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We preach the gospel powerfully by suffering for Christ.
Everything about God and His kingdom is counterintuitive. God warns us about this in the scriptures. But we are so tied to this world that we often overlook it.
He says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Therefore, Solomon counsels that we should not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5). Instead of striving with the scriptures and ignoring those we find inconvenient, Peter says we must realise that: “No prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1L20-21).
Accordingly, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, says it is a foolish man who does not believe and internalise what the prophets of God have written in the scriptures. (Luke 24:25).
Suffering for the gospel
One of those things we have difficulty believing is suffering. Why does a good God, a loving Father, not just allow, but insist that His children must suffer? Why is suffering written into the fabric of the gospel? Why is the suffering of Jesus on our behalf not enough? Why must we also go into the crucible?
Jesus Himself provides the answer. He says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). This means our lives must be patterned after His. The way Jesus takes is the path of life. Whatever He prescribes is the truth of God.
So, if Jesus suffered, we must also suffer. If He carried His cross, we too must carry ours. In every way, we must follow His example.
Jesus does not leave this to conjure. He tells us expressly: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24).
So, Peter says: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21).
Persecuting the righteous
Since the world hated Christ and persecuted Him, even so, the world will hate us if we belong to Jesus. (John 15:18-19). The devil, the prince of this world (John 12:31), will ensure that: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“The Holy Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.” (Romans 8:16-17).
No matter what our deceiving pastors insist on telling us by preaching the false gospel of prosperity, the counsel of God is contrarian: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Therefore, the psalmist insists: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” (Psalm 34:119).
But what about the wicked?
Job says: “The wicked prosper, growing old and powerful? They live to see their children grow up and settle down, and they enjoy their grandchildren. Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them. Their bulls never fail to breed. Their cows bear calves and never miscarry. They let their children frisk about like lambs. Their little ones skip and dance. They sing with tambourine and harp. They celebrate to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in prosperity, then go down to the grave in peace.” (Job 21:7-13).
Overcoming the world
There are so many reasons why believers must suffer for the gospel and the glory of God. However, I will only address one here.
When Jesus met two of His disciples on the way to Emmaus, grieving His crucifixion, He asked them: “Wasn’t it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering His time of glory?” (Luke 24:26).
The truth is that God requires suffering to promote the gospel. Suffering validates the superiority of the kingdom of God over the satanic kingdoms of this world. Indeed, we preach the gospel powerfully by suffering for Christ with disregard for our pains and troubles.
This, again, is counterintuitive. The carnal mind presumes that the best way to promote the gospel is by the prosperity of the righteous in the world. The prosperity of believers, then, would commend the gospel to unbelievers, and also encourage believers.
But the carnal mind is enmity against God. (Romans 8:7). The carnal mind simply seeks what is pleasurable, as opposed to what is godly.
Devices of the devil
The devil uses the riches of this world to deceive us into sin. He uses them to entice us away from God. Thus, the devil took Jesus up a high mountain and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him and not God. (Matthew 4:8).
Since Jesus refused, he persecuted Jesus. He had Him tried, crucified, and buried. But Jesus overcame him because God raised Jesus from the dead, never to die again.
Believers must also overcome sin and death, just as Jesus did. Since we are still in the world of the devil, we will suffer persecution but must disregard this knowing it will amount to nothing in the end because of Jesus.
Thus, Jesus gives us forewarning: “In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of cheer, good I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
He then promises those who follow His shining example: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21).
Validating the gospel
Accordingly, the suffering of believers promotes the gospel by validating it. It shows that: “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39).
So, John heard a loud voice in heaven proclaiming the triumph of Jesus and the saints of God over the devil and his world:
“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:10-11).
Our triumph over suffering in the world makes us: “More than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37). When we suffer unjustly and bear it, the agents of Satan defeat us. But then God, in His manifold wisdom, brings amazing victory out of our seeming defeats repeatedly.
Since we do not give in or give up because of our confidence in the love and faithfulness of God, God is glorified in our endurance, and He works all things together for our good. (Romans 8:28).
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10).
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