Wednesday, February 02, 2011

We Must Suffer, but Only a Little

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—" (Philippians 3:8-9).

Suffering is certain in this life, even for the Christian. Perhaps I should say especially for the Christian. The types of sufferings we might experience in this world are limited only by experience and the imagination. People suffer terribly of sickness, hunger, from the beast of war, and death. There are infinite ways to break the heart, but there is really only one way to heal it.

This is why the "prosperity" gospel fails so spectacularly. This is why "name it and claim it" theology is so heart-breaking. This aberration of the gospel, which is really no gospel at all, tells the unwary that if you only believe God enough, then he will prosper you in this life. This is fine in good times. It kills in the bad. It kills faith when one is diagnosed with terminal cancer, when a beloved child is struck and killed crossing the street, or when a spouse betrays marriage vows. Then, the person is inevitably left twisting in the wind, thinking that all these things have come upon them because of a lack of personal faith. This is not so. It cannot be so!

Our Lord Jesus left infinite riches to become a pauper with no home. He was a King, a sovereign despot, who died with only eleven close subjects. And my, how he died! No one ever believed in God as Jesus did, and yet he was stripped of his only worldly goods, the clothes on his back, and he was nailed to a tree. The testimony of Jesus utterly overthrows the notion that we will not suffer. The Lord Himself said, "Take up your cross and follow me." Follow him where, you may ask? To calvary, of course. We must follow him up that lonely road and die there with him. It is the only way to live.

So, we will suffer. We will suffer scorn for righteousness sake. Some of us will contract diseases and waste away in the flesh. Some of us will spend many days in agony as life drains from this mortal coil. Some of us will suffer betrayals of the worst kind, from those whom we dearly love, and we will mourn. Ah me, how every Christian will mourn here! Anyone who fights in a war knows grief. We will see casualties of Satan, we will be wounded ourselves, and we will mourn the darkness. Our mourning and our cries will ascend to high heaven, and God will treasure up our tears by number. We will suffer. We will mourn. Some will grow old and go down to the grave with gray hairs. We will walk feebly on walkers. We will be fed Ensure with a spoon held by others. Our pride and strength will be wasted. We will return to the dust.

And after all this, after all this suffering, we will see the King of Glory. He will greet us as sons and daughters. He will delight over us. He will usher us into his joy. He himself will wipe away our tears. He will clothe us with his own robes. He will give us a crown. He will make us whole in every way. We will know that he heard our cries. We will know that he knew our sorrows, and that he cared. And in that day, we will look back upon the canvas of our lives and say with Paul, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!" We shall say it was worth it?! It is true indeed that Christian people are a strange lot. We are mad, actually. We are mad with hope. It is why our elderly, our infirm, and our sick can suffer so valiantly. We are crazy with hope. This is why we can call death gain, and this is why we do not mourn like the world.

I grieve for the world, and I know I must suffer. I am sorry to say that you must suffer as well. It is the way of this fallen world. But I will tell you this, dear child, you will only suffer a little compared to the glory that will be revealed in you. You must suffer...but only a little.

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