Suffering for the Sake of the Body - Lesson 4
The Nature of Christian Suffering
The suffering of sickness and persecution are intended by Satan for the destruction of our faith. and governed by God for the purifying of our faith. Suffering from sickness and persecution are often indistinguishable.
The Nature of Christian Suffering
The Nature of Christian Suffering
The Nature of Christian Suffering: Is There a Difference Between Plague and Persecution? Cancer and Conflict?
In choosing to follow Christ in the way he directs, we choose all that this path includes under his sovereign providence. Thus all suffering that comes in the path of obedience is suffering with Christ and for Christ – whether it is cancer or conflict.
All experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common: they all threaten our faith in the goodness of God and tempt us to leave the path of obedience. Therefore, every triumph of faith and all perseverance in obedience are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ – whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin or sabotage.
Therefore, all suffering, of every kind, that we endure in the path of our Christian calling is a suffering “with Christ” and “for Christ.” With him in the sense that the suffering comes to us as we are walking with him by faith, and in the sense that it is endured in the strength that he supplies through his sympathizing high-priestly ministry (Hebrews 4:15). For him in the sense that the suffering tests and proves our allegiance to his goodness and power, and in the sense that it reveals his worth as an all-sufficient compensation and prize.
Not only that, the suffering of sickness and the suffering of persecution have this in common: they are both intended by Satan for the destruction of our faith (1 Thessalonians 3:4-5), and governed by God for the purifying of our faith (Hebrews 12:3-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Finally, suffering from persecution and sickness are often indistinguishable. Suppose that the apostle Paul got pneumonia from all this work and exposure. Would that pneumonia have been “persecution”? Paul did not make a distinction between being beaten by rods or having a boating accident or being cold while traveling between towns. For him any suffering that befell him while serving Christ was part of the “cost” of discipleship. When a missionary’s child gets diarrhea, we think of this as part of the price of faithfulness. But if any parent is walking in the path of obedience to God’s calling, it is the same price. What turns sufferings into sufferings “with” and “for” Christ is not how intentional our enemies are, but how faithful we are. If we are Christ’s, then what befalls us is for his glory and for our good whether it is caused by enzymes or by enemies.
When we speak of the purposes of suffering in the following section, we mean both persecution, and the accidents and sicknesses that befall us in any path of faith.
The Purposes of Christian Suffering: Why Does God Permit and Order the Sufferings of His People?
To Promote Deeper Faith and Hope and Holiness of Life
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead . . .
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives." it is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope . . .
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 1:6-8
In this [promised salvation] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory . . .
To Increase the Joy of Our Experience of Our Reward in Heaven
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
To Awaken Others out of Indifference and Make Them More Radical and Bold for Christ
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
To Present to Unbelievers Tangibly in Our Suffering the Kind of Compelling Sacrificial Love that Christ Extends to Them from the Cross
1 Thessalonians 1:5-6
Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
Receive [Epaphroditus] then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12
[I am] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
2 Timothy 2:9-10
I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
To Reposition the Troops of Christian “Soldiers” into Places They Would Otherwise Not Have Gone
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
To Magnify the Power of Christ in Our Weakness, and the Sufficiency and Surpassing Value of Christ over All Worldly Comforts and Pleasures
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.
5. How Shall We Joyfully Endure the Measure of Suffering Appointed for Us?
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
6. Appendix: How to Minister in Response to the Littleton, Colorado Shooting
(I wrote this as a help to the elders of our church as they minister in this and other similar calamities.)
April 22, 1999
At about 11:30 A.M. on Tuesday April 20, the anniversary of Adolph Hitler’s birth, two students of Columbine High School in Littleton, a suburb of Denver, entered the cafeteria and opened fire on students with guns and with homemade bombs. They moved through the school and into the library where, after killing at least 13 (the death toll may go higher because of the seriously injured), they killed themselves.
What shall we say about this in order to honor God and minister to people for their good?
That will depend on how they are affected and how close they are to the event. But I have felt constrained to put together some thoughts that may serve as a Biblical resource for you to draw from for the various situations you may face in circumstances like this. I pray that the Lord will strengthen your hands and heart in this crucial moment of need.
Pray. Ask God for his help for you and for those you want to minister to. Ask him for wisdom and compassion and strength and a word fitly chosen. Ask that those who are suffering would look to God as their help and hope and healing and strength. Ask that he would make your mouth a fountain of life.
May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as the gentle rain upon the tender grass, and as the showers upon the herb.
Feel and express empathy with those most hurt by this great evil and loss; weep with those who weep.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Feel and express compassion because of the tragic circumstances of so many parents and brothers and sisters and other relatives and friends who have lost more than they could ever estimate.
Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.
Take time and touch, if you can, and give tender care to the wounded in body and soul.
Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.” Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Hold out the promise that God will sustain and help those who cast themselves on him for mercy and trust in his grace. He will strengthen you for the impossible days ahead in spite of all darkness.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
We do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.
Affirm that Jesus Christ tasted hostility from men and knew what it was to be unjustly tortured and abandoned, and to endure overwhelming loss, and then be killed, so that he is now a sympathetic mediator for us with God.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Declare that this murder was a great evil, and that God’s wrath is greatly kindled by the wanton destruction of human life created in his image.
Thou shalt not murder.
Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.
All the nations will say, “Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?” Then men will say, “Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
Acknowledge that God has permitted a great outbreak of sin against his revealed will, and that we do not know all the reasons why he would permit such a thing now, when it was in his power to stop it.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Express that these boys who wantonly killed others and themselves rebelled against the revealed will of God and did not love God or trust him or find in God their refuge and strength and treasure, but scorned his ways and his Person.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
Finally, brethren, pray for us . . . that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.
You presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Since rebellion against God was at the root of this act of murder, let us all fear such rebellion in our own hearts and turn from it and embrace the grace of God in Christ and renounce the very impulses that caused this tragedy.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
Point the living to the momentous issues of sin and repentance in our own hearts and the urgent need to get right with God through his merciful provision of forgiveness in Christ, so that a worse fate than death will not overtake us.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Remember that even those who trust in Christ may be cut down like these kids were, but that does not mean they have been abandoned by God or not loved by God, even in that agonizing moment of suffering. God’s love more than conquers even through calamity.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mingle heart-wrenching weeping with unbreakable confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God who rules over the sin and the bullets of rebellious people.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."
If He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.
Trust God for his ability to do the humanly impossible, and bring you through this nightmare and, in some inscrutable way, bring good out of it.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."
Count God your only lasting treasure, because he is the only sure and stable thing in the universe.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org
Ten aspects of God's sovereignty over suffering, and Satan's role in it.
Even though Satan has the power to inflict suffering in the world, God is sovereign.
In part, the meaning of global suffering is God's judgment on the world for its sinfulness and the portrayal in the physical world of the moral and spiritual horror of God-belittling sin. It is also God's message of warning and awakening that the world should take seriously their desperate moral condition. Satan is not obliterated but permitted to torment the world because it is God's purpose to glorify the power and beauty of sacrificial, sin-forgiving grace through defeating Satan progressively through the death of Christ and through its application by the Spirit in Christians' lives. Followers of Jesus will suffer because he did. Perseverance is essential.
The suffering of sickness and persecution are intended by Satan for the destruction of our faith. and governed by God for the purifying of our faith. Suffering from sickness and persecution are often indistinguishable.
The great aim of Satan is to prevent and weaken and, if possible, destroy faith.Satan uses pleasure and pain to do it. Pleasure: to make us doubt God’s satisfying greatness. Pain: to make us doubt God’s sovereign goodness. To triumph over Satan (in pleasure and pain) we need to know the Word of Truth that teaches God’s sovereignty over Satan.
What follows are the texts that form the skeleton of discussion when I teach the seminar on suffering as part of The Bethlehem Institute at Bethlehem Baptist Church. This is not a book on suffering. It is a collection of Biblical passages with some occasional comments. I hope that these passages from God's Word will help you forge your own strong convictions concerning God's wise and gracious sovereignty in our suffering. I pray that God will make us all better ministers of mercy and truth in times of affliction.
We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. Copyright 2014 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.
Suffering for the Sake of the Body
Dr. John Piper
The Nature of Christian Suffering
The following message is by Pastor John Piper. More information from Desiring God is available at W WW dot desiring God dot org. Okay. We're moving now from necessity to the nature of Christian suffering. Is there a difference between plague and persecution, cancer and conflict? And I raise it because of this frequent question. I'm asked about whether I can take texts that apply to persecution in the New Testament and use them for the kinds of comforts you might receive when you're sick. Is that legitimate? Here's my thinking on this. In choosing to follow Christ in the way he directs. We choose all that this path includes under his sovereign providence. Thus, all suffering that comes in the path of obedience is suffering with Christ and for Christ, whether it is cancer or conflict. Now, that's my thesis. If if God has called you to be a computer programmer and work for some firm, rather than, say, go to be a missionary in Sudan where you might endure privation physically and run risks that you don't experience here. And yet, while you're obediently following God as a loving, faithful testimony in computer programing, you have an accident on the way to work and you paralyzed from the waist down. Is that suffering with and for Christ? And I'm arguing it is. If you're walking in the path of obedience, if that's where he wanted you and he'd called you to work there and you should drive the work in obedience to Jesus and all the way to work, it costs you your legs. In principle, it's the same thing. Now, that's just a thesis here. Let's see if there's some warrant for it. All experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common.
They all threaten our faith in the goodness of God, and they all tempt us to leave the path of obedience. Therefore, every triumph of faith and all perseverance in obedience are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ. Whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin, or sabotage. Now. That's my first argument. The common the common thing between having a car accident on the way to Medtronic and having somebody shoot you in Indonesia because you're a missionary, both of them resulting in paralysis from the waist down. The common element there is that Satan has a design for that and God has a design for that. Satan's design is that you'll get mad at God and reject him, and God's design is that you'll choose. God is of superior value above walking and thus bear witness to His glorious self-sufficiency and all sufficiency in your life. And since the point is the same in both and you've experienced both in the path of obedience, why should we say you can talk about one of them as having precious rewards and one of them is having precious assurances and the other one not? I don't think so. I chose these four S's just to tip you off. How I pray that comes out of my prayer life for my family. When Noel and I get on our knees at night beside the bed and pray regularly, I take on my lips my prayer for my sons that are not at home and the ones that are home and talented. And then my dad, who lives in South Carolina, broaden it out and I pray, Lord, protect them from sin. Here's the order. I take them. I'm not sure why I did it in this order.
Sin, Satan, sickness and sabotage, because I think that's the order of seriousness. Sin is the most serious threat to my children. Satan is the second most serious threat to my children. Sickness is the next most serious threat, I think. And then sabotage only because it's less often is the fourth most serious sabotage or threat to my children's faith. And I want them to believe that's my main goal. I've told my boys and I've been told, Tell us she's not understand yet. I said I would rather have a believing dead son than an unbelieving live son any day. It's the loss of faith that I fear more than anything. So I pray earnestly that they be protected from unbelief and sin and Satan's temptations to abandon the Lord, and then sickness and its temptations to give up on the Lord and then sabotage. Therefore next paragraph, all suffering of every kind that Christians endure in the path of our Christian calling. Is a suffering with Christ and for Christ. How so? With Him in the sense that the suffering comes to us as we are walking with him by faith. Dangerous missionary circumstances is not the only place where you walk with Jesus, nor the only dangerous place, and in the sense that it is endured in the strength that he supplies through his sympathizing high priestly ministry. So we are with him now here this morning. And on your way home, you'll be with Jesus walking with Jesus. And it is suffering for him in this sense that the suffering tests and proves our allegiance to his goodness and power, and in the sense that it reveals his worth as an all sufficient compensation and prize. When you have a loss in your life. Now, my second argument as argument number one for why I think cancer and conflict or plague and persecution can be thought of as overlapping realities that have the same spiritual dynamics in how we relate to God in them.
Here's the second observation. Not only that the suffering of sickness and the suffering of persecution have this in common. They are both intended by Satan for the destruction of our faith. First sentence. First Thessalonians three four. We read that last night and governed by God for the purifying of our faith. We'll look at Hebrews 12 later in Second Corinthians 12. We already looked at the can back up an and and take this as a underlining of something I said in regard to the fact that Christians die and Christians have futility and Christians struggle with sin, all of which were intended by God as judgments upon the world. And yet we say Christ bore my judgment in Christ, bore my condemnation. And so why do I have to come in to the experience of death and the experience of suffering and futility and in the experience of battling sin? And the answer is that Satan has a design for those, which is the destruction of our faith and God. Now, because we are in Christ, no longer designs these things as our condemnation, but as our sanctification, as our purification. If I had quoted more of that passage from First Peter 413 to 17, we would have gotten to the verse where it says Suffering is coming and it is necessary that it begin with the household of God and begin with the household of God, but it is experienced at the household of God as a refiners fire. Remember that part from the Hallelujah I mean, from the Handel's Messiah. He will be a riff. Oh, hey, verse. And and Handel has his great way of relating the very music to the trembling of a walking through a refiners fire. Well, that's the same fire that will consume unbelievers as judgment.
It's the same fire. Christians perished in Honduras, just like unbelievers. Christians are suffering, and in Kosovo and Serbia now there are Serbian Christians and Kosovar Christians, Yugoslav Christians and Christians on both sides of every conflict all over the world. And they're dying, both of them. Unbelievers die. Christians die when bombs drop. But God's design is different and Satan's design is the same. Satan desires that they be destroyed in their faith, and God's design is to refine and purify one, namely His children, and to bring judgment deserved upon the other. Can you can you handle that? Does that make sense? So we are not delivered from the flood of judgment that is coming upon the world necessarily. Sometimes we are we pray, oh, God deliver. And he often does. Here's my third observation that relates plague and persecution, conflict and cancer. Suffering from sickness and suffering from persecution. Suffering from persecution and sickness are often indistinguishable. Suppose that the Apostle Paul got pneumonia from all this work and exposure. Now, this came from a context in Desiring God, where I had just listed where he said We are in danger on the in the streets, danger from rivers, danger from enemies. We were in the sea for a day and a half. I've been shipwrecked three times. So he's listing that as part of his apostolic sufferings that he's in danger. He's he's on a boat and it breaks up in a storm. Three times this happened, Paul, he's thrown into the sea. He's grabbing on to wood because he's on his way to do missionary work. He gets rescued somehow, evidently, but he gets sick. Pneumonia. Now, is the pneumonia part of the suffering for Christ? And I think Paul put it in the list along with persecutions, because it is sleepless nights, he said.
He put it right alongside. I was beaten with lashes five times, 39 lashes, five times in his life. I was beaten with rods three times. And then he puts things like thrown into the sea. Or take this picture. Paul's back after he's been beaten all these times. His back must have looked horrific. I think that's what he meant when he said, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. Surely since they didn't know anything about antibiotics or had any back then, surely one of those times when they had lacerated his back and thrown him on the ground and it was all covered with dust. Surely it got infected and there was a fever. Is the fever part of the persecution? Can you distinguish these things and suppose something happened in his back so that characteristically now he has to walk with a slump and walking with a slump, He favors his left leg and favoring his left leg. He gets arthritis. Is that part of his suffering for Christ? You can't distinguish these things. That's my argument here. So one night you're faithful in visiting a friend and you miss a night's sleep. Then you get sick and it gets complicated and something happens to your voice box. Life is not neatly divided into persecution and sickness. We can't do it. It won't work. If you are a faithful, obedient servant of Christ, then I argue whatever suffering you endure in that path is the same in principle as if you had endured it through persecution. Suppose that the Apostle Paul got pneumonia from all his work and exposure. Would that pneumonia have been persecution? Paul did not make a distinction between being beaten by rods and having a boating accident or being cold while traveling between towns.
For him, any suffering that befell him while serving Christ was part of the cost of discipleship. When a missionary child gets diarrhea, we think of this as part of the price of faithfulness because they happen to be way off there in Uzbekistan, where the medical care is so bad. But if any parent if any parent is walking in the path of obedience to God's calling, it is the same price, is it not? What turns out what turns sufferings into sufferings with and for Christ is not how intentional our enemies are, but how faithful we are. If we are Christs, then what befalls us is for His glory and for our good. Whether it is caused by enzymes or enemies. And I watch how we pray for our missionaries and we often pray for our missionaries. Gretta almost lost her, right? Almost lost her in Guinea unconscious for several days with this mental or spinal malaria or whatever they call it. And the prayers here were were always in terms of God, Satan is waging war against this missionary family. Fight for your cause, fight for your name and and sustain good. Give her life. Show you glory, show you power. Well, same thing is true if you have a little child who gets sick here. Same issues. You lose a child here. I remember walking into the hospital over it, united in Saint Paul, and there was Patty Larson, who is now with Jesus because she died of cancer last year. And there she was holding Eric, one year old and ivory colored because he was dead. Sudden infant crib death. Had that happened on the mission field, we would have all thought of it in terms of what a price to pay to go overseas where there's not good medical care.
There's no difference. This is an obedient, loving, godly, biblical Bible saturated family, and their child died. Conclusion, when we speak of the purposes of suffering in the following section, we mean both persecution and accidents and sickness that befall us in any path of faith. Question about that. My question is on wisdom. Like when you have a circumstance like how important all of this debate is, and these are friends and. They said, don't go because you're going to get killed. Like, where do we get wisdom to figure out? But mostly I go to bed at night, so I'm hoping tomorrow. Yeah. Try to stay up all night. I hear you. The question is, where do you where do you find wisdom to know what kinds of risks to take? Both at the level of heading into a hostile city where they all likelihood is you're going to be persecuted and maybe killed, whether to go or not? And Paul said, Why are you crying and breaking my heart? I'm ready not only to testify to the name of Christ, but to die for his name. So that's Paul's gutsy answer to their concern in a very a very in-your-face kind of example. Or how late do you stay up to help a friend when you know you're on the brink of strep and you characteristically get terrible sore throats? If you don't get six or 7 hours of sleep a night? Where do you get it? And I don't I don't have an answer. I mean, I know where to get it, but I don't have any answer to for a formula to know when you've got it. You pray, you seek the mind of the Lord. You saturate yourself with biblical principles. You look at your limits, you try to assess wisdom of your long term usefulness versus your short term usefulness.
And sometimes you'll make decisions that look prudent, and sometimes you'll make decisions that look absolutely ridiculous. Paul did both. Paul escaped in a basket from Damascus, and Paul refused to escape from other places and were stoned. So sometimes he ran and sometimes he stayed. And all I know to say is try to discern the mind of the Lord. Sometimes you speak and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you take the risk and sometimes you don't. That doesn't help very much, does it? Sorry. But now you're cast upon prayer and the Bible and not me. I don't have a formula for you. I don't know. But seek it from the Lord. There's another hand somewhere. Compared to the kind of suffering and troubles we experienced. That's right. Yes, there is a difference, but probably in the end, the solution is the same. The question was, is there a difference between the kind of suffering you may experience when you're walking in obedience and faith and the suffering you bring upon yourself because you walk outside temporarily the path, obedience and faith take on excessive loans, saying get yourself in big financial trouble. I just got an email from Jonathan Reasoner in Japan, for example, where he said that the pastor has resigned at the church where he's serving because he took out too many loans to keep their kindergarten afloat. And he's way in over his head. And it's now gotten him and the church into big financial trouble and he feels unworthy. And now the elders have to decide whether or not to let him go or keep him. Whether to say this is not serious enough or and he brought that upon himself. And all of us do that from time to time. Many of our sufferings are owing to stupid and bad and sinful decisions that we make.
And that was what happened in Psalm 107. So let me let me use someone who served to answer that is going to take your Bible and turn to someone of seven. Maybe the Lord had me in this for my devotions this morning because this question was going to come up here. Someone who seven has a refrain over and over again that his people got into streets and they cried to the Lord and he heard them and answered them. Look at verse six. They were hungry and thirsty. They cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress. Then look at verse 13. They cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress. Now. They gave her 17. Some were sick or foolish. Another version through their sinful ways. Oh, now he's not going to deliver them. Right. And because of their iniquities suffered affliction. They loathed any kind of food and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them and delivered them from destruction. So this song has people in trouble sometimes because of external choices that they didn't make. And sometimes they're in trouble in sickness, because of their own rebellion and because of their own iniquities and sinful ways. And in both cases, the prescription is the same. You cry out, Oh, God, help me, because my guess is most of us, even when we have gotten into trouble because of somebody else's sin rather than our own, we know that we're not perfect. We know that we haven't lived the life we might have lived. And so we're going to be repenting anyway.
And so we cry out and we doubly repent and say, Oh, God, I have made such a fool. I've made such a wreck of my life. I've made such awful mistakes, have mercy upon me. And we have such strong assurances that if we will confess our sins, he is faithful and justice will forgive our sins. And then he will begin to deal with us as his children, as he always does. And he'll begin to reclaim us and and help you find a way out of debt. If you really are, resolve them in a walk in the way of life. He'll show you a path to steadfastly get yourself out of that or he'll deal with you and your sickness, either healing it or giving a grace to glorify him in it or whatever the whatever it is. God. Same question. Good. Really? That doesn't necessarily result. What is that? A potential game? For Here's the value of their. Is that correlated with? The responsibility. Yeah, the business. Because we're going to play as we're going to victory. Ready? Yeah, I think so. In fact, maybe let me move ahead into the the purposes of suffering. And I think that very thing will come out. We have 45 minutes and. I to I think this is probably the most important unit here. I don't know that different ones view or I hope, find help in different places. But the purpose of Christian suffering. Why does God permit and order the sufferings of his people? These are the kinds of questions you get in the church. Why? Why? Why? When things happen to God's people. So I'm going to lead you through six answers to the question. Why? Number one, to promote deeper faith and hope and holiness of life.
All right. A text to put under this purpose deeper faith and hope and holiness. Second Corinthians one eight and nine. We do not want you to be unaware. Paul says, Brethren of our affliction, affliction which came to us in Asia, and we were burdened excessively. So think of some time when this was true of you beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, we had the sentence of death. So this whatever it was, it brought Paul right up to the brink of thinking it's over, I'm dead. I'm history within ourselves. And then notice this purpose clause so that now this is not. Whose purpose is this? This is. This isn't the devil's design. The devil may have been doing this, but it wasn't the devil's design. It was somebody else's design so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead. So clearly, God had a purpose or a design in this affliction which brought him right up to the brink of death. So that if you're on the brink of death and you're going to maintain hope, there's only one possible ground of hope. And it isn't. I'll get through this and have a vacation or I'll get through this and have a happy marriage or I'll get through this and be healthy the rest of my life. You're not going to get through this. The next thing is death. Will you hope? And the answer is yes. Or in what? Answer the God who raises the dead. So Christians should have hope right up to the brink of where the world says there's no hope left, No more vacations for you, no more playing with your children on the floor for you. No more beautiful walks around Lake of the isles for you.
You're going into blackness, fella. And Christians say, I am not going in to darkness. I'm going into the arms of a God who will raise me from the dead. And God wants us to believe that that's the kind of faith He wants us to have. So he will even ordain the death of Lazarus. Or you walking right up to the brink of your grave. Or even through it. Another text in this regard. Hebrews 12 3 to 11. Consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, Jesus, namely, so that you will not grow weary, don't grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. So the situation here is persecution of some kind in your striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed you as sons, my son. Now notice this is persecution, but this still applies. God says my son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord. So we can even conceive of the ugly words spoken to us by a mean spirited colleague at work. As the discipline of our loving Heavenly Father. That's why I begin with the sovereignty of God. If you if you don't have a concept of the sovereignty of God over mean spirited, sin filled, brutal, persecuting people, you can't make any sense out of this passage because this passage says you are now resisting and you might have to resist to the point of shedding blood. You haven't gotten there yet, but it's coming. But don't forget this. God says, my son, don't regard lightly the discipline of the Lord. That's what it is. The shedding of blood is the discipline of the Lord, nor fate when you are reprove by Him.
For those whom the Lord loves, loves, loves, He disciplines like that shedding of blood. Now there's a category that needs to be created. There's a category that needs to be created in our moral framework of worldview. My pain and blood shedding in this excruciating moment is love. Love. Love. And of course, there are going to be moments when you're going to scream out. This doesn't feel like love. I don't love my children this way. Which is why intuitions are bad guides for theology building. Yeah. What do you do when you get that thought in your head? How do you fight that? Instantly. Process. The thought process for me is first a very firm renunciation in the face of the the lie and the devil just right in his face. No. Out of my head and out of my life. And then just as important is the turning of the mind, away from the negation to the affirmation of truth. And you you call. If you don't have a Bible nearby, you plumb the depths of your memory, and you call up from this seminar or from your Bible reading truths about God's love for you. Through through many afflictions, we must enter the Kingdom, many of the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers Him out of them all. I count the sufferings of this age not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed. And you fix your mind on the glory and you just keep. This is the use of the sword. That's what it means when it says, Take the sword of the spirit. That's what it means when it says in Romans 813, those who live according to the flesh will die. But those who, by the spirit put to death the deeds of the body, they will live.
And so this Satan is tempting you in saying just cave and just give up. Just reject God. Go off and and and medicate your pain with alcohol or drugs or a pack of vanilla wafers. And you need to get in his face with the sword of the spirit and say, No, I put you to death by truth. The truth will make you free, which is why I'm teaching these texts. You just pack these texts into your mind, or I carry it for years and years. A little printout up I found, you know, font number eight on my computer, and I printed out Romans eight in a little, but that much. And I folded up a tucked in my wallet here and carried it. And every stoplight and every doctor's waiting line and every place where I was delayed, I got out and meditated and I memorized Romans eight over those years. I decided it to the church here one Christmas as a Christmas gift. Ages ago, probably 17 years ago, I quoted Romans eight. So that's my strategy, a negation, an in-your-face renunciation of Satan and his lies, and more importantly, an affirmation and a focus upon biblical truth with fixing your mind on things that are above. I do that most often with sexual temptation, because that's the most common temptation that in money, I suppose, and pride and fame, those are the three biggies, I think I would say, in our lives, at least in my life. And so in your face, with every lewd thought that comes in your mind, you don't give it more than about 3 seconds before you're on the offensive. With this kind of thing that comes into your mind. You give it 5 seconds, you might be a goner that afternoon.
But if you attack immediately and then put in its place positive, glorious, beautiful truth, you can experience this. So let's see what the father is up to here. He scourges every son whom he receives. Verse seven. It is for discipline that you endured. God deals with you as sons. For what Son is there who is father does not discipline. But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children, not sons. Furthermore, we have had earthly fathers. They disciplined us to discipline us and we respected them. We should have anyway, shall we? Not much more rather be subject to the father of spirits and live for They disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, and many of them blew it. Some of you now have have memories of fathers who just did it all wrong. Maybe no discipline at all. Maybe he just vanished out of your life. Or maybe he was brutal and cruel and abusive. Maybe he just dissed you all the time in his language. Maybe there was no affirmation, no hugging and no playing on the floor, no balanced spankings, but only ugly mean hitting. And so you don't have any of this, which means this text should be so precious for you. We had an elder one time in his church. He's not at the church anymore. But his father was like that and he told me how he was converted at university and how he began to rebuild his categories of fatherhood through the Bible and the fatherhood of God became very precious to him. Do not use your father's sin as an excuse for the inability to know God as your father. That's just an excuse. You can rebuild the categories of fatherhood by the Bible, and this is one of the most precious.
In fact, it's the point of it here. The point is they did it as they seem best, and that could be terrible. But God disciplines us for our good, relearned fatherhood, relearned discipline so that we may share His Holiness. There's the purpose. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful. That's an understatement, but sorrowful yet to those who have been trained by it. Now there's a challenge for us if you're embittered by it. Afterwards, it used the peaceful fruit of righteousness. So that's a very classic text on why Christians suffer. Here's some more text on that same point. I think I'll pass over them because if I believe this, this first point too long, we will get to the others. But you see them there and they're on your sheet. Let's go to number two. When Christians suffer, it increases the joy of our experience, of our reward in heaven. It increases our reward and the experience of it in heaven. Here's the text I begin with today. Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is decaying. So here's a word, especially for the older among us. Pretty soon you can't read anymore. And then you can't hear anymore. And then you can't walk anymore. Then you can't see any more. And you cry out. Take me. Please take me. I'm ready. Please take me. And sometimes he does wonderful deliverance. And other times the greatest saints linger through the hardest closing years. And I have no explanation for how God did up. This. But we have this word that in the wasting away this momentary light affliction. Now, don't think Paul's naive there when he said light and momentary. He did not mean that. It only happened in a moment of his life and that it was light compared to other people's.
It was heavy compared to other people's. And it was long. He means a lifetime of heavy affliction is light and momentary. A lifetime of heavy affliction is light and momentary. That's what he means. And it's light in comparison to the weight of glory. And it's short, big in relation to the length of eternity, momentary light affliction, producing for us an eternal weight. To see the contrast of the two words eternal momentary weight, light and eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen. Now, I can tell by looking at the clock over there that I'm probably not going to get to the unit, or at least very far in it. How shall we joyfully endure? So I'm going to teach this lesson while I'm teaching this lesson, because all I have on this sheet is this lesson right here. The way to endure joyfully is to do what Paul did here. Look, not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. So while you are healthy and while you have life, and while your eyes are good and your ears are good, discipline yourself to set your mind in your affection on things that are unseen. Because someday that's all you'll have to think about. There'll be no time left. There'll be nothing left to see, no fingers left to feel. You will have outlived all your children. Some of you and your spouse or never had a spouse and all your friends. And you'll be over there on the fourth floor of all of the stand of home. And either bitter.
Or peaceful. As to whether or not you have set a trajectory in your life of doing this. Romans eight. We've been here. It's not readout again, except to say. Our experience of our reward is enlarged and intensified as we contemplate them and lean on them for our support in suffering. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed. Or here's the way it functions for Jesus, as he warned us about persecutions coming. Blessed are you when people insult you. Matthew 511 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice. That's an odd response. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven. So you must think about that. I mean, isn't that implied here that the joy as you come home from work and at work they scored you today, they ignored you, they walked by you, they cluck their tongues at you. They curled up their lip at you. They said they twittered over in the corner as they were talking about Christianity. They slurred churches. Today. It was a heavy day. Can you rejoice on your way home? Only if you're thinking about the reward. And so Jesus did it. Rejoice for your reward. And heaven is great that I would argue this, even though it's not explicit in this text. I think it is in this one. That experience that you just walked through and large is your joy in heaven. I think that's found in this word producing. In second Corinthians 417. This light affliction is producing. It's not just preceding, it's producing a weight of glory. Here's the third reason we suffer as Christians.
Or purpose of God in it to awaken others out of the indifference. Out of indifference and make them more radical and bold for Christ. Philippians 112. Now, I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel. He's in prison in Rome. My circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. Oh, how many stories? If you go to the section in Let the Nations be glad I tell. I don't know how many stories to illustrate this. I tell the story of the five missionaries killed among the Alker. I tell the story of Chet Bitterman when Chet Bitterman was killed, shot through the chest as a of missionary young man. The next year, the Wickliffe. Applicants doubled. That's what I mean by that's what Paul means by. My circumstances have turned out is not Elizabeth Elliot's loss of her husband. The means by which millions of people have been fired for missions and radical obedience through her writings. High price. She would have never chosen it, but I believe she would teach that she's going to be over at North Heights. Lutheran. Omnipotent Love. It's a women's conference. Go there. All of you women should go there. She is one of the greatest women alive, I believe. How you can have an opportunity to hear Elisabeth and not take it is beyond me. I think we should get her here someday, and I think she'd be willing to come forth. Oh, I didn't finish reading that text. We can get to the most important verse so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Pretorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage, far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear.
So one of the reasons Paul suffers is so that his boldness would be multiplied in the life of others. Now, this is part of the drama, you could say. You could say, and this is why a cynic would talk. This is the way a person would talk who's unwilling to change the categories of his brain. The cynic would say God could produce that boldness any way he wanted to. He doesn't have to have an imprisoned apostle to do it. And that's true. But God chose to do it this way. Now, whose God you were? God, who, who, who will pass judgment on whether God's somehow producing this boldness in these other preachers another way or doing it this way. Who's to say which will get God the most glory when all of history is said and done? Who's to say whether off the church we will read the wisdom of God better the way he's running the world today than the way you tell him to run the world. Well, I say I have been won over by the Apostle Paul to take his word above your word. That's my choice. You can make another choice. You can go find a philosopher somewhere in a university who clucks his tongue at this kind of thing by saying, Well, that's ridiculous, justified suffering that way, because God could have produced boldness without imprisonment. So dispense with number three. You can go to that person and be impressed with their logic and say they know better than Paul and they know better than God. But frankly, I don't see any reason to make that choice. I find in the writings of the Apostles such profound and persuasive and insightful analyzes of the human condition and the nature of God and where we're going and where we've come from.
I've never even seen the beginning of a likes of a philosopher that surpasses the Bible in insight. Why would I leave the Bible? Because they can cut their tongues and mark a few of its arguments and offer nothing superior. They can't construct a world like God's world. Number four to present to unbelievers tangibly in our suffering the kind of compelling sacrificial love that Christ extends to them from the cross. This is the reason I gave the course the title it has, namely suffering for the sake of the body, the pursuit of people through pain, to present people gospel. Look at this verse. This morning's one five hour gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. Just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you. So something is important there about the kind of men they proved to be among you for your sake. So they became a certain kind of people for the sake of spreading the gospel to the Thessalonians. What kind? Four, six. You became imitators. Now we can see what kind they were. You became imitators of us and of the Lord. How? In what way? Having received the word in much tribulation with joy. So the kind of men that we proved to be among you was we were willing to endure persecution and tribulation in your midst, and we did it joyfully to extend to you for your sake, the gospel, and you began to imitate us. So the point I draw out of there is one of the functions of tribulation in the life of a pastor or a missionary or an apostle, is that people might see the gospel embodied in the loving, sacrificial love of the minister.
Now that's even more clear in this text. Colossians 124. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There it is again. For your sake. My sufferings. For your sake. And in my flesh. I do my share in behalf of his body, which is the church filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. So Paul viewed his apostolic sufferings as a filling up of what was lacking in Christ's afflictions. That's a risky. You can't improve upon Christ's afflictions as an atoning work. Jesus said on the cross, It is finished. There's nothing to fill up here. It is finished. The atoning expiratory sin bearing wrath, removing condemnation, removing work is done. Paul's sufferings add nothing to it. Well, what then? Is he filling up? What he is filling up is the intention of God for those afflictions to be personally presented to everyone for whom he died. God means for all the people, groups of the world, and for all the peoples of the world to be presented in tangible bodily form. Christ's sacrificial love for them, namely in the sufferings of missionaries. Sufferings of missionaries are the design of God not necessary interruptions by Satan. They are the design by which Paul completes what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Now I base that understanding of this on Philippians 229, where this phrase occurs. We read it, the analogy, text it. Paradise had risked his life to bring gifts from Philippi to Rome and to Paul. So Paul writes back and he says, Receive it paradise. Then in the Lord with all joy and hold men like him in high regard. Because he came close to death. He risked his life for the work of Christ, risking his life, too. Now, here's the same phrase is filling up.
What is lacking to complete. What was lacking in your service to me is a rare phrase. And he says he completed what was lacking in your service to me. Well, how did he do that? He didn't add to their love. He transported their love from Philip Philip II to Rome. And so he completed what was lacking. What was lacking? What was lacking was the personal presentation, which the church, hundreds of miles away, couldn't do what they wanted to do, present their love gifts to him. So here's Christ. He dies on the cross for the world. He rises, he goes back to heaven. He's not on the earth, and he means for that loving sacrifice to get to the world. How's it going to get there? It's going to get there not simply through videos, tapes, radio and preaching. It's going to get there through the suffering of missionaries so that the people see in the loving self-sacrifice of missionaries. The picture of Christ I carry in my body. The bloody marks of Jesus. I die every day. We will not finish the Great Commission without more martyrs. Muslims are huge group. The Buddhists are a huge group. The Hindus are a huge group. And when you walk in to the very center of those mighty places of demonic darkness, it will be a lamb in the midst of wolves. And when some are slain, the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the church. So I call you to join God in the finishing of the Great Commission. Almost everywhere I go today in my speaking, I say something like, I am on a recruitment for martyrs. And I mean it because of Revelation 611 says when the martyrs cry out from under the tent, under the altar, how long the Lord until you vindicate our blood.
And he says, Until the fall, until the full number of your brethren who are to be killed, for my name comes in. What? I mean, can you. Can you want to be a martyr? A lot of missionaries have wanted to be martyrs. Raymond Lall sure wanted to be a martyr. So here he was in his eighties teaching Oriental languages in a posh university in Italy. He had been a muslim and I mean, he had been a missionary to Muslims in Tunisia. He had planted a little church and then he'd come back and he had settled into the last 20 years of his life at ease teaching in the university. And he thought to himself, which would be better to go there and risk my life and probably be killed preaching the gospel in the center of Muslim North Africa. Or to stay here and waste away until I die of old age. And he made the decision that he would go for a year. He preached underground, strengthen the saints, and then he simply made the choice to go public. And he took his stand on the streets, lifted up his voice and preached, and they killed him. So I think it's probably on the verge of pathological. To go off base on that. But. When I read Fox's book of Martyrs and when I read the stories of the deaths of the Apostles. Peter wanted to be crucified upside down, lest he appear too much like his master when they arrested him and took him away. So I've got to be careful here. I don't I don't want to produce an unhealthy fascination with death. It's an enemy. Death is an enemy. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, Paul said. And Paul himself said, I'm torn.
I want to depart and be with Christ. And yet I know it is more needful for your sake. So while it might become very selfish to want to be a martyr in the sense of copping out on the ministry, you should have here before you go. But I don't want to say no to quickly there. Hand back there somewhere. Okay. I'm sorry. Just with the suffering in terms of missionaries thinking about the Muslim world for the. Now really see how the circle of suffering, even if they know that you're suffering because you're there in Christ and they can see that that so many of those places, you can't be open. Yeah, it's a closed area. And and how can we communicate that we're suffering that. So what you hear from the business or I mean, maybe a Christian, but but how can we communicate that well to them. I, I don't have an answer to that if we're not sharing the gospel. I think tip making missions is probably only going to be fruitful if they begin to take some risks, at least with a small cluster of people and share the gospel. And then at least they will know. Maybe big numbers won't know. So the measure of risk that you can take, it may be that one of the ways God revives the church in these latter days in order to finish the Great Commission, is that 200,000 young people don't even think in terms of those risks anymore. They simply go and preach. And there's so many of them being killed that the world can't ignore it anymore. They're being killed by the thousands as they preach in Saudi Arabia and as they preach in Oman and Afghanistan and North India and China.
They're just being slaughtered. They're being mown down. Romans eight. 35 is coming true. We are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. We are being killed all day long. Where's that coming true? Maybe that'll start coming true somewhere when the church is so revived and so radical that young people rise up and say, I'm not going to plan for a little short term ten year thing and then get a good job and go to the suburbs for the next 40 years of my life. I'm in this to die. Whether short or long, we need a whole new generation of lifetime Christians and lifetime missionaries instead of experimental missionaries. I'll go check it out and see if it fits my personality. From now on, no one cause trouble for me, for a bear on my body. The brand marks of Jesus. They could see it. I'm always carrying about in the body, the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. Now, that really does relate to your question, because I'm sure that as Paul went to a new city. They couldn't see the lacerations of his back. They didn't know what he'd been through there. So it had to happen over and over again. The Holy Spirit bears witness to me that that bonds and suffering await me in every city. I suffer hardship. Second, Timothy to none, even to imprisonment as a criminal. But the word of God is not imprisoned for this reason. I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen so that they may obtain salvation which is in Christ. I do everything for the sake of the elect so that they may obtain salvation, including my suffering. Number six, The last one.
We suffer as Christians to magnify the power of Christ in our weakness and the sufficiency and surpassing value of Christ over all worldly comforts and pleasures. Second Corinthians 12 9 to 10. He said to me when I cried out that he would take away my suffering, my thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, we don't know. My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is perfected in weakness. So God ordains this weakness, even though it's a messenger of Satan, God ordains it in order that his power might be manifest most gladly. Therefore, will I rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well, content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties. Look how broad this is, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then in my strong. This is why first Peter 315 would come true. First Peter 315 says Be always ready to give an answer to those who ask a reason for the what that is in you. Why is it hope? Why do they? Why do they ask about your hope? Because people that live like this joyfully must have their treasure somewhere else than in the world. And so they would look at you and. And your life bears witness to the fact that your treasure is not on earth. It is in heaven. Lay up for yourselves. Treasures in heaven and not on the earth where moth and rust still. So people kind of look at you and say, Hmm, your motivational structure and your choices in life and what you're willing to endure are out of sync with ordinary American dreams. What are you hoping in? Where do you get your.
What sustains you? What? Well, I mean, I want this. And this. And this. And this. And you seem to choose not to have this and this. And this and this in order to get yourself into trouble and. And do that. That. That, that. What are you hoping in? And the answer is the reward. Or here's the way Paul says it in Philippians one. I know that this will turn out for my deliverance, this imprisonment. So your prayers and the provision, the Spirit of Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will now, as always, be exalted. That's His great hope. That should be your driving motive for Christ to be exalted in your body, whether by life or by death. For he says to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. So Christ is exalted in his life is if his death is gain to him, he's exalted in his death. If death is gain to him. So that's what is the secret of causing people to see the exaltation of Christ living in such a way that you show that when you lose everything but Christ, you don't lose the best thing and therefore you don't weep as those who have no hope. Questions or comments about that unit. I don't have anything new to say to you there about this. How shall we joyfully endure the measure of suffering appointed for us? If you read through these texts, Hebrews 1032 to 34, Hebrews 1124 to 26, Hebrews 12 1 to 3, and Hebrews 13 to 14, you find the same structure of thought in each one, namely, Let us go. This is 1313. Let us go out to him outside the camp.
That means leave your comfort zone. Leave your securities. Whatever. They are bearing his reproach. Now, how do you have peace in a hurry? What sustains you in there for? Here we do not have a lasting city. But we seek a city which is to come. Every one of those checks in Hebrew says that are you seeking a city which is to come or are you seeking to get married? If I can just get married, I'll be happy. Or a job, a new job. If I can just have a job, I'll be happy. Or if I could just get rid of this ache inside this ulcer or cancer. Arthritis then. I'll. I'll be happy. Then I would go outside the camp, maybe. And his argument is very different. Let us go outside the camp and embrace all these sufferings. Embrace reproach, because our minds are not thinking in terms of how to maximize pleasures on earth. They're thinking about a city which is to come and how forever and ever and ever and ever our joys there will be multiplied so that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us. So my plea as we end is that you would all devote your energies to dwelling on the surpassing value of Christ, the surpassing value of what's coming, and that you would develop a lifestyle that would make you vulnerable to suffering and would embrace whatever hardships God may call you to embrace. Not because you're not a Christian hedonist, but because you've really learned where lasting joy is to be found. I think will will end. And then as we dismiss this from talking last night, just how we might end this.
And if you were to linger here and and pray, I was thinking that the prayers might might go in in several directions. One. Lord, help me. I'm confused. Clarify biblical thought for me. Secondly, I think if I were you, I would pray. Lord, if there's been anything amiss here. John has not gotten it right. If he's been too selective in his choice of texts or he's said something imbalanced or out of sync, protect me from error and correct that in my own thinking. And then third, I think I would pray would you apply this to me so that in my own suffering I will endure and I will not despair and I will be able to be a joyful Christian and thus model your superior value to me over all things. And then fourthly, I would pray use me now for the rest of my life so that whatever I walk through, I would display your surpassing beauty and worth and saving power to the world. Make me an instrument of salvation in the world and instrument of comfort in the world. And I pray those things. So whether you pray them in your car, on your way home, or whether some of you linger here in quietness and spend some minutes in prayer. I think that would be a wonderful way to end it. Oh, Father in Heaven, I pray now that we would all be sustained by these biblical truths we've looked at that you would create two categories in the thought framework and the spiritual dynamic of our souls so that we are deeply rooted men and women of God and grace. Spirit of glory and of God rest upon us in our hour of trial. And would you? Oh, God. Cause us to so love the unseen and so love the weight of glory, the glory that is to come.
That we would be the freest, most radical, most risk taking, most sacrificial, most dangerous, most inexplicable people in the world in the way we love in the hard places and hard times of the world. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen. Thank you so much. And thank you for listening to this message. By John Piper, Pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Feel free to make copies of this message to give to others, but please do not charge for those copies or alter the content in any way without permission. We invite you to visit desiring God online at w WW dot desiring God dot org. There you'll find hundreds of sermons, articles, radio broadcasts and much more all available to you at no charge. Our online store carries all of Pastor John's books, audio and video resources. You can also stay up to date on what's new at Desiring God. Again, our website is w WW dot desiring God dot org. Or call us toll free at 1888346 4700. Our mailing address is desiring God. 2601 East Franklin Avenue. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 55406. Desiring God exists to help you make God your treasure because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.