lord's people are to be accounted as "sheep for the slaughter." Ro.8:26. When unavoidable circumstances present themselves, should we not also still be "CHOOSING rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season"? Heb.11:25. Nevertheless it is written, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matt.24:12. And so it happens. But know ye it is also written, "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion." Amos.6:1; Isa.47:8. "Shall your brethren go to war & SHALL YE SIT HERE" (Nu.32:6; Josh.18:3), sitting at ease in Zion?
Is suffering always God's perfect will in every situation. Of course not! Suffering and even martyrdom is not necessarily always God's perfect will but it can be especially if it is not just in the realm of giving up in defeat. Those who are at ease in Zion and always seek to avoid the will of God to go through the battles of tribulation, shall surely not be amongst those that are granted to sit with Christ in His throne. Rather, it shall be granted to those who FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE, go through the tribulations of this life on earth and overcome EVEN AS HE OVERCAME - Rev.3:21; Matt. 20:25-28.
Are we to wear His crown of righteousness without first putting an His crown of thorns? Many who feel in their hearts that "my lord delayeth His coming" (Matt.24:48) shall begin to strive and likewise suffer hardships along with WASTED sorrows, only "to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible."1Cor.9:25.
God's Will In Healing
How many of us in an sufferings have heard that voice in our flesh suggesting to us that we are not pleasing to God in our pain or affliction, or that we cannot endure the hardships, or that it is impossible to thank God or praise Him for it? These thoughts are lies from Satan. Much human suffering is not without a great purpose. We realize, God in His mercy and for His reasons alone, can and does, grant the faith necessary to heal a few of man's present afflictions, for healing is in the atonement for all forms of human depravity as well as well as for spiritual and physical suffering. But it presently remaineth, "Blessed are they that mourn'' (Matt. 5:4) for through their humility and through their overcoming and reliance on Christ in it all, they shall be exalted in due season - Jas,4:8,9; Ecc.7:2-6.
Now even if you understand little else about pain and physical suffering, understand this. Certainly IT IS GOD'S WILL TO HEAL ALL, just as IT IS HIS WILL TO SAVE ALL, but the major fulfillment of this is reserved for the consummation in the redemption of the body (Ro.8:23) in whatever order or rank of resurrection is determined by/for the individual -1Cor.15:22-28. The atonement is complete but it is being dispensed and dispersed by the Spirit of God in varying proportions and stages of its completeness [as is faith] unto the final age.
We must realize and allow that if God does not choose to heal us immediately according to our natural desire, then He can only be allowing an infirmity, and is working for us and in us in another way. If God be for us who can be against us? Ro.8:31, In the meantime, the Lord wants us to see--that fellowship with Christ in His sufferings and in ours, not only is the highest form of honour that we can now receive from God, but trusting and enduring through fiery trials also produces THE GREATEST FAITH -1Ptr.1:7, 11. It produces even more faith than a miraculous deliverance would.
The goal of suffering is nothing less than love. Both suffering & love are the workings of God's will. How can suffering not be a part of our character building unto godly perfection? Is not God at times using even physical affliction (1Cor.11:2, 32) to teach man that he ought to examine himself to see if some area of his life may need correction? Prv.20:30. This is however, by no means true in every case! For more detail on the aspect of physical suffering see our booklet entitled "Compassed With Infirmity".
Christ Our Example
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for WHEN HE IS TRIED he shall receive the crown of life, [even the right to reign in the coming kingdom] which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." Jas.1:12. If we really know Christ we will keep His commandments (1Jn.2:3; Jn.14:21) and if we keep the word of His commandments we shall abide in His love (Jn.15:10) though we suffer with Him & His body - 1Cor.12:26.
"He that saith he abldeth in Him ought himself also TO WALK, EVEN AS HE WALKED'' (1Jn.2:5), and this "because Christ also SUFFERED for us, LEAVING US AN EXAMPLE THAT YE SHOULD FOLLOW AFTER HIS STEPS." 1Ptr.2:21. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the lord, SO WALK YE IN HIM.'' Co1.2:6.
Jesus walked the earth in human flesh to be an EXAMPLE TO US IN ALL THINGS. (One way this humanity was perfected was through learning "obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb.5:8) and allowed to be so. He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities and "was in all points tempted [Grk.-tried and tested, not enticed] like as we are, yet without sin." Heb.4:15. Now therefore, "in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted [tested], He is able to succor them that are tempted." Heb.2:18.
Some people have the idea that Christ's suffering on cross was the only place that He had "borne our griefs [Heb.- sickness, weakness, pain, distress] and carried our sorrows.."(Isa.53:4) but Matt.8:16, 17 indicates He bore them before the cross during His ministry. Christ not only went through physical dying on the stake but he also went through thirty three years of being subject to all forms of sin and death that are in the world - Heb.2:14, 9; Phil.2:8. So therefore, as it was fitting for the Father that He should for many sons make the pioneer and forerunner of our salvation "PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERINGS" (Heb.2.10), is it also not fitting "that the God of all grace...AFTER THAT YE HAVE SUFFERED FOR A WHILE, MAKE YOU PERFECT (1Ptr.5:10) in like manner through sufferings--all the while establishing, strengthening & settling you into His glory?"
The Trials Of Our Faith
In the meanwhile, let us "be rejoicing in hope; PATIENT IN TRIBULATION; continuing instant in prayer" allowing the fruit of "patience to have her PERFECT WORK that ye may be PERFECT and entire wanting nothing'' (Jas.1:4), all the while "knowing that THE TRYING OF YOUR FAITH [in all manner of suffering and TRIBULATION] WORKETH PATIENCE" (Jas.1:3), even while in the midst of "divers temptations." Let us learn to glory in our tribulation "knowing that TRIBULATION WORKETH PATIENCE; & patience experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed." Ro.5:2-5. Enduring this in long-suffering produces agape Love -1Cor.13. If we do this, we shall truly be buying of Him "gold tried in the fire and white raiment...that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." Rev.3:18. Dear ones, "MANY are the AFFLICTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS", but the Lord is delivering you through them and out of them all - Psa.34:9; 41:3.
"Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward" Jb.5:7; Ro.8:20. Travail and trouble comes to all (Ro.2:19; 1Ths.3:34; Eccl.1:13; 3:10, 11; 9:2, 11), but so do certain blessings - Matt.5:45, There are two major types of tribulations all men encounter in the "day of adversity." Ecc1.7:14. One is always SELF-INFLICTED and is subject to the divine law of sowing and reaping - Gal. 6:8. The other comes often THROUGH NO FAULT OF OUR OWN (Ecc1.8:14) but IS TO HUMBLE US and PROVE US, and TO KNOW WHAT IS IN OUR HEARTS THAT WE MIGHT BE CLEANSED - Deut. 8:2, 3; 13:3.
A lot of our trials and tribulations are not by mere accident. They are tests - Lev.26:41; Jas.1:3, 12. One type of fiery trial works repentance unto godliness in wisdom (Eccl.2:21) and the other works godliness and unrepentance (Rev.16:9, 10) unto vanity - Eccl.1:2. "Fools BECAUSE OF THEIR TRANSGRESSION and INIQUITY are afflicted" (Psa.107:7), but the wise man can say, "I know O Lord that thy judgments are right and that THOU IN FAITHFULNESS HATH AFFLICTED ME." Psa.119:75, 71.
The type of fruitful tribulation whereby we might enter fully into the kingdom of God is not to be that type of trial which comes and works as a result of our own striving in the flesh to satisfy and fulfill in a worldly way the natural man, but is the type of hardship and tribulation, either MENTAL OR PHYSICAL, endured as a result of obedience in seeking to carry our cross daily [what ever that cross may be] Lk.9:32. Though I have all faith...and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity [a portion of perfected love in operation] it profiteth me nothing.'' 1Cor.3:2, 3. "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that YE PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING: SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Ro.12:2.
The result of offering up "spiritual sacrifices" (1Ptr.2:5) brings about the form of tribulation which God has ordained for us in love, that )He might work quicker changes in us, as we through the Spirit allow the carnal motives, ambitions, vain imaginations and thoughts of our old nature to be cast down (2Cor.10:5), to be put to death daily. In this way "ye may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, FOR WHICH YE ALSO SUFFER" (2Ths.1:4, 5) enduring in the knowledge "that we MUST through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God." Ac.14:22. So we see that many facets of suffering are not without a future purpose but are a necessary preparation for kingdom authority and rule.
In the world YE SHALL HAVE TRIBULATION" (Jn.16:33) and "THE SAME AFFLICTIONS are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." 1Ptr.5:9. But "unto you IT IS GIVEN IN THE BEHALF OF CHRIST...TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE" (Phil.1:29), and truly "IF YE SUFFER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE, HAPPY ARE YE." 1Ptr.3:14; 4:14. The joy and peace will be automatic "IF SO BE THAT YE SUFFER WITH HIM.'' Ro.8:17. "For this is thankworthy, if a man FOR CONSCIENCE TOWARD COD ENDURE GRIEF, suffering wrongfully ...FOR EVEN HEREUNTO WERE YE CALLED: because Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example, THAT YE SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS." 1Ptr.2:19-21.
"For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, ARM YOURSELVES LIKEWISE with the same mind [even of willingness to patiently endure suffering]: for He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." 1Ptr.4:1....The psalmist in relation to this principle stated, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psa.119:71; Jb. 34:31, 32), because "before I was afflicted I went astray but now have I kept Thy word." Psa.119:67; Jer.2:19.
"The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord -TRIETH THE HEARTS." Prv.17:3. It is said of Joseph, "The word of the Lord TRIED him" through suffering before he was loosed and ready to rule - Psa.105:17-21. David said, "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me...thou has TRIED me, and shalt find nothing.'' Psa.17:3. When a man is in a state of affliction his soul is often far off from peace and in Jeremiah's case he Laments, "I forgat prosperity...remembering my affliction & misery...My soul has them still in remembrance and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind therefore have I hope." Lam.3:17-21; Psa.78:35,
Suffering For Righteousness
"Let them that SUFFER ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD commit the keeping of their soul to Him in well doing" (1Ptr.4:19), "for it is better IF THE WILL OF GOD BE SO, THAT YE SUFFER FOR WELL DOING than evil doing." 1Ptr.3:17. Let none of you suffer .as an evildoer or as a busy body in other men's matters. Yet if any man SUFFER AS A CHRISTIAN, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." 1Ptr.4:16.
Beloved, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, THAT YE MAY BE TRIED...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev.2:10. "Be thou not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (Rev.12:11), nor of me [and you] His prisoner; but BE THOU PARTAKERS OF THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE GOSPEL according to the power Of God" (2Tim.1:8), glorying in your infirmities that the power of God may rest upon you - 2Cor.12:9, 5; 11:30. "Thou therefore ENDURE HARDNESS, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2Tim.2:3) "and let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap." Gal.6:9.
Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, FOR AN EXAMPLE OF SUFFERING AFFLICTION, and of PATIENCE." Jas.5:10. Take comfort in this, that these through much tribulation have learned "to bring forth FRUIT WITH PATIENCE." Lk.8:15. As "ye have heard of the patience of Job and have seen the end of the Lord" (Jas.5:11) produce even that manifold blessing and glory as a result of his patient suffering (Jb.42:11-17) know ye of a surety that "ALL THINGS [EVEN SEEMINGLY UNBEARABLE SUFFERINGS AND TRIBULATIONS] work together for good, to them that love God and to them who are called according to His purpose." Ro.8:28. Therefore, be of mind to "thank God always for ALL THINGS [incl. sufferings], FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD." 2Ths.5:18.
Be ye of like patience and faith as Job who could say, "THOUGH HE SLAY ME, YET WILL I TRUST IN HIM." Jb. 13:15. Quit blaming the devil for all your problems and trials. Be of Like patience and faith trusting that "when He HATH TRIED ME, I SHALL come forth as gold" (Jb.23:10) wherein, through suffering and enduring it all, "THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though IT BE TRIED WITH FIRE, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.'' 1Ptr. 1:7. In God's eyes, it is of the highest honour to suffer in His will and for His righteousness. Why did not Jesus go immediately to deliver or at least to comfort John the baptist in imprisonment? Is it not because God uses these vessels of honour to be a strength and comfort to those many who would come after? How mach more does He use Christ?
When all else seems hopeless "consider Him that endured [along with those others]...lest ye be weary & faint in your minds" (Heb. 12:3), believing that "God is faithful who...will make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.'' 1Cor. l0:13. The way is found perfect only in Christ for He saith, "I AM THE WAY.'' Jn.14:6. Let us be of like mind as Jacob who wrestled and endured until the breaking of a new day. That day of full redemption is nigh upon a people who shall endure and overcome. After Jacob's old fleshly walk was broken, it was then he received new power and a new name [nature] with God - Gen.32:24-32. Truly shalt the broken and "the lame take the prey." Isa.33:22.
A Joyful Sufferer
For you loved ones of the Lord that are in the midst of your fiery trials, the Lord would comfort you therein, saying, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH IS TO TRY YOU, as if some strange thing happened unto you: but REJOICE, in as-much as YE ARE PARTAKERS OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING, that when HIS GLORY shall be revealed [first of all in you], ye may be glad with exceeding joy.''1Ptr.4:12, 13. Let us be reckoning as did Paul, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be REVEALED IN US." Ro.8:18.
Be assured and think it not strange, that the continual seeking of Christ to come forth in us will produce that full glory that we yet hope for - Co1.1:27. Rejoice that ye are "counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Ac.5:41) knowing that it is entirely possible to be "exceeding joyful in ALL OUR TRIBULATIONS" (2Cor.7:4) if we understand the purpose of fiery tribulation and judgment is actually a great blessing in disguise, ordained for our righteousness.
The fires are ordained only "to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion...the oil of joy for mourning" and "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Isa.61:3. "Zion shall be REDEEMED WITH JUDGMENT and her converts with righteousness" (Isa.1:27) "for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS." Isa.26:9; Isa.24:1-15. Ultimately, the Lord shall cause the breast plate of judgment [urim] to be replaced by the breastplate of mercy and righteousness in the setting of all things right - 1Tim.1:20; 1Cor.5:5.
As in the natural realm we have to go through valleys to get from one mountain top to another, so it is in the spirit. Upon leaving Mt. Zion, that height of God's holiness, whereby eventually "EVERY valley [law points in one's life] shall be filled [with exceeding joy] and EVERY mountain [trail, barrier, problem] brought low [to nothingness]..and the rough ways shall be made smooth" (Lk.3:5) in following the way of Him who is the pure white lily of our valleys - Song.2:1. Through the operation of the Lord's grace, the great mountain of death shall become a plain - Zec.4:7.
Know ye that only "the meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way." Psa.25:9. Therefore, seek for "hinds feet." Psa.18:37. Seek to "make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but LET IT RATHER BE HEALED" (Habk.12:13) through a broken and contrite spirit (Psa. 51:7), whose spirit having passed "through the valley of Baca [weeping] make it a well" (Psa.84:6), even a well of their salvation. When ye shall PASS THROUGH "the valley of Acher [judgments, troubles, afflictions] for a door of hope" (Hos.2:14), only then shall the waters of Marah bitterness] become pure & sweet.
It is very important that the motives and attitudes of our hearts be always toward the Lord. Let not any be offended "when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word.'' Matt.13:21. "Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." Matt.24:10. But "blessed are they which are persecuted FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE...blessed·are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you FOR MY SAKE." Matt.5:11; Isa. 66:5. Yea, and all that will live godly IN CHRIST JESUS SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION" 2Tim.3 :12; Mk.10:30. This may be only a mental suffering yet a great one to endure. But we CAN DO ALL THINGS which are a part of His will for He strengthens us to do it.
Chastisement In Suffering
In your affliction and troubles let your cries be as David of old, constantly praying, "Judge me, O Lord,... examine me O Lord, and PROVE ME: TRY my reigns and my heart." Psa.26:1, 2. "Search me O God, and know my heart...and see if there be any wicked way in me." Psa.139:23, 24. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." Psa.51:2. "Judge Lord, according to my righteousness." Psa.7:8. Jesus said, "If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me" (Jn.13:8) in the coming kingdom.
Daniel did set his heart to understand and chasten [judge] himself before his God - Dan.10:12. We judge ourselves by taking God's measuring reed [His anointed living word] and discarding the bruised reed, even that old soulish nature which it seeks to cut and bruise -Matt.12:18-20; Rev.11:1. The Spirit of Christ ever works "to set at liberty them that are bruised." Lk.4:18; Jb.36:11, 12.
If we judge ourselves [according to the measure of the word] we should not be judged" hereafter, but when we are judged [of necessity], we as Christians are CHASTENED OF THE LORD" for the express purpose that we should not be condemned [judged, sentenced] with the world -1Cor.11:32, 33. Seek therefore to "remove sorrow from thine heart, and put away evil from thlne flesh." Eccl.11:10; Jer.10:24. One day we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, "wherefore we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him." 2Cor.5:9, 10. With joy, "Let us go therefore unto Him without the camp, BEARING HIS REPROACH" (Heb.13:13) following "the Lamb withersover He goeth" (Rev.14:14), that we might be found guiless and without fault before the throne - Rev.14:5.
Chastisement which is not primarily for punishment, is nothing more than A CORRECTIVE AGENT of loving judgment ordained to purge the works of the flesh - Heb.12:5 -11. It brings fruitful growth in grace and character. Therefore, "Hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it." (Mic.6:9), for if you do, then you will grasp the revelation of "how thy own wickedness shall correct thee and thy backsliding shall approve thee." Jer.2:19; Hos. 5:15; Jb. 33:15-20, 29, 30. Yes, "there is affliction by the rod of His wrath" (Lam.3:l) which wrath in reality, is in the ungodly operation of our own sin nature. The sooner we learn to accept the operations of this great truth, the sooner it is that God shall cause us to be fruitful in the land of our afflictions - Gen.4:52; Jb.36:9-11; Heb.l2:11.
"In trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them." Isa.26:16. "Their cry came up to God by reason of their bondage." Ex.2:23-25. And so does ours! How can one truly understand and appreciate the fruit of comfort and peace unless he come through grief? How can he know true joy unless he be turned from sorrow? "By sorrow of the heart the [hardened] spirit is broken." Prv.15:13. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psa. 30:5. "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall Laugh." Lk.6:21. God has promised! Rev.21:4. Great is His faithfulness toward you!
From Suffering With Him - To Reigning With Him
Suffering is intended not only to draw the sufferer himself closer to the Lord, but to awaken spiritual exercise in all--to draw our hearts in love toward one another (2Cor.1:4) and therein "by love serve one another.'' Gal.5:13. It can teach us to bear one anothers burdens even as He bore ours so fulfilling "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ." Gal.6:2. Therefore beloved, in your suffering, look upwards to the higher ways of our supreme sufferer--the Lamb that was found worthy (Rev. 5:12) and "see Jesus...for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." Heb.2:9.
"Ought not Christ to have suffered (Lk.24:26) and entered into glory?" Ought not we likewise be prepared to suffer whatever is necessary to endure and attain unto this same glory? "Because He laid down His life [in always doing the Father's will] FOR US", ought not we "lay down our lives for the brethren?" 1Jn. 3:16. After all, are we not all members of one body (1Cor.12:12) and should we not love Christ, the church, and our wife [husband] even as we should love ourselves? Eph. chapter five.
Suffering for righteousness sake can become joyful sacrifice as a result of love for others even as it did for Paul who stated, "I Paul am made a minister; who now rejoice in my sufferings for you." Col.1:24; 1Cor.12:26. It shall one day be found that "whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" (Lk.17:33) and in the coming kingdom shall see God "face to face." Gen.32:30; Psa.11:7. Job could finally say, "Now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent." Jb.42:5, 6. Are you coming to that place?
Paul learned to fully ACCEPT and consequently ENDURE the "bands of affliction" whatever they might be, knowing he had not yet fulfilled the quota of his suffering. Jesus said, "I will show him great things he MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAMES SAKE.'' Ac.9:16. Thank God, most of our sufferings are not as "great" as Paul's. Paul measured his life by loss, not by gain as so many are prone to do in this day and age - Phil.1:21; 3:7, 8. This was necessary in order that he might "KNOW HIM, and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION and THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING, BEING MADE CONFORMABLE UNTO HIS DEATH." (Phil 3:10), that he might attain unto the "firstfruit" that earlier and "better resurrection" from out of the dead - Phil.3:11.
Likewise, God tests those that are called by permitting them to suffer (Ac.16:23+), as this is necessary part of His redemptive process to "try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end." Dan.11:35; 12:10; Rev.7:14. Therefore Paul' s attitude was, as should be ours also, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress FOR CHRIST'S SAKE: for when I am weak [even through testing), then am I strong [in spirit]." 2Cor.12:10, Yes, our attitude should be likewise, knowing "if so be that WE SUFFER WITH HIM, that we may be also GLORIFIED TOGETHER. IF WE SUFFER [all the while overcoming and enduring], WE SHALL ALSO REIGN WITH HIM." 2Tim.2:12; Rev.2:26.
Yes, this is the primary purpose of it all, "for if we have been planted [and grow] together IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS DEATH, we shall be also IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS RESURRECTION.'' Ro.6:5. Paul revealed, "that as ye are PARTAKERS OF HIS SUFFERINGS, so shall ye be also [a PARTAKER] OF THE CONSOLATION." (2Cor. 1:7) which consolation and reward is, ruling. and reigning together with Him in the coming kingdom. "Charity SUFFERETH LONG" (1Cor.13:4) waiting for the spiritual and literal manifestation (Ro. 8: 19) of His kingdom's worthy kings and priests - Rev.5:10; Dan.18:7, 27.
When the firstfruit saints have been through their learning and chastening process, judging what is in their own eye first (Matt.7:5), then and only then, with righteous justice and true Judgment (Zec.7:9; Jn.7:24), shall they be fully anointed and equipped to judge the meek of the earth with the absolute equity and wisdom of the Lord (Isa.11:1-5) shall they begin to minister and rightly rule with a rod of iron tempered with mercy among the nations of mankind - Psa. 98:9; 2:8-10; Ezk.18:25; Rev. 2:27.
"Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?...Know ye not that we shall judge [even fallen] angels? How much more THINGS that pertain to this life? 1Cor.6:2-4. Are you preparing to take on such a responsibility? Note that only "they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage" (Matt.25:10; Rev.19:7) and that marriage supper takes place on earth and not in heaven - Matt.22:10-13.
"To everything [incl. trials and judgment] there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh." Ecc.1.3:3, 4, 17. "To every person there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him." Eccl.8:6; Isa.24:2. Know that the Lord shall be "for a spirit of judgment" (Isa.28:6) in His appointed times of this working in the earth, whereby He came to kindle a righteous fire in the earth (Lk.12:49; Isa.10:16), even in us (Ezk.20:47), to purge Jerusalem [the true church) "by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning." lsa.4:4.
This type of judgment denotes setting things right, not condemnation - Ezk.20:6. "Thou hast ORDAINED them for judgment and ESTABLISHED them FOR CORRECTION." Habk.1:12; Psa.90:3; 94:10. "Reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from the evil woman'', even the spirit of the world, that harlot mystery Babylon - Prv.6:23, 24. "Whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her." Eccl.7:26.
Chosen In The Furnace
God has first ordained that His true and righteous, liberating judgment "MUST BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD." 1Ptr.4:17. If you desire to wholly follow the Lord, Jesus said, "Ye shall drink indeed of the cup that I drank of (Matt.26:37-39) and with the baptism that I am baptized with shall ye be baptized" (Mk.10:39) even with "the Holy Ghost and WITH FIRE." Matt.3:11. There are fires now burning to cleanse the elect - 1Ptr.1:7, 12. They are burning and purifying now and in the times to come (1Cor.3:13-15), which in God's own order, shall eventually "give unto them beauty for ashes." Isa.61:3.
The Lord saith, "I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away the dress and take away all thy tin. "Isa.1:25. Very soon He "will bring a third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is refined." Zec.13:9; Mal.3:3; Psa. 66:10-12. "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I HAVE CHOSEN THEE IN THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTION." Isa.48:10; Jer.9:2; Zec.13:9. Therefore, "Glorify ye the LORD IN THE FIRES" (Isa.24:15) and as you do so "when thou walkest THROUGH THE FIRE [of personal trials and testings], THOU SHALT NOT BE BURNED: NEITHER SHALL THE FLAME KINDLE UPON THEE." Isa.43:2. Like unto the original children of Israel, God is bringing you 0UT OF Egypt's bondage's, THROUGH the scorching desert heat and INTO that promised land of rest wherein flows the river of life.
There was a flaming sword [even a burning word of judgment which included trials, tests and afflictions] placed at the entrance guarding the way back into Paradise and its perfection. As we have shown, the way back to fulness of perfection in this life is to return back THROUGH THE FIRES - Gen. 3:24. Suffering in its numerous forms is a often a means, but by no way the only means, by which God puts to death many detrimental things which He has ordained should die. He has ordained a divine consuming fire to burn in "the sides of the north" even in the loins of our troubled minds. Things such as hardness of heart, pride, rebellion, unbelief, unforgiveness, impatience, or whatever they may be and no matter how manifest or subtle they are, must be eventually swallowed up in the Life of our God who is "A CONSUMING FIRE." Heb.12:29; Num.31:23.
Let us not forget as many do, "the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, "My Son, DESPISE NOT THOU THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN THOU ART REBUKED of Him." Heb.l2:5. He is merely desiring to correct our walk now for our own good "that we might be [first] partakers of His holiness" (Heb.12:10), FILLED with the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." Heb.12:11. In the meanwhile, who of us·has "resisted to blood striving against sin?" (Heb.12:4; 10:32-39) in the calling whereunto Paul and the apostles also laboured", "striving according to His working" which worked in them mightily - Col.1:29.
Fire And Water
"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray." Jas. 5:13. "Elias..a man subject to like passions as we are...prayed earnestly" (Jas.5:17), fervently, and effectively, and in the end "the earth brought forth her fruit." Jas.5:18. First comes the HEAT AND FIRE of the sun [Son] in trials and tribulation, and along with it the north wind which "driveth away rain" (Prv.25:23), causing draughts in drying up the waters of pollution and causing the bad fruit to perish. Then cometh the refreshing rain [Spirit of God in a different form] from heaven causing now a perfect fruit to come forth (Jn.15); and this fruit shall remain as the work of God that can never be burned -1Cor.3:12-15. Therein, pray for the fire, pray for the water and in the meantime, let faith and patience do their perfect work.
Behold, the same SPIRIT OF JUDGMENT that was in the waters of the great deluge was ordained to destroy the resistant wicked, but save Noah and his family from certain destruction by lifting them up and divinely protecting them, allowing them to ride in safety in the midst of their stormy tribulation. Likewise, the turbulent waters of the Red Sea were used to provide a divine escape route for the children of Israel, but became a devastating destructive judgment upon their enemies.
The power that was in the whirlwind, lifted Elijah out of the death realm of the earth, but that same awesome power could also destroy life, causing blood and fire and pillars of destructive smoke. The searing hot flames of the fiery furnace that burnt loose the bands and yet protected in their midst, the three men of God, slew the most mighty men of Babylon's army. That same holy fire that crackled in the midst of the burning bush in the presence of Moses is now presently burning in a remnant of the body of Christ, and it will surely destroy their bands if they allowing it to burn until the bands are free.
When the Spirit of the Lord is poured out in its fullness upon all flesh in the last days, it shall be as a mighty blessing to one and a devastating judgment to another - Jl.2:2, 32; Am.5:18-20. To one, the Spirit of God's two edged sword becomes "the savour of death unto death: to the other the savour of life unto life." 2Cor. 2:16. "Dead flies works] cause the ointment [Spirit] of the apothecary [the perfumer Christ] to send forth a stinking savour." Eccl.10:1. Beloved saint, which will it become unto you?
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; WHO COMFORTETH US IN ALL OUR TRIBULATIONS THAT WE MAY RE ABLE TO COMFORT THEM WHICH ARE IN ANY TROUBLE, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.'' For just as Christ's [own] sufferings fall to our lot [as they overflow upon his disciples, and we share and experience them] abundantly, so through Christ's comfort and consolation and encouragement are also [shared and experienced abundantly by us."[Amplif. version] 2Cor.1:4, 5; Col.1:24.
K. Ross McKay