Posted on Mon, Aug 25, 2014
A message from Pastor Bob Norton
Any strategy in living the Christian life must include how to deal with suffering. Suffering is a part of life in the real world. After a nationwide tour of America, German theologian Helmut Thielicke was asked for his impressions of the Church in America. He paused and then said, “American Christians don’t suffer very well.” I believe his reflection was poignant and true. Suffering will come. We don’t live in a protective bubble which enables us to live a charmed life. We must learn how to suffer so as to bring glory to God in our days of triumph and our days of adversity.
Suffering and joy are basic to Christianity. When it comes to suffering, Christians are the Jews in the world today. Violence and persecution are rampant. In America our persecution is more subtle. However, our suffering is real and we must learn to respond to suffering God’s way. For example, the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome for simply sharing the good news of God’s love in Christ which greatly threatened the Jewish power people. Paul wrote Philippians from a Roman prison where he faced imminent execution. His “Epistle of Joy” referred to joy sixteen times in four short chapters. For instance, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Paul conveys the secret of dealing with suffering. We do not wallow in self-pity nor do we blame God for allowing suffering to come our way. Instead, we rejoice in God himself and the relationship with Him which cannot be taken away (Romans 8:35, 37-39). As American Christians courageously refuse to buckle under to the demands of political correctness and instead opt for obedience to God, more persecution will be coming our way. Count on it! When suffering comes, rejoice in the Lord! Both suffering and joy are basic to Christianity. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Suffering brings us nearer to Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Taking up our cross daily means our willingness to suffer in His name. In 1 Peter 2:20-21 we learn, “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Following in His steps may include suffering, but count it a privilege because such suffering brings us closer to Christ.
Our suffering helps the Church. The world is watching the Church of Jesus Christ to see how we deal with our suffering. Do we lapse into self-pity or engage in incessant whining? As we rejoice in the Lord and meet adversity with noble courage we demonstrate a better way. Our witness clearly reflects a Christ-like attitude to suffering. This is why the Church thrives during times of persecution. Turn up the heat and the true believers will stand firm with great hearts centered in the Lord of the Church. The world will be drawn to the Church which suffers well. “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth (the Cross), will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32)
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