Suffering For God’s Glory

by Mike Ratliff

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)

I doubt that I am unique in my dread of fiery trials. I have been a Christian long enough to know, however, that despite what men such as Joel Osteen preach and teach, testing by fire is the way God perfects our faith unto completion to prepare us to be before Him in glory. I have been rereading Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan. He was a mighty warrior of the Christian faith, but he was made so by the great craftsman of our faith, our Lord, through the fires of temptation and tests that left a legacy of Biblical Truth for the body of Christ that is timeless. He lived in the 1600’s yet we are still reading of how God took a man who confesses all through this wonderful book about how wicked his heart is; but through his repentance and spiritual growth through fiery trials and temptations, God matured him and used him for His glory. 

The second time through this book has been wonderful for me. I read it a couple of years ago, but then I did not get the detail that God is giving me this time. Perhaps it is because of some of my own tests and trials this year that God is showing me or confirming in me the purpose of the physical and mental testing that I must deal with daily. When Bunyan first began preaching he was in the midst of a terrible trial of his faith. He was under continual attack from our enemy who was continually condemning him for having “sold Jesus.” The accusations were that he was not really a Christian and was outside of God’s grace because his sins were too great. However, when he would climb the stairs to the pulpit of the church in Bedford, England the enemy would leave him. Complete peace and joy would return as he preached the gospel. Lives were changed and he became quite well known as one whose preaching was touched by the Holy Spirit. However, he also confessed that as he would climb down those same stairs after preaching, the enemy would return to accuse him. This continued for over two years.

In chapter 10 Bunyan reflects back on the work God did in his heart through that period and how the strength and spiritual maturity God grew in him through this prepared him for the even greater trial of being arrested and imprisoned for being a non-conformist preacher of the Gospel. He was in prison for 12 years because he refused to stop preaching. It was while in prison that he wrote the first version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. One of the hardest parts of The Pilgrim’s Progress for me to read through is after Giant Despair captures Christian and his companion and holds them in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. The reason it is hard is that our enemy continually attacks me and many other believers I know very well so that we nearly come to despair as we are held captive in our doubts. Of course, the character Christian was patterned after Bunyan himself. At his salvation at the Cross he is given a key to hang around his neck. This key was the promises given to all Christians at the Cross. After Christian prays with his companion for a way of escape from their tormentor the key is revealed to them as if they saw it for the first time. The promises given to us at the Cross opens all the doors in Doubting Castle my brethren. They use this key to return to the narrow path to the Celestial City.

For whatever reason, according to God’s plan, He is allowing our enemy to attack me from every conceivable direction. The medication that I am taking to keep me seizure free has a few side effects. One of them is a tendency over time to cause depression to deepen. There are days that I feel as if I am in shackles in Doubting Castle and Giant Despair is torturing me with the evidence of my wicked heart. I never doubt that God’s grace is sufficient, but I, like Bunyan, do very much see my sin and my complete unworthiness for salvation. There are days that I plead with the Lord to come and take me home. This is a fiery trial.

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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV)

I was not surprised that right in middle of this physical trial that the fiery trial of accusation from some other enemies came to bear on me and this ministry. The truth war is a terrible, ugly thing and those who seem bent on redefining truth to meet their own agendas are also unscrupulous in their methods. What we must not forget is that God is allowing this to happen for His own purposes, for His own glory.

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. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:14-19 ESV)

The Greek words used in v18 translated here as “scarcely saved,” are μολις σωζεται, which literally translates as “scarcely is delivered.” The “scarcely saved” here is not saying that the righteous have just barely received salvation. No, the truly righteous are saved in the midst of suffering and none of their salvation is easy and simple. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 ESV) The closer we walk in obedience to our Lord, the more our Lord will allow our enemy to attack us in various ways in order to bring us to places of repentance and spiritual growth. My own experience in this is a severing of my love or desire for the things of this world while deepening my love for Jesus Christ and my desire to be with Him in eternity.

Let us pray for our Lord to come quickly. However, if His plan is for us to remain and grow more mature in Him then let us pray for the strength to stand firm in Him no matter how deep and hot the fiery trials are that we must endure.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “Suffering For God’s Glory

  1. Dear Mike, Thanks for another very helpful post. My mother was epileptic, and the condition didn’t stop her from taking us children to church every Sunday, and she was a smiling, loving christian, a great encouragement to us. She died young from an unrelated disease. However, through the years I remembered that sometimes she was in despair, and I had trouble reconciling this with her strong faith. Thank you for sharing with us the nature of one of the side effects of antiepileptic drugs. And thank you for the encouragement for all of us to continue, no matter what the circumstances of our lives. -Joan

  2. You are very welcome Joan! I have found that my despair comes upon me when I get too self-focused. We will find our proper perspective at the throne of grace, however. :-)

  3. Will continue to lift you up in prayer, Mike.
    Thank you for this post. It is truly an encouragement.
    Many of my friends are suffering today…many trials….
    Only the cross of Christ has the answers we need.

    God bless you, Mike.

  4. Mike, you do not know how precious you are to me, how much I thank God for you. I truly believe the fiery trials we undergo cause us to long for our eternal home, this is all part of His divine design!
    Your posts are always such a wonderful learning tool God uses to grow me.
    May our gracious Lord fill you with His strength, His perseverance to endure. May He come quickly!!

    God bless you my precious brother,

    Lyn

  5. Hold fast dear brother. The Lord knows what He is doing with you and in that you can both rest and rejoice!

    I have a dear old sister in the Lord who is suffering immeasurably with a lung disease – one lung is collapsed and the other kinda hanging in. She is on an oxygen machine and living in her daughter’s house. Her physical needs are all met, but she is so neglected in every emotional, touch and openly shown kindness by her daughter, grand daughter and son-in-law. She is really suffering at the hands of her family.

    She has been through immense difficulty she is in her mid eighties. All this has allowed the Lord to stop her in her tracks and to make her fully reliant upon Him. She weeps for the Lord to take her home. She gets so down at times but has discovered recently at this grand old age, that her agenda is not what counts, but His. She has been exposed to so much richness and depth in her walk with Him through being so ill and the hardness of heart of her family around her – it is His mercy that she is still here. Her family are all unsaved and cannot cope with her illness and so are very angry with her in the way that the world only can react to such a situation. She constantly prays for them. She is the sweetest sister and I can fully understand her asking the Lord to take her home. Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord but her work here is not finished yet and I praise God that she can see this now.

    She has had an African maid looking after her who works for the daughter and is hateful to her, and so many of us have prayed and this maid has now gone on leave and has been replaced by a sweet, loving Christian sister who cannot do enough for her! God’s kindness is incredible and she has been lifted from the depths by this.

    Be so encouraged today dear Mike. Rest in His arms as you go through this.
    Your sister
    Steph

  6. Mike, I will be praying for you. The Lord answers prayer!! Walmart has called me back to work and though I will only get 4 days a week instead of 5, I have been made a “permanent” employee. Praise the Lord Jesus!! He answered my prayers and thank you for praying for me as well. As for the truth war….I’m so glad you put the truth out there for us. Maybe the ones who disagree with you , you just need to pray for instead of getting into back and forth disputes. Your time will be eaten up by them, your nerves, your spirit…just keep putting the truth here on your website. Jesus did not chase the rich young ruler down and try to get him to change his mind or beg him to come to the truth. He put the truth out there….sell what you have, give to the poor and follow me..the chap could not do it for he must have loved things and power and prestige more. Jesus let him walk away. Let these people who try so hard to prove they are right be silenced by you. Let them yak…let them call you names…when one is set free by truth nothing else really matters. Jesus IS TRUTH…He is enough. His WORD is enough…His promises are enough…..shake the dust off of your feet from these deceived and just lift them up in prayer. Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year in the Lord to you and your family!

  7. “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not.'” Isaiah 35:3&4
    “We count those blessed who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” James 5:11

    In Christ Alone, come what may in a world passing away,
    One of the beloved

  8. Sorry to hear that there is such trouble, brother,
    When The Enemy gets going, try contemplating this verse:
    Isa.26
    [3] Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
    Will be praying for you.
    The “church” can be fertile ground for Satan’s scavanging. I myself was recruited for a false religion while attending a “Christian” church, because I had not been Born Again from Above. It is no wonder that attacks are coming from there aimed toward you and your Righteous ministry.

  9. Thank you for your prayers Kathy. You are right, the visible church is not the real Church. It is all about religiosity according to what people want rather than what God demands. I have found that God is allowing me to be severely attacked as I write things specifically dealing with the verity of the Gospel and what constitutes a true Christian walk. Neither have anything to do with man-focused religiosity. The enemy doesn’t like this and God is allowing him to attack those of us who are telling the truth. At the same time, this causes us to depend on our Lord’s grace more and so we actually obey Him even more. It is during the persecution that faith grows the strongest. The Church in the West has been on a long decline for quite some time. It is time to awaken her. If we are not able then we must be right at the very end of this age. If that is so then the age to come is right on top of us. I rejoice in that.

  10. Mike, PLEASE know that I will be lifting you up to the throne of Grace continuously. For your health and your spiritual health. Don’t forget the end of this story: the enemy has ALREADY lost. As far as the Lord is concerned, we are already home and His plans are a done deal! Stay strong, keep your eyes on Jesus, and earnestly contend for the faith. The Apostle Paul calls the suffering we must endure as a “light affliction”. It is when we are weak, HE is strong. If you are suffering reproach, happy are ye! Christ is returning for a spotless and blameless Church… All things are possible with Him! And nothing can separate us from His love. You are doing a wonderful work!! Praise GOD you have been considered worthy to suffer for His name!! Remember, Paul SANG in prison! Keep up the good work!! (((BIG BIG HUGS)))

  11. Dear Mike – Thank you for your posts. I have been reading (occasionally) over the last year. I am 42 with a family of 4. I recently made a job change and have been going through a lot of adjustment questioning the decision. (3rd move in 6 years) It involved a short sale of our house (not short at all) and a return to my hometown that has turned out to be a pretty depressing turn for me. My family is acclimating here but I am not and I am beating myself up for these decisions. When you mention above that “The Lord knows what He is doing with you and in that you can both rest and rejoice!” I know that to be true, but my sinful self continues to be in that “Doubting Castle” wondering what will become of this decision. I am grateful to have a job, but it is a very unpleasant situation. I am a public elementary school principal. My own kids have always been homeschooled but that is becoming mre difficult to maintain. Please pray for me to have perserverance, wisdom, and discernment as I seek His will.

  12. Mike I am so thankful for your writings on suffering and persecution. Many church people can be heard saying we don’t have persecution here in America. This always shocks me to hear for I have been facing it ever since the Lord saved me. If people are not suffering anything right now they need to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. Then they need to go out and boldly witness for the Lord Jesus Christ to everyone they meet, including family members. They will quickly find out that persecution is indeed happening here in America and everywhere — just as the Lord Jesus promised us. Of course Christians in other lands face much harder things and even death. But the persecution is not easy, nor is the suffering regardless of how “severe” it seems on the human level. I recently had a family member with a change of heart tell me that they have hated me for my Christianity for the last 15 years! This person was not overtly mean most of the time, just harbored a critical, judgmental and harsh attitude towards me until just recently! I told them that actually it was not me but the Lord Jesus that they were hating that whole time and they agreed with me that it must be true. Please pray that the Lord would continue to open their heart to the truth and to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. How thankful I am that HE is the One walking with us through all of these painful trials. May He be glorified and praised now and in eternity for it will be made very clear that He carried and kept us through it all!!

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