Friday, January 16, 2009

Spiritual warfare and suffering

George Barna writes: "As America has become an ever-more secularized nation, religion has been caricatured. Among the most humorous caricatures has been one of the most devastation: the repositioning of Satan as a good natured, hard-working, I don't-get-no-respect, vilified being. Humorists, social commentators, educators, politicians, even some religious leaders have had a hand in the new portrayal of the devil. To the average man, Satan's new persona has made him less threatening, a character whose struggles we can relate to in a world filled with pain and suffering. The end result of the new image of Satan is that today, barely one-third of our adult population believes that Satan is a living being. In fact, six out of ten Americans (60%) agree that Satan is not a living being, but merely a symbol of evil. Even among born again Christians, one-third strongly agree that this is the case. Celebrated generals from past wars have invariably concluded that only way to fight a war successfully is to know the enemy; we are more likely than not to deny that the enemy even lives. And how can we take an inanimate, undimensional enemy seriously?" (Barna. What Americans Believer. pp 299-300). Please read I Peter 4:12-19. Behind much of the suffering we endure is an active enemy. He knows that he can persecute the Lord by persecuting believers. Jesus asked Saul "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" This is in reference to Saul's persecution of the Church. In this respect growing Christians need to understand God's purposes in suffering. Our Lord promised suffering to those who name His Name. Many believers are startled when severe trouble comes into their lives. Peter is writing to explain the nature and purpose of trials, to a church who was experiencing the beginning of suffering. First, we are not to think it strange that we will suffer. Fiery trials are designed to strengthen, not destroy us. Peter loved these afflicted Christians and calls them beloved. He is comforting those in distress. We all have the ministry of comfort. Christians will suffer persecution from the world (Satan's realm). Christ Himself endured suffering. Our Lord obtained His crown by way of the cross. Salvation is a call to suffer with Christ (Col. 1:24). Believers ought to rejoice in their sufferings with Christ. Our joy should increase in proportion to our sufferings. The best of believers struggle under the reproach of being identified with Christ. A Spirit filled believer will not make being miserable a life habit. We did not receive the "spirit of misery" when we were saved. The same Holy Spirit that empowered Christ rests on us. The Lord "Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross." The Holy Spirit takes our afflictions as if they were placed on Him. Those who touch us, touch Christ. When God's people are slandered for the Name of Christ, the Holy Spirit is glorified. Second, God's children must be careful not to suffer because of evil doing. The best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in suffering for our own foolishness. Not the suffering, but the cause makes the martyr. We never glory in persecution, we glory in God. Peter is no longer ashamed to name the name of Christ. Every Believer you meet is just finishing a trial, in the middle of a trial, or ready to begin another trial. A college president once said, "Being president means always a problem." It's the same for a committed Spirit filled Christian. When God brings judgment upon a nation He begins with His own people. Today God is calling His people to holiness. Chastisement is proof that we are members of God's family. "Whom the Lord loves He chastens." Our suffering is light compared to the unbeliever who will suffer in hell for eternity. The unbelievers suffering in hell is beyond human comprehension. Such suffering is just because God is Just. Sin outrages the Holiness of God. Apart from Christ's work at Calvary we would all spend eternity in hell. As believers we all need the Lord's correction. We as believers suffer in this life, the unbelievers in the next. We are to let the absolute necessity of living a Godly life balance the difficulty of it. "His yoke is easy and His burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). Third, suffering calls us to commit ourselves to the Lord. All suffering comes by the will of God. Pressure directs us in our lives. In our distress we must look to Jesus for comfort. If we act like the world and return evil for evil then we suffer in vain. Suffering strengthens our soul and produces patient perseverance in well doing. We can commit our souls to God because He is our Creator and is faithful in all His promises. Commit is a banking term, means to deposit. This is the same word Jesus used when He died. He deposited His soul with the Father. When suffering and trials come we must be careful of our reactions. It's our reactions, not our actions that kill us. Our reactions reveal character. There are three ways we grow as believers. 1. The Word of God. 2. Prayer. 3. Suffering. Much of our trouble comes from unyielded rights. As bond slaves to Christ we have no rights, just the responsibility to glorify Christ. When we suffer we are to blame no one, but cling to Jesus who will cause the suffering to bow to His sovereign purposes for our lives (Rom. 8:28-29).

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