Why Christians Suffer


Grantley Morris

(PART 1  (Beginning of Series) * * *

What would drive a Christian to continue even if it involved hardship and suffering?

We will later say still more about this but, for reasons just explained, we will touch on it now.

It is heart-breaking that many of us are left floundering in bewilderment at scriptures suggesting that aspects of the Christian life might be a hard slog. The sad reality is that self-sacrifice seems incomprehensible to the myriads of brain-washed victims of the era prophesied by 2 Timothy 3:2, 4, when people “will be lovers of self, . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. Such spiritually emaciated people have no idea that a world even exists beyond self-infatuation. Even among today’s churched, tragically many of us find ourselves so hopelessly self-obsessed that we can conceive of little reason for living other than feeding our addiction to self.

Using a range of different expressions – denying one’s self, crucifying the flesh, dying to self, and so on – the Bible repeatedly emphasizes that we cannot enter spiritual life without ending our selfish ways (Scriptures). It is even at the heart of baptism and repentance. Only by dumping the dead-weight of self can our spirits soar with God. Where selfishness ends godliness begins.

Jesus told of a man who sold everything just to buy a piece of land (Matthew 13:44). If puzzled observers thought he was crazy, it was only because they did not know his secret: the land had buried treasure on it, making it worth far more than everything he had sacrificed for it. So it is for those who pay what others mistakenly think is an exorbitant price to follow Jesus. It is actually the smartest investment anyone could ever make. In words made famous by missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Framing it this way appeals even to those riddled with self. Nevertheless, the “treasure” Jesus spoke of might not be obvious in the here and now.

The apostle Paul frankly admitted that unless the Bible’s promises about the nature of life after death are entirely accurate, he and those like him “are of all men most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We don’t like that. Who wants whatever makes sacrifices worthwhile to be delayed for an entire lifetime? Who wants to live knowing that for all that time we could have been less “pitiable” had we chosen an easier life and that for all those years, the multitudes who goof off are happier than us? Moreover, it necessitates immense faith to risk absolutely everything not just on the Bible’s promise of an amazing afterlife but on Jesus’ claim that only those who take the narrow road enjoy all the benefits. We’d rather pander to our less spiritual side. We’d prefer to hedge our bets by having an enjoyable here and now so that it would not be such an enormous loss if the Bible turned out to have it slightly wrong. Jesus, however, thought very differently. For him, what is catastrophic about hypocrisy is that hypocrites receive their full reward down here (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16).

Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God. It then provides as examples of this faith:

    Hebrews 11:35-38  . . . Others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance . . . Others were tried by mocking and scourging, yes, moreover by bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated . . . wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, and the holes of the earth.

Then, to inspire us to act this way, it urges us to keep “. . . looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame . . .” (Hebrews 12:2).

What was this future reward – the joy “set before him” – that motivated our Lord? Was it roughly equivalent to fame and fortune? Was it remotely like a drug-induced high? No. To the disappointment of the self-obsessed, it was the joy of pleasing the Father – the Love of his life; the One he lived for – and the joy of saving you and me from eternal damnation and filling us with endless joy, and of him being able to delight in our companionship for all eternity. In short: it was love.

So the greatest, most fulfilling motivator is what fired Christ to endure the cross: beautiful, glorious, exquisite love. Love for the wondrously perfect One, the most astonishing, fascinating and adorable Person, who loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves, and has done infinitely more for us than we could ever do. And love for those who mean everything to him – humanity. In the words of the great Apostle:

    2 Corinthians 5:13-14 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us . . . And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves . . . (NIV)

Or, as the New Living Translation puts the middle verse, “Either way, Christ’s love controls us . . .” It was this same apostle who famously wrote, love “bears all things . . . endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Real love is not about having goosebumps and gooey feelings. It’s about passionately caring about others more than one’s own comfort.

    Ephesians 5:2 Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God . . .

    1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

In a universe where even mountains don’t last, and the entire planet is wearing out, “these three remain: faith, hope [the certainty of future reward] and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV). For further encouragement about love, I invite you to ponder these Scriptures.

Realizing just how invaluable love is intensifies the question: how do we find this love and grow in it? We have already mentioned a critical factor: we must avoid confusing love with feelings. If you are starving, what you want is food, not for someone to feel sorry for you. Neither do you want someone to wait until he feels moved. As I have explained elsewhere, many human conditions and attacks from our spiritual enemy (the deceiver) play havoc with our feelings, but just as temptation need not stop us from loving, neither need feelings.

There are two more factors in fostering love that I should share.

The vast number of Scriptures telling us to love God and humanity keep screaming that love is something we must choose to do. God’s Word actually calls love the greatest commandment. If so, idly waiting around, hoping God will zap us with love would be futile. In fact, it would be offensive to the Lord of all. If the King of heaven and earth commands us to do something, dare we reply, “No. You do it”?

Here’s a divine principle that extends far beyond finances: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. . . .” (Luke 6:38). Expressed another way: he who is faithful in little will be given much.

When we do everything we can to give love, God will do everything we can’t. As we keep on investing every speck of love we can scrounge, more will be divinely deposited in our hearts. The Almighty has set everything in place. The next move is up to us.

The final insight I wish to share is encapsulated in this verse: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, many versions – in the King James, “him” is rightly in italics, which is the convention it uses to indicate when it has added a word not found in the original Greek or Hebrew). Our love for God grows as we grow in our awareness of how much he loves us. Likewise, our love for those he loves (everyone) is proportional to our understanding of his love for us.

There is no one as lovable as God. Truly, to know him is to love him. So the way to grow in love is to give top priority to knowing him better and better. The more we spend time with him and the more we learn about him by reading his Word, the more our love will grow.

The Story So Far

To what extent does God protect Christians who do everything right? “Totally.” someone might answer. “Not at all,” someone else might reply. And here’s a question for those who think good Christians could suffer: How much and how soon does God compensate those who suffer? We will explore these matters in depth but irrespective of one’s answer to these critical questions, this fact remains: Jesus is worthy. No matter what the cost, the one who suffered stupendously for us deserves our utter devotion. Regardless of whether life is easy or hard, there should be a mental toughness in every Christian; a steely resolve to serve our Lord, no matter what.

Continued: Part 3

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2018, 2019. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.


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