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Christian Suffering

psalm19

 

 

Christian Suffering

An excerpt from Foxes Book of Martyrs:

“The next victim was the amiable Lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary. When she first mounted the scaffold, she spoke to the spectators in this manner: “Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day:” and therewith she wrung her hands, wherein she had her book. Then said she, “I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness, that I die a good Christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess that when I did know the Word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that of His goodness He hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent. And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers.” And then, kneeling down, she turned to Feckenham, saying, “Shall I say this Psalm?” and he said, “Yea.” Then she said the Psalm of Miserere mei Deus, in English, in a most devout manner throughout to the end; and then she stood up, and gave her maid, Mrs. Ellen, her gloves and handkerchief, and her book to Mr. Bruges; and then she untied he gown, and the executioner pressed upon her to help her off with it: but she, desiring him to let her alone, turned towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therewith, and also with her frowes, paaft, and neckerchief, giving to her a fair handkerchief to put about her eyes.

Then the executioner kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness, whom she forgave most willingly. Then he desired her to stand upon the straw, which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, “I pray you, despatch me quickly.” Then she kneeled down, saying, “Will you take it off before I lay me down?” And the executioner said, “No, madam.” Then she tied a handkerchief about her eyes, and feeling for the block, she said, “What shall I do? Where is it? Where is it?” One of the standers-by guiding her therunto, she laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit;” and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the twelfth day of February, about the seventeenth year of her age.”

When we hear the word, ‘suffering’ what comes to mind? Is it a physical disease? Is it what we hear of in foreign lands where there is no food and people starve to death?

There are differences in suffering, for sure. There are grades of suffering; as well, there is such a thing as Christian suffering, or suffering ‘for the sake of Christ’. We will discuss and contrast suffering that is Christian and suffering that is worldly.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

All things…..

3956. πᾶς pas, pas; including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: — all (manner of, means), alway(-s), any (one), x daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no(-thing), x thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.

Worldly Suffering

In this life:

All suffering outside of Christ is worldly; it is personal and owned by the person suffering. It is theirs alone. It is independent of anyone else. Granted, there are catastrophic events like hurricanes and torrnados that affect regions and groups of people, but it still comes down to a personal level. The pain worldly people feel is real; one would not argue with that point. We are not intending to discredit that reality. We are however trying to contrast Christian suffering with that which the world experiences, which is in fact very different. What does the worldly do with their suffering? Appeal to their fellow man, to their families, to their physicians? Yes. What recourse do they have?

Sympathy, anesthetics, mental gymnastics to divert ones attention to lessen pain and suffering; there are surgeries that attempt to abate suffering. There are psychologists and psychiatrists. There is a plethora of anti-psychotic meds and antidepressants. In days past, psychiatrists would lessen acute depression with shock therapy. Pain to get rid of pain.

Many people who have chronic pain are walking zombies-their life is an inebriation of sorts from pain relief cocktails that are prescribed by pain specialists. These patients are not really themselves in the least. Most patients who have been bound by pain relief will attest to the fact that during the duration of time they were being treated, they were not themselves and ultimately their suffering remained to a degree, even while being treated with massive doses of pain relief-it only masked the pain. How about anxiety and their attacks that many people have? I used to experience panic attacks.

This is not to say that believers don’t experience some of these descriptions-they do. The difference is how they deal with these problems in the ultimate sense. The unbeliever deals with it practically, the believer practically and spiritually. The unbeliever may use a form of spirituality, i.e. Buddhist techniques or biofeedback, but this is not true spirituality; true spirituality rests in Yahweh. He is the creator and the desire to be spiritual is from the image placed in each and every one of us. Hence, relief of this sort can only be found in Him, the great I am.

Godly suffering

The Suffering of John Hooper

“About eight o’clock, on February 9, 1555, he was led forth, and many thousand persons were collected, as it was market-day. All the way, being straitly charged not to speak, and beholding the people, who mourned bitterly for him, he would sometimes lift up his eyes towards heaven, and look very cheerfully upon such as he knew: and he was never known, during the time of his being among them, to look with so cheerful and ruddy a countenance as he did at that time. When he came to the place appointed where he should die, he smilingly beheld the stake and preparation made for him, which was near unto the great elm tree over against the college of priests, where he used to preach.

Now, after he had entered into prayer, a box was brought and laid before him upon a stool, with his pardon from the queen, if he would turn. At the sight whereof he cried, “If you love my soul, away with it!” The box being taken away, Lord Chandois said, “Seeing there is no remedy; despatch him quickly.”

Command was now given that the fire should be kindled. But because there were not more green fagots than two horses could carry, it kindled not speedily, and was a pretty while also before it took the reeds upon the fagots. At length it burned about him, but the wind having full strength at that place, and being a lowering cold morning, it blew the flame from him, so that he was in a manner little more than touched by the fire.

Within a space after, a few dry fagots were brought, and a new fire kindled with fagots, (for there were no more reeds) and those burned at the nether parts, but had small power above, because of the wind, saving that it burnt his hair and scorched his skin a little. In the time of which fire, even as at the first flame, he prayed, saying mildly, and not very loud, but as one without pain, “O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me, and receive my soul!” After the second fire was spent, he wiped both his eyes with his hands, and beholding the people, he said with an indifferent, loud voice, “For God’s love, good people, let me have more fire!” and all this while his nether parts did burn; but the fagots were so few that the flame only singed his upper parts.

The third fire was kindled within a while after, which was more extreme than the other two. In this fire he prayed with a loud voice, “Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus receive my spirit!” And these were the last words he was heard to utter. But when he was black in the mouth, and his tongue so swollen that he could not speak, yet his lips went until they were shrunk to the gums: and he knocked his breast with his hands until one of his arms fell off, and then knocked still with the other, while the fat, water, and blood dropped out at his fingers’ ends, until by renewing the fire, his strength was gone, and his hand clave fast in knocking to the iron upon his breast. Then immediately bowing forwards, he yielded up his spirit.

Thus was he three quarters of an hour or more in the fire.”

Get that? Hooper was in the flames for almost 60 minutes. How is it that he was able to tolerate this?

Grace, alone.

In 2 Thes the apostle writes:

“2Th. 1:3   We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,  4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,  5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;”

Phil. 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

1Th. 2:14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,

1Pet. 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

Heb 12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Most all of us here in America have never experienced this level. We have great freedoms here. The law protects freedom of speech. It protects our bodies from harm. It protects our right to worship freely. Sad to say, we take these graces for granted often. We have not spilled blood, standing firm on the cross. The day may well come, but it is not yet for us. Who is to know but God Himself? We should pray that if that day does come, that we are found worthy of our testimony akin to those described in the book of revelation:

Rev. 12:11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Who suffered the ultimate punishment? Jesus did. Having His mark upon us signifies our responsibility to even die for His name if need be. You might say, “Scott, why do I need to die for Christ?”

Matt. 10:24   “A disciple is not above his teacher..

We can see from these passages that it is part and parcel with our faith and walk to suffer. We are called to suffer for the cross.

The Apostle Paul is out best example outside of the savior:

Paul was jailed for 16 years, beaten just shy of death, He took 195 lashes on more than one occasion, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked-all for the name of Jesus. What did he say, “I count it all but loss”? How many of us can say this? Our homes-loss? Our families-Loss? Our jobs-Loss? What is first in your life?  You might say, “Scott, Jesus is first!” Yes, He is first until He is not first; when we are challenged in the simplest of fashions, we fold. If I was told tomorrow that I have to work on the Sabbath, there would be a problem. Even though, as you all know, I have a personal conviction on the doctrine of the Sabbath, I would probably fold under the pressure from society and cultural mandates; at least for a season. This is essentially rooted in fear of men. I fear losing my job, losing my home, losing my family. Even though God tells us not to fear, we fear. Even though God’s word tells us that he provides for the birds of the air, we tremble. Did the apostle tremble at the same type of threats? No!

In the book of Amos, the prophet scolds the people of that day and says, ‘Woe to those that are at ease in Zion’. The people of Amos’ day lied comfortably on marble slabs, becoming numb to truth-much like us here in America. We are all numbed down.

Matt. 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matt. 16:24   Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

The gravity of what Christ said here in these passages is difficult for us in this age to truly grasp. In Christ’s day, the cross was terrible-the worst kind of punishment. The people of that day knew exactly what Christ meant. Think of it this way, take up your electric chair and follow me; take up your gallows and follow me; take up your starvations and follow me; if you don’t, you are not worthy to follow Him who suffered under the same. A student is not above His master or teacher.

The apostle tells us that suffering is not a strange thing:

1Pet. 4:12   Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

It is not strange, it is part and parcel with our faith.

Sinclair Ferguson writes:

“Do I learn through dark providences, or simply seem relieved when they are over?”

Calvin writes:

“Whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of His fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil. It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put His own children to a definite test. Beginning with Christ, His first-born, He follows this plan with all His children.”

The suffering we are called to is akin to a refiners fire.

Zech. 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

We have talked in the past of sanctification. God’s word is the ultimate sanctifier. God many times uses affliction. Some of these afflictions present themselves as physical and others mental. For instance, a family that uses a loved one may suffer longer mentally than one who has a burning cancer. It is different from person to person and the level of grace God gives to the recipient of this refining.

One wonders how the people that have no food and homes, those that live in persecuted countries to tolerate and continue running when they are faced with levels we in this country have no idea of.  It is because of God’s grace.

Eph. 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
We all have levels of grace, obviously relevant to our situations. They are described as measures.

2Th. 2:16   Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,

Notice how the apostle links comfort and hope to the gift of grace.

Tina asked that I mention Job; Job suffered greatly and in that day, was found worthy of his testimony. Listen what he says:

Job 13:15 15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:

Godly suffering only lets us know that heaven is becoming more of a reality. Suffering gives us glimpses of God’s domain through our extended prayer life. It is enhanced. Our communications with the Father are real and true. The petitions are deeply rooted in the heart. The prayers are bathed in many tears, tears that God keeps in a bottle:

Psa. 56:8 You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.

Put my tears in Your bottle.

Are they not in Your records?

9     Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.

This I know: God is for me.

Thomas Manton writes:
“It is a man’s duty to submit, admire, not quarrel at providence; if things are not as we would have them, they are as God would have them.”

In all of this suffering, if God is for us, who can be against us? We push on, knowing full well that Glory awaits. There is a crown for us. Mansions with many rooms. He goes there to prepare a place for us!

Lets talk a bit about suffering in the afterlife.

Worldly Suffering in the afterlife:

This is a frightening fact. All those outside of Christ, perish. Luke expounds on the ghastly setting in that God forsaken place:

Luke 16:19   “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

The scriptures say that it is a place of torment-never ending suffering, where the worm dieth not and the fire never quenched. The torments of Hell are eternal. Annihilationism is heresy. There is no peace and the glory of God is present there in it’s majesty; just out of reach to those who have rejected Christ. This, is the consummate penalty. To be able to see the Lamb, yet never able to get relief from Him. Their sin, always before them.
Godly suffering in the afterlife:

Unlike the reprobate, there is no tears or suffering any longer.

Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Heaven is a place of rest and comfort:

Heb. 4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Heb. 4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.

Heb. 4:11   Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

There is joy unspeakable:

Matt. 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

So much more can be said on the subject of Christian suffering. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Him who suffered for us as He and only Him is worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

I pray this short paper blesses your heart and draws you closer to Christ.

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