Monday, November 2, 2015

The Evangelistic Nature of Suffering

God reveals much in the Scriptures about those who suffer. One of His primary purposes in suffering is evangelism. When those who suffer are “not in any way terrified” by their persecutors, it is “to them a proof of perdition” (Philippians 1:28). It is also “an occasion for testimony” (Luke 21:13). Our suffering, even among the most severely persecuted, is truly “light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) compared to those who are treasuring up for themselves “wrath in the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5) and for whom “the treasury of hail” (Job 38:22) may also be light compared to the undiluted wrath of God “poured out without mixture” (Revelation 14:10). Suffering for Christ is a small price to pay for those facing misery without hope and who need to hear the Good News.

We are not “as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have hope, and we have a great High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15) and who “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Suffering builds our relationship with Jesus. When we suffer, we share in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Jesus also taught us to “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23). This is quite the opposite of being in any way terrified. Indeed, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

The Persecuted Church is the Vibrant Church. It is the Prevailing Church. Persecution is but a step along the way to becoming mighty “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). This is the outlook of those who suffer, those for whom we pray and advocate. We don't like to hear about suffering, but it is powerful to hear from those who have suffered for the cause of Christ. Paul taught us to “hold such men in esteem because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life” (Philippians 2:29-30).

We advocate for those suffering in order to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This magnifies the ministry (Romans 11:13-15) of those who have suffered for the sake of the Gospel and stirs up the Church in the Gospel (2 Peter 1:12-14). Those who have suffered for Christ are well suited to tell others, “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

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