History of Redemption: Blog Post 37
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (Jesus said) You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. -1 John 3:13 ESV;Matthew 10:22;24;28;32-33 NASB; Luke 9:24 NASB; Matthew 5:10-12 ESV; 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV.
This is not an easy word. I have spent time this week wrestling with these scriptures. It is not the first time I have wrestled with them. It probably won't be the last. Our faith begins with suffering. The road of our faith is marked with suffering. For many of us the end of our earthly life will be one of suffering. As I pray over these verses, I always end with the same question, "Do I believe what I believe enough to suffer and die for it?". That is the question that has brought me to my knees, pleading with God saying "I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).
Jesus made it clear from the beginning what the cost of following Him would be. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). The only way to embrace this call is through total and complete surrender of yourself to Him. You cannot merely admire the cross from a safe distance, you have to cling to it. You have to feel the weight of it upon your shoulders, and splinters of it digging into your flesh.
It is clearly much easier to write about suffering, than it is to go through it. And I confess that I have suffered very little for the Name of Jesus Christ. But I need to prepare myself now, for whatever it is that my Lord is calling me to. And I must never forget that, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “unearned suffering is redemptive”. Always remember that suffering is not without purpose. Read through the book Acts and you will see the explosive effect that suffering and persecution had on the early church. "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied" (Acts 9:31). God does not let you suffer for no reason. Ultimately, He is doing something amazing and good. We do not take up the cross to atone for our sins, Jesus has already done that for us. But by taking up our cross, and enduring persecution for His Name’s sake, He is given much glory, and His church is strengthened, as many more are brought to faith in Him.
Oswald Chambers writes, “God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with .... If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed” (My Utmost For His Highest, Sept. 30).
As I write this, we are as a church praying for a saint in Iran who is moments away from being put to death for his faith is Jesus Christ. Read Foxes book of martyrs, or log on to the Voice of the Martyrs, and you will hear of countless other stories of men and women who followed Jesus to their grave. Saints who were tortured, beaten, mocked, imprisoned, and killed for the Name of Christ. These men and women brought great great glory to our Lord. And their suffering was not without purpose. Their suffering and sacrifice has strengthened His church, and has in turn led many more to faith in Him, and has glorified His name to the ends of the earth.
Lord God, I ask You again, to help my unbelief. I ask You to give me faith strong enough to suffer and die for what I know to be true, and what I know to be worthy of my life, that Your Son, Jesus Christ, suffered and died, so that I may stand forgiven before Your throne of grace. I ask you today, to prepare me to be crushed, that I may be made into wine, for the glory of Your Holy Name.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).