“Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering…” These lyrics appear in a popular, modern, worship song by Matt Redman. But what does it mean to suffer in today’s Christianity, as I’m sure many people sing along with this song but have no concept of real suffering.
I think most people equate suffering today, in the “church” as something that comes from numerous sources, none of which are biblical standards of suffering. I expect that even making this statement will be offensive to many because when we are suffering we want to believe we are suffering biblically, especially if we name the name of Christ.
What is it to suffer?
Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant) – this is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. I could probably dig a little deeper, but this is what most people will consider to suffer.
When we feel bad, or when we feel like we didn’t get what we deserve, we feel as though we are suffering. Some might be suffering the loss of a loved one, or suffering the loss of a job. These are certainly unpleasant things that occur, and nobody likes them, but are they really suffering as the Bible would describe it?
Our family has recently been watching a series about heroes of the faith. These are people that endured prison, endured beatings, and many of them endured martyrdom. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned in Communist Romania for speaking out against Communism. He spent over eight years imprisoned and three years in solitary confinement with no lights or no windows. He was beaten and tortured, physically as well as psychologically and yet he maintained his sanity by preaching sermons during the night to himself. His survival and proclamation of the gospel is beyond what we can imagine today.
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:10-12
Paul is instructing young Timothy how to be a faithful minister of the Word. He is setting the example before him of his own life. He is telling him how it’s going to be…and Timothy must know how his future will most likely turn out. Only a true believer will set himself up for this, because it’s not going to be fun.
I’m challenged by this, and I hope you are as well, because I think we need to be. I think we must be…
We don’t currently experience this today, at least not in this country, mostly… But I believe we will, and I believe I must prepare my children. It’s why I think it’s important for them to see those that gave their lives for the faith. They suffered and died to proclaim His name.
Consider these great heroes of the faith, their names are unknown to us, but their example lives on, and it’s one for us to consider when we are afraid to open our mouths and hand someone a gospel tract.
…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:35-40
This doesn’t sound like my Christianity? I realize we are in a different time period, and the place we live right now, is unlikely that I’m going to be destitute and or sawn in half. But should I then say, this has no place in a conviction in my life? Absolutely not, this should shame me when I won’t open my mouth, or I look at my 401K statement and think, boy if I only had a little more, I’d be in pretty good shape.
No, how about giving until it actually effects my 401K? How about standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of Christ and actually praising God for the ridicule that will no doubt ensue? Would this be better or worse than being slain with the sword? That’s not a mutually exclusive proposition; I can do one without the other. I probably won’t be slain, but I will probably be made fun of, and that would be a slight way in which I could suffer for Christ sake, wouldn’t it?
Could I, or could you risk some embarrassment every now and again, to give someone a message of love? To tell them they need Jesus, because without Him they are on a crash course for Hell? Do we believe that? If we sort of don’t…then we won’t… If Hell is real, then its consequences are real, and we need to tell people, we need to warn them.
I’d like to consider this verse in a different way today.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” But ou do nt give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. – James 2:14-17
This verse is clearly and plainly for believers, please don’t be confused, and here is how I want us to think differently about it. If we don’t live out our faith in a tangible and real way, proclaiming Christ to dead people, we are doing the same thing to them. We might even give them something warm and fill them with food; in fact lots of misguided ministries do just that. But…..do they give them the bread of life?
Do we tell them God is holy and man is sinful? Do we tell them Jesus is the answer to their sin problem? Do we tell them they must turn from their sin, and embrace a new life in Christ? This is the gospel, this is necessary, and they need to be born again, or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, let’s go out and suffer, just a little bit this week. Just a little bit, so we can learn to suffer a little bit more and then someday, maybe we can really learn how to suffer.