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Nov 21

Sufferin Succatash

 

     I have been pondering the role of suffering in the believers life.  It seems that no ones life is unaffected by suffering, believer or unbeliever.  I have been one of those people who wants to run from suffering, confrontation, or being outside my comfort zone.  We recently read the book "The Heavenly Man" as a family, and were deeply challenged on this issue of suffering.  The book is about one of the leaders of the house church movement in China in the 80′s and 90′s.  As we read this story of a man who was willing to give, and endure so much for the cause of Christ, we were challenged to look at suffering and adversity in a different light.  The author Brother Yun even says at the end of his book that the wost thing that could happen to the Chinese church would be to have the persecution removed.

     While working at memorizing some scripture this verses in the first chapter of James caught my attention

James 1: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

     So according to James we cannot be mature and complete without the testing of trials.  He even admonishes us to consider it pure joy.  OK I have to admit that I don’t consider testing and trials pure joy, in fact I have often told the Lord I was not enjoying particular circumstances I found myself in.   This passage in James isn’t the only one that talks about suffering for the sake of the Gospel, or entering into the sufferings of Christ.  In fact if your read the new testament you can’t get away from the concept of suffering as part of the believers lives.  These scriptures even tell us to rejoice because we can enter into Christs suffering.

     We received a newsletter from a missionary couple we support.  They are working in a dangerous part of the world.  They recently saw another missionary murdered very close to where they are located.  In response to many people who were advising them to come home to the safety of their own country they ended their newsletter with the following quote.  It certianly challenged me in the places where I want to play it safe. 

Chasing Daylight by Erwin Raphael McManus

It has become an accepted part of pop theology that the safest place to be is in the center of the will of our Father.  I’m not saying that this statement is ill-intended, but it is misdirected and misinformed.  If the safest place to be is in the center of His will, then an appropriate measure of His will is the test, Is it safe?

The inversion of this framework has clearly affected our Western Faith.  We have concluded that the Father promises safety.  Those who are outside His will, will experience danger.  You cannot have risk and guarantee safety.  Our pop theology has eliminated the place for risk and insulated us with a comfort-and-security theology.  This view runs counter to what is found in the Bible.  I want to reiterate the fact that the center of His will is not a safe place, but the most dangerous place in the world. Our Father fears nothing and no one.  He moves with intentionality and power.  To live outside His will puts us in danger, but to live in His will makes us dangerous.  When we begin to seize our divine moments, we do not begin to live risk-free, but instead become free to risk.

 

   So Is it possible, as believers, that there is something for us in every circumstance? Isn’t that the message of Romans 8:28 "For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to his purpose."  The question is are we willing to go looking for the gold that is hidden in the hard circumstances.  Back in the summer we had a missionary family come for the evening, and as we talked he talked about the theme of suffering in the New Testament.  He said something like "You can’t seperate suffering from being a believer".  I think in the Western Affluent church we have made safety, and comfort gods that we worship, and it has neutered the church.  No it has neutered me, and held me captive.  Am I living to be risk-free or am I free to risk?

    When I read about the life of Brother Yun in China, or listen to the testimony of Giana Jesson (look on the audio tab for the title "Born Alive Abortion"), or the testimonies of believers in Muslim countries in Voice of The Martyrs publications, or read the above quote from our friends, I see a deepness and richness of faith that I want to know.  Could it be that we only mature when faced with adverstiy, and circumstances that strech our faith?  What is it like to have such a living and dynamic relationship with Jesus that the risks don’t matter, you are driven forward by the compulsion to share this good news to those around you who are dying and without hope?  We all have a longing for that living dynamic relationship with our savior, but are we willing to lay down our lives to find it?

1 comment

  1. Phil Kniss

    Ron, I appreciated this post, and affirm what you said. I think the same point about connecting God’s will and safety, can also be made about God’s will and good health. I preached a sermon on healing a couple weeks ago. Here’s a brief excerpt. The full text is on my sermon blog, http://sermonsbyphil.blogspot.com

    Grace and peace!
    Phil

    ————–
    What happens when we make individual health and well-being
    the highest good, the end toward which we strive,
    and we make God and faith the means to achieve that end?
    Haven’t we just made health to be the real god,
    and reduced the God of the universe
    to little more than a instrument to achieve our ends?

    But this instrumental way of looking at God, faith, and healing
    is wildly popular in our culture.
    It spawned a whole industry of spiritual products,
    from angels on the dashboard, to Jesus figurines,
    to specially-blessed prayer oils.
    It created the phenomenon of independent celebrity healers,
    who are not accountable to the local church,
    whose ministry is focused entirely
    on healing individuals of various physical ailments,
    and who preach a shallow theology.
    They pay scant attention to daily discipleship,
    or following Jesus in the ordinary,
    or the central role that Jesus’ body, the church,
    plays in our health and spiritual growth,
    or to the rich and multi-layered theology of suffering
    that is part of Christian faith.

    To popular culture, pain and suffering is an unmitigated evil,
    and death is to be avoided at all costs.
    We’re not much interested in a God who, in Jesus,
    became our companion in suffering,
    became a suffering God.

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