Those Who Suffer

Thursday, June 05, 2014, 6:20 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 4 (NIV84).

Arm Yourselves

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Peter was writing to the believers in Christ who were strangers (foreigners; outsiders), scattered throughout various countries. Many of us today may be in a similar situation. We may live in a foreign land, or in a culture we did not grow up under. So, we may identify. Yet, this is not merely referring to being strangers physically in a foreign culture. The Bible teaches us that, as followers of Christ, we are to come out from this sinful world and to be separate, and that, as the Lord’s disciples, we are to live as strangers here on this earth. We are not to engross ourselves in the culture of today. We are not to become one with the world in order to win over the world. We are to be different – set apart from the world of sin and set apart to God - to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives.

The people among whom these believers lived thought that the followers of Christ should indulge in or engage themselves in the same types of activities with which they were involved, which included lust, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, idolatry and the like. Some of us today, who have taken The Word seriously, and who have separated ourselves from this world of sin, may be in a similar situation. It may be that we are not being encouraged to indulge in such sinful practices as these, though, but we may be urged, incited and/or tempted to compromise our faith, to back off from sharing the gospel, to not take this Christian life so seriously, to be entertained by this world of sin, and/or to join with others in sin-lite, i.e. by just taking in a little bit of evil so we can identify with the people around us.

When the Christians did not engage in sin, the people among whom they lived heaped abuse upon them. As well, we may be faced with much rejection, persecution, abuse, false accusations, mocking and/or criticisms because we choose to come out from the world and to be separate, and/or because we choose to not participate in the cultural (sinful) practices of our day, and/or because we take the Word of God seriously, i.e. because we take it to heart. Yet, we are to not let this dishearten us, for we are sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

So, when we are faced with such situations as these, we are to arm ourselves with the same attitude of Jesus Christ (Cf. Ro. 6:6-11; Eph. 6:10-20; Phi. 2). He suffered and died to do away with sin in our lives, i.e. he died so that we should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us and was raised again (See 2 Co. 5:15). He died so that we could die with him to the sin which once enslaved us (See Eph. 4:17-24). As a result, for those of us who have died with Christ to sin, and who now walk in his righteousness by his grace, through faith in him, we do not live the rest of our earthly lives for evil human desires, but for the will of God. Amen!

In fact, God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the Lord’s return (See Tit. 2:11-14). So, when they, even professing Christians within the church, heap their abuse upon us, we should thank the Lord that we share in his sufferings, and we should now allow that to strengthen our resolve all the more to live holy lives pleasing to God, and to no longer plunge into sin with the world, or with the worldly church.

So You Can Pray

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

This was written approximately 2000 years ago, so the word “near” did not mean that the end of all things was going to happen right away, but that it was approaching, and therefore they should live their lives as though it could happen at any time. In other words, we should live with the idea in mind that the end is drawing near, that it is a reality, and that the things spoken about in scripture with regard to the last days and the judgments of God will indeed be fulfilled, and that they could be fulfilled in our day. Therefore, we should take seriously the teachings of scripture, the warnings, the wise counsel, the instructions on godly living and loving others, and the commands of our Lord. We are therefore to be clear-minded and self-controlled, not only because it is right, and not only out of love for Jesus, but so we can pray. Whether we like to believe it or not, our behavior and attitudes do affect our fellowship with our Lord, not that he demands absolute perfection, but that when we willfully sin against him, and/or if hold on to sin, it can hinder our prayers.

According to God’s Will

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Returning to the subject of suffering for our faith and testimony for Jesus Christ, we are reminded here that these types of sufferings should not take us by surprise. In fact, Jesus told his followers that they would be treated just like he was treated, and that the world would hate them, as the world hated him. Only, remember with me that Jesus’ strongest opponents were not the un-religious, but the spiritual leaders of the Jewish faith, and then the followers, too, of the Jewish faith who were being influenced by these crooked leaders. So, it should not surprise us if some of our severest persecution comes from within the church, and not from those outside the church, for the world exists within the church, too. I think it hurts more when it comes from those who are supposed to love and protect us. Yet, Jesus knew that kind of suffering. His own brothers mocked him and thought he was crazy.

So, what should our response be when those closest to us reject and persecute us? We are to rejoice! – Easier said than done, huh? I believe the way we can do this first of all is only in the strength of the Lord within us. Second of all, I believe that attitude is everything! In other words, it is all a matter of perspective. If we can see these persecutions as what they really are, i.e. that this is Satan and his cohorts coming against us to try to get us to blow it, to give up, to run away, and to try to get us discouraged and disheartened, then we can rejoice that we are being counted worthy to suffer such disgrace for the sake of the gospel. And, then, we can choose to put that armor of the Lord on with which to fight off Satan’s attacks against us, so that we are victorious against his wicked schemes. Then we should commit ourselves to Jesus Christ in prayer, and we should continue in him in being who he created us to be and in doing what he has called each and every one of us to do, which is to live holy lives pleasing to him. And, we should not let the enemy of our souls get us down.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus / Joseph M. Scriven / Charles C. Converse

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.