Philippians 1:28-30 (NLT)
Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
We are given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him. Woo hoo! Who wants to suffer for Jesus? Yeah, right. We don’t like to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable much less suffer for the Lord. Few Americans understand what true suffering really is as our birthright of residency affords us a better life than many other people across the Globe. I understand that there are homeless and hungry right here within our borders. Men, women and children ruthlessly under the control of prime evil who are enslaved and solicited. But what about you? What about me? Do we know what suffering for Christ really is? There are stories of churches who have split over something as trivial as renovation. Others divided by public opinion. The Body of Christ has grown quite comfortable in the air-conditioned comfort of padded chairs entertained by proper productions. So when it is time to learn, grow, develop to mature in the Lord, they balk at the discomfort crying out like it is suffering.
When our youngest was an infant, she was quite dramatic. When she experienced the slightest bit of discomfort, she would wail as if begin dismembered. Her birth was traumatic. Oh it was not eventful other than she stubbornly wanted to stay put but once she made it into the world, she let everyone know she was displeased. Hence the first two years of her life, if she didn’t like it she let you know about it. She’s a lot like that still just a bit more reasonable. Was she ever truly starving? No. Was she freezing to death? Seriously. Was she drowning in a wet diaper? Of course not. She was uncomfortable and demanded her to be comfortable again. Now I could stop right here and be just fine. I see where this is going and I am not sure I like it. Oh well…
To be uncomfortable is a state of discomfort, feeling uneasy, painful or irritating. This would describe the majority of life’s situations. However, we become extremely sensitive to such feelings in a world shaped around comfort. Padded seats. Temperature controlled environments. Free Wi-Fi. This catering to the flesh and all its creature comforts has created a world full of babies. What happens at work when the Internet goes down? Chaos. How about at home when the cable goes out? More chaos. We have lost touch with the reality that we live in a very comfortable environment. Even church has become comfortable catering to the people who attend rather than the One who gave His Life so they could live again. Sad but true. I hear you, Lord.
To suffer is a whole other matter, thankfully not many people have truly experienced suffering. To suffer is to undergo, be subjected to, or endure pain, distress, injury, loss or anything unpleasant. Suffering is marked by misery. What is true suffering? The word “endure” means ongoing it seems to have no end. I know that I think I suffered through our son’s illness. The pain in my heart lasted for years on end. The bad news just kept coming with bursts of light in between. My hope would rise and fall like the chest of someone breathing as we walked out God’s Plan. But now I question that…
2 Corinthians 11:19-30 (NLT)
You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
If you recall the Corinthians were not happy with Paul after he called them out in his first letter, so he sent a second one. He summarized the life of faith and ascertaining hope when he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Whether through discomfort or suffering, we come to a point of human weakness. At some point through growth, development and discipline, believers should show signs of maturity that leads to understanding of the process by which such things are achieved. We move from infancy in Christ to adulthood when discomfort doesn’t bother us and suffering is welcomed. Who would do that? Paul did. Look at what the man endured after coming to Christ. Have our lives even come close? We pride ourselves in serving once a month in the nursery. He was beaten. He was battered. He lived in chains on the verge of death. Yet he kept on ministering the Good News of Christ. I love how after listing all the ways that he suffered, he speaks to the pastors out there. Even under the harshest circumstances, he still tossed and turned at night thinking of his people and his church. Lord, forgive me for allowing discomfort to stop me when I was made for so much more.
I have shared this before, but it seems appropriate now. Our son endured heavy doses of radiation treatment to kill the cancerous tumor in his nasopharynx. In the beginning, it seemed harmless. Halfway through it began to leave a slight mark with some symptoms. The doctors warned that as it went on it could get worse. By the last week, it was horrifying. The skin began to boil and blister from the inside out. His ears literally separated from his head. The heat coming off his skin would melt the prescription ointment off my finger before I could apply it. All I could think of was Job and his boils. I told him, “Buddy, if you want to cry, complain or even tell God that this sucks I think He would understand.” He was just sit there while I treated him enduring the agony and torture. He told me, “Mom, what good would it do to gripe and complain? They told me this would happen, it is only for one more week.” I think about this every time a little discomfort brings a complaint to my lips. We do not know what true suffering is because most of the time, we are just uncomfortable.
We will never know the true potential of God in us until we reach the end of our strength and ability to do anything about our current situation. When we have done all that we can do but stand on His Word, there is a shift in power in our life. It will not happen if all we want to be is comfortable. It happens when we suffer because it produces endurance that makes us wait on His Promise. God is good. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us all the days of our life waiting for the moment we run out of energy and turn back to the Cross. Everything that I need, want and desire is found in Him. It is the God in me that will produce it in my life when I surrender all even if that means suffering a little while.
Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
What is holding you back today from trusting the Lord? Are you uncomfortable with the circumstance surrounding your life? Of course you are. You are not of this world. As a temporary resident and foreigner it is going to only get worse the closer to His Kingdom and deeper in His Presence you wander. Jesus didn’t look at the Cross when He walked toward it. He only saw You. You were His Heart’s Desire. He didn’t care what it would take, His Love for you and desire to be with you so strong that He saw only joy waiting for Him. Sad to think that we seldom are willing to keep going when the mountain grows steep, valley gets low, river rages, storm clouds gather, people talk, the enemy attacks, or we just get plain uncomfortable. For the joy awaiting Him…friend that’s you…it’s me…He became our Champion. He endured it all just to be with us forever. Don’t give up. The Lord knows you are weary. He knows fatigue is setting in so He applies His Grace that is sufficient for us to be more than uncomfortable but suffer with Him. It goes on to say that we have not given our lives in the struggle with sin. Hmm… could that mean that this battle is not outward but comes from within?
Matthew 10:21-23 (NLT)
“A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.”