Suffering

By Michael E. Brooks

“Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:19-20 NKJV).

What is the very worst thing you have suffered as a result of your faith in God? That question is something of an embarrassment to most Christians, including I freely admit, myself.
The truth is that I have a very difficult time thinking of any experience in my life related to Christianity that I could describe as suffering (boring, hours long sermons not excluded).
I have had conversations with many non-Christians and indifferent Christians (there’s an oxymoron for you) over the years in which they discussed the difficulty of living the Christian life.
“I would have to give up too much” is a frequent excuse for disobedience. When it comes to difficult decisions, like remaining faithful in a no longer exciting marriage, they claim, “I know God wants me to be happy.” I always respond, “I cannot find that in the Bible.”
God wants us to be righteous. If so, he will provide happiness for us (Philippians 4:4-7).
But many Christians have and do suffer.
Real, martyrdom type suffering. Paul was stoned in Lystra, his attackers intending to kill him and believing they had done so. But God spared his life. What did he do in response? He got up and went back into the city where his attackers were. Then he went on to the next city and continued to preach the Gospel.
Did he reason, “God would surely not want me to risk my life any further.” Did he believe he had done enough, suffered enough? Not Paul. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “. . . Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Years ago in a South American country, I studied with a woman whose livelihood, and that of her mother, depended upon her Muslim brother. She said she wanted to become a Christian but if she did her brother would cut off their support and they would be in the street with nothing to eat. That is suffering in the name of Christ.
Another woman was being blackmailed into an adulterous affair and would be exposed to her husband if she stopped. Conversion depends upon repentance and turning from sin. Had she obeyed the gospel (sadly she did not at that time at least), she likely would have suffered greatly.
One has some understanding and sympathy for those in such difficult situations. But the truth is not changed. Outside of Christ, they are lost eternally (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).
Compared to these examples, and innumerable others exist, giving up one’s only day to rest and do what one pleases in order to serve the Lord is hardly a sacrifice. Working until 5:00, then rushing to get the family fed and to Bible study on Wednesday night does not constitute suffering.
Friends in another country have been uprooted from their village home by pagan neighbors threatening to burn them because of their faith. That is happening in 2009, right now in the modern world.
Their family is scattered over a wide area as they seek to alleviate the threat. Other friends have been beaten, interrogated and imprisoned simply because they are Christians. I read frequent accounts of martyrs, though so far none of them have been personal acquaintances.
Again I ask, what is the very worst thing you have suffered as a result of your faith in God? Why exactly are you not able to serve God faithfully, not only in regular worship and study, but in doing his work in this world?
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

One Reply to “Suffering”

  1. Thank you, Mike Brooks, for mentioning our family’s situation of having fled our home and being separated from each other.
    My youngest son, Donal, loves our animals so much and prays for them nightly. It has HURT MY HEART how much he has wept over our dog. Boxer is the cutest dog I have ever known, and the Naidu brothers who exacerbated the mob to burn me alive have been so jealous over that dog. They have collected THREE dogs and each time said, “See, don’t you think this dog is cuter than Boxer?” We were always polite about it, but they apparently think as we believe that Boxer is the cutest!
    Anyway, Donal’s heart was broken when his dog went missing six days ago and never returned. He wanted to go back to to our house to find his precious dog. Of course, I could not allow that.
    I asked Vicky who is staying in the home because he was not a party to what happened, to look along the paved road way to see if he had been hit by a car. No sign of him.
    Last Saturday, a week ago, the whole family got together downtown at a McDonalds restaurant before we went to hear Gary Walker and Bruce Thornton from the Sunset church of Christ, and we discussed these and many other related issues. We PRAYED HARD for all of Donal’s animals, that God would protect them.
    Now it may seem to be a small matter, but we discussed the mystery on the phone with each other and came to general agreement that either the Naidu brothers or one other lady’s husband who claims Boxer does #2 on her porch (even when he is LOCKED UP), must have killed him. Kartik Naidu (the middle 15 year old boy) has already killed other’s pets.
    Nevertheless, with the prayers on our hearts and minds, yesterday morning just as I was about to wake, I had the strangest dream. I was hugging Boxer with all my might and was so happy to hug him, pet him and love him up. Then I immediately woke up and started my day.
    “Strange!” I thought. It had been so real, but I got busy and didn’t tell anyone about it. Two hours later the oldest of two boys staying at the house (26 years old), called to say that Boxer had returned!
    Donal is delirious with joy and itching at the bit to go see Boxer and Faithy’s seven puppies he’s never seen either.
    This is no small thing to Donal, but would probably seem that way to most of us, and yet even to myself, it gave me a “warm fuzzy” I’ve never known and confirmed in a way I have never experienced as to how much God loves us!
    Love you too,
    Don & Family

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