Topical Post: FOR HIS GLORY
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
It's late evening, and all are in bed. At this point, the only sounds that echo throughout the house are the lullabies of my son's noise machine, the creaking of a settling house, my pen scratches in my journal, and the clicks of the keys on my keyboard. It's the end of these long days when all is quiet that I'm allowed to reflect and accept the day now written in history. Many days are mundane without anything special, but a day like today rears its ugly head and reminds my home that life is hard and we certainly live in a fallen world. David asks himself in Psalm 42, "Why are you downcast, O my soul?" On days like today, I hold my answer.
Dear Reader, does your Christianity include suffering? Does it acknowledge that following Christ is following a Savior who suffered? Does it recognize that to be like Christ, we must be prepared to suffer like Christ? Does it understand that being redeemed by the blood of Christ makes us enemies of the world and its ruler, Satan? If your theology lacks these fundamental truths, I ask that you not only listen to what I have to say but also take the time to study and seek God in prayer to reveal these truths.
Enemies of Satan
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 (ESV)
For those in Christ, we are Satan’s enemies. Often in contemporary circles, there’s this idea that Satan dwells in hell with his pitchfork sending his minions forth to do his bidding. For others, there's the belief that we hold power to challenge Satan, and we either trivialize his abilities or become arrogant and prideful in ourselves, not only bringing the sin of pride upon ourselves but also letting our guards down for the harsh attacks of our arch nemesis.
An accurate understanding of our enemy and our power (or lack thereof) is crucial. He is a roaring lion seeking whom he shall devour, and he desires to sift us as wheat. We also must know that we hold no power in ourselves. We are not capable of sneaking into Satan’s camp and stealing his spear and water jug like David did with Saul. Looking at Peter's example, he declared his confidence but quickly crumbled under pressure. Christ claims the victory and none other. We are gifted this victory because we are in Him who was obedient unto death. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to resist, but Satan’s destruction comes from the heavenly throne, not our confrontations with evil.
Suffering for Christ
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:14 – 16, 19 (ESV)
If we are in Christ, we must include the theology of suffering. Christ called us to follow His in His steps. Do you not know that He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? If the Son of God had to suffer at the hands of wicked men, what makes us better? Are we better than Christ and beyond suffering? I emphatically answer with absolutely not! Serving Christ comes with a cost. You cannot have the cross without sacrifice. We cannot live unto Christ in a world that hates Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit and expect there not to be suffering. What savior are you following if you are not at odds with this world or actively despised by it? What soldier spares the servant of the master whom he hates? What society blesses its enemy with wealth and comforts, and success?
Do not forget who the father of this fallen world is! Satan hates Christians and their souls. He may be unable to snatch their souls from the Father's hands, but he can lay snares that ruin their effectiveness. Soldiers stuck in the mire and muck of sin and error are useless in combat. Even worse, he lays traps to disrupt communication between Christians and their Father. He attempts to diminish the usefulness of prayer, corrupts the content of prayers with vanity and repetitions, and renders them ineffectual by taking Christians’ eyes off Christ and onto themselves.
We must suffer because Christ suffered. If there is still disbelief in your heart, I call your attention again to Hebrews Chapter 11. How many faithful servants lived without trials, temptations, strife, struggle, heartache, personal defeats, suffering, pain, hunger pangs, poverty, deaths, and so on? I tell you today many have suffered for the cause of Christ because we must! If Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, suffered, then how much more must we expect, being fallen creatures saved only by the blood of Christ, holding no power within ourselves but only that which has been given to us by God in the Holy Spirit as He sees fit? We must understand that there will be hardships, pain, conflict, or even death in our service to God. Our bodies are to be presented as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship or reasonable service.
Why is this important, and how do we respond? First, know that all things are for God's glory. If you must drink from that burdensome cup, realize it is for God's glory and good purposes. Perhaps He will reveal the reasons in your lifetime, maybe He never does, but we don't live for this world – we live for Christ who dwells in that wonderful celestial city at the right hand of the Father who dwells behind a wall of impenetrable light surrounded by worship and praise from His servants. The theology of suffering is essential because we will have times of suffering, and it's not necessarily because of hidden sins, bad faith, or God's wrath. We may find ourselves like Job losing everything we held dear because of our faithfulness. We may find ourselves persecuted for our beliefs, as many overseas, simply because we answer to a higher authority. Whatever the case, suffering is a part of the Christian experience.
Finally, how should we respond? Prayer and worship. Being in God's service may cost you everything you hold dear; will you glorify him then? When you get the news or results you didn't want to hear, will you lift your eyes toward heaven and praise Him for the good that He has done? When your world crumbles around you, the walls are closing in, and the wolves are howling and circling with blood dripping from their fangs, will you shout, "TO GOD, BE THE GLORY FOREVER!"
Pray! I beg you, pray until you're too tired to pray, and then pray some more. Pray as much as you can. You cannot praise God as the fangs dig into your skin unless you are in fellowship with Him. You will not be able to suffer well without being before the throne of God, day in and day out. Christ constantly prayed to His Father. He prayed for His disciples, His circumstances, those whom the Father gave Him, and for His suffering. He fell on His face before His Father, knowing that the cup of suffering He was about to taste would be bitter, yet He sought His Father’s will so that He may suffer well and redeem His promised people since before the conception of time. Pray for the strength to resist and endure. Pray to finish this life’s race well. If it ends in agony or obscurity, to God be the glory forever! Do not be discouraged, do not fall away, but pray.
Be steadfast in your prayers. Lead your house in prayer, lead your spouse in prayer, lead your day with prayer. Pray in the morning. Pray at night. Pray in the heat of battle. Pray when you don’t want to. Pray when you get the bad news. Pray when you get the blessings. Pray, Pray, Pray. Do not disarm yourselves, but be empowered by the Father through His Son, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, who will guide, help, and hear your faithful prayers!
Remember that as we suffer, we acknowledge, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”