10) All the resources of Heaven are on call at this point.
As Stephen was being stoned to death, he “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God … ” (Acts 7:55) Heaven was intensely interested in what was happening at that moment.
11) You may not “feel” the Lord’s presence. Or you may. Christians have to learn to operate either way. Feelings are a poor barometer of the Lord’s nearness.
12) The world is watching. This could be your finest witness ever.
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Pet. 2:12)
Notice the reaction of the non-Christians to the conflict in the Jerusalem church once the congregation handled it well. (Acts 6:7) They were watching, taking note, greatly impressed and wanted a part of what the believers were experiencing.
13) The church’s mission is at risk.
When the Jerusalem congregation was threatened by conflict, the disciples said to the congregation, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables … ” (Acts 6:2) They stayed the course.
14) Scripture will show the believer how to get through it.
15) The best peacemakers are believers who hate conflict with a passion and treasure unity. (See Ephesians 4:3)
16) Suffering is in the DNA of believers. “You have been called for this purpose.” We do not want to suffer; we do not enjoy it; we will not volunteer for it. Yet, it’s the result of the nature of our task: to swim upstream in a downstream world.
Those who never experience conflict or suffering for Christ in this life may find they have become too comfortable with the downstream culture around them.
17) The one thing God does not expect is believers to bellyache about the suffering they are enduring; the one prayer we should not expect to be answered is, “Why me, Lord?” Did we think we were special, better than all the preceding generations of believers.
18) Suffering comes in all varieties. The single kind we are not allowed and can get no comfort from is the pain associated with our wrongdoing.
“For what credit is there if when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (I Peter 2:19)
Too few of God’s wayward children get this. In my city, the feds will arrest a corrupt official and a jury will convict him/her. Immediately, the felon protests that he/she is entitled to claim the blessings of heaven for those who endure hardship. It is true, thankfully, that God forgives the repenting sinner and thereafter will go through the hardship with the believer. It is not true, however, that all suffering in this world is sanctified or redemptive. So much is needless and shameful and pointless.
19) When suffering for Christ’s sake, there is a sense in which we share His suffering. This is when we may experience what Paul called “the fellowship of His suffering.” (Philippians 3:10) We may count on His nearness, Heaven’s resources, God’s purposes, our vindication and a redemptive outcome.
If we are faithful. Everything hinges on this.
20) God will not waste our suffering. When we emerge on the other side of this storm, we have been changed and are stronger. We see more clearly now. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Soon, we begin to see God is using us in ways that had not been the case. We’re able to help people who would not have turned to us before.
You and I are this way. When in trouble, we do not run to one who has never known sorrow. Instead, we seek out the one who has known failure and heartache and has gotten to his feet and is still on the job. This is the one who will understand and can counsel us.
I know so little about suffering for Jesus, I ought to be ashamed for writing anything on the subject.
On the pain of childbearing, I was telling my 8-year-old granddaughter that it’s something women just get through, and afterwards, with the beautiful child in their arms, they decide it was worth the trouble. She wasn’t buying that. With all the wisdom of her eight years, Abby said,”You’re a man; what do you know?”
I had to confess I did not know anything, that everything I “knew” on the subject was hearsay from my wife and mother and daughters.
Abby’s question pertains to most all of suffering in this life. What do I know? Not much.
I do know that our Lord Jesus laid down a pattern for us. We do well to study this I Peter passage and to make its insights a part of the tissue and fabric of our lives.
And I know that the times of my greatest pain and struggles in this life were when the Lord was nearest, His peace was sweetest and my sight was clearer than it had ever been.
No one would volunteer to hurt. But when it’s inevitable, my friend, offer it up to the Savior and stay close to Him. You have just been granted a special blessing of Heaven.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.” (Romans 8:18)
“So, they went on their way from the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)
“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance … ” (James 1:2-3)
The world will always consider this the fatal flaw — the Achilles heel — of the Christian faith, so we must not let that unsettle us.
As with everything else about the Kingdom of God, they just don’t get it.