Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trials and Persecution 5: Surviving the Suffering

The Christian walk isn't always easy. We will have suffering and persecution within our life. This fact is guaranteed in Scripture. When we are faced with such trials, we always want to blame someone. We want to be able to take it to the man.

This is especially true when we undergo these difficulties while serving the Lord wholly, perhaps only because we are serving the Lord wholly. Far from our reactions is the admonition in 1 Peter 2: 19-23
"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 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."

Jesus is our ultimate example in the midst of crises. (Actually, Jesus is our ultimate example in everything!) Jesus when He suffered wrongfully, didn't lash out - He didn't try to attack those who were harming Him. He took it patiently.

Now this isn't necessarily to say that we have to sit and watch as people destroy us. If someone is beating us up in an alley, we have a right to use any available resources to ensure we live. What it does mean is that we should not be holding grudgeful vendettas against those who have wronged us in the past.

There could be many different reasons that can be given for this fact: that the Lord will be judging them in eternity, that we are only better than them by the grace of God, and that they need that grace themselves. All of these are wonderful reasons, but the one that the Lord has been showing me in the last few months (and further in the last day; I'm glad the Lord had me schedule this blog post to be written precisely when I needed the truths therein), has been one slightly peripheral to these issues.

In John 16, the Lord spends time preparing the disciples for what lies ahead of them. He prepares them for their suffering. Before he begins to express the aspects of their lives that will be troubling, He tells them that those who persecute them may not have such impure motivations as they might think. John 16:2 proclaims,
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."

To me, once I can understand the motivations behind someone's actions, I have a hard time condemning that person. Instead I want to concentrate my time on helping them to see the flaw in their application of such things.

This is a key glue that holds families together. Let's be honest, when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you will often have a few conflicts. You might even be buffeted for your faults or when you do well. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that will happen.

But due to love and a simple understanding of the underlying motivations in their heart, you are able to forgive them, and though you are probably still saddened by their words and actions, you are not likely to be so angry.

This same principle can and should be true of everyone that hurts us, whether they be of God's people or not. We ought to try to look at things from their perspective. Not only might it help us to not become angry at each other, but it might even show us our own flaws in how we interacted with others.

But beyond just being an example in suffering, Jesus does so much more to help us in our daily walk with him. As I previously quoted, Sarah Arthur explains,
"Jesus fought the war and came back to help us win the battles."

The Lord has provided many different ways in which to help us through the suffering that we have in our life. You see, when He saved us, He didn't leave us to our own devices to figure out how to serve Him and how to survive the suffering without a guide. Rather He promises us that if we seek Him, we will find Him, that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will send us another Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit.

And that is a blessing beyond which anyone of us deserves, and one that will ease the pain of our suffering and perhaps allow us to sing in prison like Paul and Silas, or just to show joy regardless of our circumstances.

We know that He is able to carry us through our struggles. We know that this omnipotent God has the power to comfort us within our crises. The power of this world and the suffering it inflicts upon us are of no consequence. Whenever you feel that it does, remind yourself of John 16:32-33,
"Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Surviving the suffering requires no special effort from ourselves. It requires nothing but a surrender to the will of God, to His strength and to His protection in our lives. It is best that we not hold grudges in this situation, but simply wait on the Lord and let Him guide us through. It is by His strength alone that we can take struggles patiently and find contentment in even the most depressing circumstances.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13,
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

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