Under Great Pressure

Sunday, September 28, 2014, 4:45 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 1 (NIV84).

Isn’t God awesome? He is! He created us. He knows everything about us. He created us for a reason. He has a plan for each one of our lives. He orchestrates things in our lives for his purposes. I love to watch him work in my life and in the lives of others. There is nothing which escapes his notice. He allows all things for a reason. We may not always see the reason when we are going through particular situations in our lives. We can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there if we will seek his face and follow him even when we can’t see what lies ahead, or even though we don’t know the end result.

Comfort for Comfort

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Suffering is part of life. Part of this is due to the fall of man and the curse. Some of it may be caused by our own sin and/or own stupidity, i.e. through us not acting wisely. Yet, some of it is part of God’s plan and purpose for our lives, such as Paul described for us here. First of all, we suffer because in doing so we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (Phil. 1:29 ESV). In context, this is speaking of suffering persecution and opposition to the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples that they would suffer in the same way he suffered, which included being hated, falsely accused, persecuted, falsely arrested, beaten, and hung on a cross to die.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:8-9 ESV). In context, this is speaking of giving up all worldly, fleshly and earthly gain for the sake of knowing Christ, growing in him, and becoming like him in his death (v. 10). We should gladly forfeit all to follow Christ.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Ro. 5:3-5 ESV). Suffering helps us to grow stronger in our faith and to become more steadfast, consistent, and persistent in our walks of faith and in our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of salvation.

And, not only that, but when we go through such times of suffering and persecution, our Lord comforts us, encourages us, teaches us, gives us guidance and direction, and he fills us with hope. His love, care and watch over us during these difficult times help keep us going, and give us much strength and courage to continue on in the faith. Because of that, when others are going through similar struggles and difficulties, we can share with them in empathy but also in encouragement, because we can tell them of the hope we were given during those times so that they, too, will have hope and courage to keep going.

Under Great Pressure

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Sometimes our suffering can be fairly minor, even to the point of merely suffering some small inconvenience, but even that can be used to teach us the value of life and godliness. Other suffering may involve much loss, heartache, pain and even the threat against our reputations or our very lives. Many believers in Christ throughout the world are suffering enormous persecution, imprisonments, beatings and death for the sake of their faith and their testimonies for Jesus Christ and the gospel of our salvation. Some of us may not have yet had to suffer such severe persecution, but we still face rejection, persecution, hatred, being cast aside, being unwanted, and falsely accused of things we did not do.

Yet, in all our suffering, we must realize that it has a purpose, and it is to teach us to not rely upon ourselves but on God. When things are going well in life, and we don’t suffer much, it is easy to become lazy, complacent, comfortable and unconcerned with the things of God, not spending the time alone with God that we should, not listening to his voice, and thus not walking in surrender and obedience to his word and to the promptings of his Spirit. When we go through difficulties, we are more likely to thus turn to the Lord in prayer, seeking his face, calling upon him for answers, and walking in obedience to his will and purpose for our lives. When we share in the fellowship of his sufferings, we become more like him in living godly and holy lives committed to him and to his purposes.

In Holiness and Sincerity

12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus…

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

This should be our goal! And, it should be the end result of our suffering that we should take on the character of our Lord, and conduct ourselves in all that we do and say in a godly, holy and honest manner. When we are in the world, and we are among the people of the world, we should not conform to the standards of the world or become like them. First of all, we should be people of integrity. And, we should be the same no matter who we are with. We should not act one way with other Christians and then another way when out among those who make no claims to faith in Jesus Christ. That way, our conscience should be clear. Our walk should always match our talk, not that we would be perfect all the time, but that we would aim for that, i.e. that our purpose would be to live holy and godly lives, and that we would pursue such a walk of faith in the power and working of the Spirit within us.

As well, we should not espouse nor should we follow after worldly wisdom, but we should be in the Word daily, and we should follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles in how we live our daily lives, guided and empowered by the Word of Truth and by the Spirit within us. As well, we should be in the practice of regularly testing everything we hear, see and read against the Word of God to make sure it is in agreement and is consistent with his Word. So much worldly teaching is being passed off these days as from God when it is not, but is of human origin, so be wise and discerning or you may fall prey to much deception and false teaching. Just because it looks like truth does not mean it is truth.

And, it is God who makes us stand firm in Christ. We cannot do this by operating in our own flesh or by following after the teachings and philosophies of human beings. We must be fully surrendered to Christ, and we must rely completely upon his Spirit within us to give us all we need to walk this walk of faith, to remain steadfast, and to have the courage and determination needed to keep going even in the face of much strong opposition. To God be all the glory for great things he has done, is doing, and will do in our lives as we continue to trust him, to fellowship daily with him, and to follow him wherever he leads us. Amen!

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.