We need to teach our people that there is a spiritual war, which is as real as the ground I’m standing on. There is a heavenly force. There is an eternal battle, which will be ended by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when he destroys Satan just by the word of his mouth, and he will be condemned with all his followers, to the lake of fire, never again to bother God’s creation.
In the first part, we briefly surveyed the reality of suffering because of various causes, and we concluded by saying that as pastors, our responsibility is to prepare our people both by our teaching, and by modeling the things that we teach. In this part, we will look at truths which we should know and hold to as we prepare for and face suffering.
First of all, Christians should never be surprised by suffering, problems or persecution. From the very beginning of the Bible, as early as Genesis 3:14-19, we are told that as a result of an Adam and Eve sin, a curse was placed upon this earth, it is real, and it touches everything we do. A friend of mine always says, “The fingerprint of the curse is upon everything.” It is! It is upon our marriages, our health, our minds, the work of the Lord: it touches everything. This is a fallen, broken, cursed world. And we should never be surprised by problems or by suffering. We should see it as just a normal part of the Christian life. In fact, that is when the Christian life shines its best. When we face suffering, by being faithful as those young girls in Nigeria say, in the midst of suffering.
John 16:33 is a verse that comes to my mind many times, “Jesus said, ‘In this world, you will have trouble but take hard for I’ve overcome the world.’” So our Lord Himself said, you will have tribulations in this world. And then we have some other very, very important verses. We have 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Now, there is nothing strange happening. This is what it is like living in the fallen world, and especially being a Christian. We face even worse suffering and trouble. And then James 1, “Count all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” And then a very important verse is 1 Thessalonians 3: 3-4, “You should know this well. But no one Let no one be moved by these afflictions. For you, yourself, know that we were destined for this, for when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand, that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, just as you know.” Then in Acts 14:22, Paul speaking to the very first Christians on the very first missionary journey, says, “Through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.” And 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” So we are destined for trials, suffering, etc. The Lord has given us ample warning. And this is why we as leaders need to prepare the people by telling them what Jesus said, and what Paul said, what James said, what Peter said. Many people do not know these great statements or the promises, and the rewards that come which we’ll look at in just a little while.
As Christians knowing that the world is cursed, and that we are in enemy occupied territory, we should never say, “Oh! Why did this happen to me? Why did I get cancer? Why did my loved one? Why did my church go through this terrible trauma?” We shouldn’t ever ask that. What we should say is, “Why shouldn’t this happen to me? It occurs worldwide, why shouldn’t I get cancer? Why shouldn’t I see a loved one? Why shouldn’t I have serious divisions and problems in my local church? Why? Why shouldn’t it happen to me?” That’s the attitude we should have.