by Mike Ratliff
3 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 1:3-4 (NASB)
Suffering is part of life. It is part of the curse that fell upon all creation after Adam’s sin. (Genesis 3) There are some preachers who have taken sections of the Bible out of context to make it say that suffering happens only to those who “have sin in their life.” Well, I suppose part of that is true. We all sin. However, the suffering that comes upon us is not necessarily a punishment from God for some specific sin. Our tests and trials are painful and stressful. They are tests of faith just as much as they are sickness or mental problems. In fact, God uses our suffering for His own purposes in our hearts as well as in the hearts of those whom we minister to.
I have never met a Christian who has survived some big trial in their life who was not also eager and able to help others who are going through trials like that of their own. Of course there are some professing believers whose faith does not survive the trial. They were not genuine Christians. However, those whose faith is genuine will endure the fires of tribulation. They may indeed have doubts and struggle for long periods of time with trust of God, but He does preserve those who are His.
God’s comfort becomes evident only if we suffer. Look in v4 in the passage I placed at the top of this post. God does not promise that His people will be free from affliction no matter how much the Word/Faith preachers try to make the Bible say that it is possible for Christians to be free from suffering while always prospering. Actually, the Bible teaches that Christians are not immune from the suffering that plagues all of creation. The promise is that Christians will have God’s comfort in and through their afflictions. Why does God do this? He gives comfort to those who are His who are suffering so that they may be able to comfort others who are likewise suffering.
5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:5-7 (NASB)
Did Christ suffer? He was beaten, tortured, and crucified. He also suffered mental anguish before and during all of this. All who suffer as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ are sharing abundantly in His sufferings. God then comforts those whom He takes through suffering for the name of Christ. The passage above speaks of persecution or suffering for the sake of faith in Jesus Christ. Is this happening nowadays?
10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10-13 (NASB)
All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. No one is exempt. This wasn’t just for Paul’s day. In fact, in most countries in the world today, professing Christians are always in danger of some form of persecution. It is only in the “evangelical wasteland” of America where Christians seem to have protected “rights.” However, even here, if we obey our Lord in all things, living out our lives in bold brokenness, we will find that the world still hates us and we will suffer persecution. The fact that this is a seemingly rare event should not be a comfort to us. In fact, it should indict us that we are not living out our faith as we are directed by God. If we do this, we will suffer some form of persecution, but take courage my brethren because the God of all comfort will give us the grace that is sufficient for all of our circumstances.
During the so-called “pandemic” over the last 18 months or so there have been some places in the U.S. and Canada where the governments attempted to shutdown churches. In Canada pastors were jailed because they would not submit to the mandates and rules that the government itself was not following. In California Grace Community Church pastored by John MacArthur stood against attempts to shut them down. They continued to meet despite threats and fines. No matter what rhetoric these governments attempted to use to shutdown these churches they could never produce any evidence that it was necessary. What this says is they were simply trying to place the power of their government over those churches, when, in fact, only God is over his Church.
Never forget that God will sometimes call us to stand firm and do His will no matter what governments or secular authorities attempt to do or say to stop what we are saying or doing. This is Biblical. The more secularized our society becomes and the more it loses its Christian World View this level of persecution is inevitable here in the U.S.A. if we are going to obey our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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