Suffering; January 5, 2019

Revelation 1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

When you think about God’s provision, suffering doesn’t usually come to mind! However here, John is speaking of it in the same breath as the kingdom of God, and throws in patient endurance in the bargain! We have great trouble seeing it that way, but sometimes suffering is indeed a gift from God. John was to the same level of spiritual maturity as Paul, who said that he wanted to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10) That wasn’t from some perverted masochism, it was from an awareness that we have things that need to be burned out of us, and sometimes suffering is the best, indeed the only, way to do that. My mother had a phrase she used often in praying for people: “Keep them from unnecessary suffering.” I think she had learned this lesson too. Here, John knew that he was exiled to Patmos because he had been faithful as a witness of Jesus Christ, and he considered it a high honor. Even in the “politically correct” world of today, speaking the Word of God can get you into trouble. The term, “hate speech,” is one of the most Orwellian in the world today. Simply speaking the truth of God, out of an abundance of love and an honest desire for the very best for the hearer, is denounced as “hate speech” if it contradicts the current narrative of total sexual confusion and license. If we suffer for having so spoken, we should take it as an honor! No one likes suffering, and we would be sick if we did, but we can rejoice in it, giving God thanks for it, knowing that God never allows anything that can’t be for our good, (Romans 8:28) and He sees the final outcome of blessing.

I am once again reminded that, compared with so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have experienced very little suffering. I’m not to go looking for suffering, but I am never to draw back from proclaiming the Word of the Lord out of a fear of suffering. I am prone to draw back out of a fear of being disliked, and that is a very low bar indeed! I need to be more like Paul and John, not drawing back from anything the Lord indicates I am to say or do, but choosing faithfulness over convenience, God’s approval over that of the world. A genuine Christian trying to please the world is like Donald Trump trying to please the media; it’s not going to happen. As has been said, in the current environment he could do something absolutely fantastic for the nation and it would either be denounced or totally ignored. I need to take that as an object lesson and fear nothing, focusing on Jesus Christ and what He wants me to do, accepting with joy whatever comes with the package, even if it is suffering.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I was inspired night before last to see and hear my sister in the Lord preach the wake for her own husband, who died so suddenly and unexpectedly. Likewise, I live every day with Cathy, who has physical suffering from her various medical issues. I do pray that You would keep her, and me, from unnecessary suffering, and that You would enable us to be faithfully obedient to everything You say to us, for the sake of Your kingdom and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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