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The Persecuted Church

 

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SUFFERING

We are conformed to Christ’s likeness through suffering. It is the potters hand putting pressure on the clay. If there is no suffering there is no learning. Christ called us to sacrifice and die to self in our lives.

We find consistently throughout he scriptures that those who live godly are not promised prosperity and health or are kept from suffering. What word of faith teachers promote is a lifestyle of want and blessing now instead of giving up their lives so that they will have treasure in heaven. Where they will spend the majority of their living.

1 Pet 4:12-16: “ Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. By suffering gods glory is brought out this is the opposite of the faith teaching of God cannot be glorified if your sick or handicapped.

Difficulties is what makes us strong inside, a life of pleasantries and comfort soothes the flesh and makes one relax. Heaven is not filled with floaters but battlers, those who went through the war torn field on earth. As our trials become deeper so does the well we draw from. Job said “When he has tested me I will come forth as gold.” If we were to be delivered out of every trial we would be weak in spirit. The harder it is for us the more beneficial the outcome. So we need to view everything as coming from God. The good the bad because essentially he has allowed it for a reason we cannot see right now. He is sovereign he holds the keys. It is all filtered through the pierced hands of our savior for our good and his glory.

Warren Weirsbe wrote “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to count it all joy, if we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter not better.”

Christianity is not just worshipping God in the good times of blessings but also in the valleys and the hardships. That is when Christ becomes the most real. That is Christ or shepherd of Psalm 23.

Phil.3:10 “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering being conformed to his death,,, notice Paul gives this as a package of knowing him. Suffering. Just as Jesus said to follow him one must pick up their cross and die to self. There is no crown without going the way of the cross.  

Paul’s obstacles in his life became his pulpit. He was able to preach Christ with more conviction because he had a Brokenness. His asset was his weaknesses. We find Biblically the Lord will always break someone and bring them suffering so that they can have compassion and be used for his kingdom. Just as Christ was brought to his goal by his sufferings. We are purposely brought through the valleys so when we get to the mountain top we can be useful to others who must tread the same valley.

Paul in 2 Cor.12:9-10 had asked the Lord for a certain weakness to be removed. Instead he found it to be the will of God. His weakness became his asset. this human flaw that he had probably throughout his whole ministry became a potential for Gods strength to be poured in. By this God was glorified, and Paul could glorify God by saying when I am weak , then I am strong,... his strength is perfected in my weakness.

Rom. 5:3-6: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us, For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” God gives us the ability to abide through the trials, it is our choice how we respond. If we respond right character is built in us our faith is strengthened. We have hope because we see God working. We can look back on our former experiences in trials and see his faithfulness knowing that he will love us through our present circumstances.

Peter addresses fiery trials that come to all who are Christ's. There are 3 basic types of trials. 1)Micro wave trials ( which are very quick they are over just as quickly as they start 2) oven trials (which can last days or weeks) 3) blast furnace (which can last months or years).

None of us are pure in our natural state, our sin nature can be influenced by our own weaknesses and our environment. We can adopt impurities or naturally have them. As we are conformed to Christ's likeness through our trials we learn what it was that he gave up to come to earth, how he suffered not just on the cross but throughout his life limiting himself, feeling what we do.

Spurgeon said “Through our trials God is slowly weaning us from this earth for the world beyond.” He is purging us from something very real and offensive to him. That which is contrary to him . To be processed in the refining fire is much like a silver and goldsmiths job. They put their silver and gold into intense heat burn off the dross, to become pure and reveal its beauty. Silver is crushed into small pieces and placed in a crucible. The fire is prepared by the silversmith at just the right temperature. As he puts the silver in a crucible he watches over it as he shakes the silver over the fire, it melts and the impurities rise to the top. He then scrapes them off and makes the fire hotter and the process is repeated. He is always watching over the silver so there is no damage by the heat. He works the process over and over until he can see his image in the silver. Each heated fire brings the material clearer and purer until he knows all the impurities are gone.

Christ puts us in his crucible from love which brings us closer to himself. Its for one purpose to make us into the image of himself. God sees his image in his son and the Son changes us into his image through he sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He works what is not supposed to be in us out and works what he wants to be in.

Difficulties is what makes us strong inside, a life of pleasantries and comfort soothes the flesh and makes one relax lulling one to sleep. We all have seasons of trials in the valley and victories which put us on the Mt. Tops. The church today has mostly traded in the Gospel of the sons suffering, for one that is offering the road of least resistance. Prosperity ,success and an easy going road which will never get us off the ground, since ones eyes are on earth not heaven. Heaven is not filled with floaters but battlers, those who went through the war torn field on earth. As our trials become deeper so does the well we draw from for us sustenance.

1 Pet 1:6-7: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” we get married for better or worse we are married to Christ and his love will see us through the worst of times. He does not say to pray to be delivered out of the trials but that we should be strengthened through them for our own benefit.

If we were to be delivered out of every trial we would be weak in spirit. The harder it is for us, the more beneficial the outcome. So we need to view everything as coming from God. The good the bad and even the ugly. Because essentially he has allowed it for a reason we cannot see or understand right now. He is sovereign he holds the keys. It is all filtered through the pierced hands of our savior for our good and his glory. These are written down for our examples, Israel as a nation was tested and so were individual people Ps 66:10: “For You, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined.

Christianity is not just worshipping God in the good times of blessings but also in the valleys and the hardships. That is when Christ becomes the most real. That is the shepherd of Psalm 23.

We all want the quick fix because our weakness of the flesh.

Rom. 8:17-18: “ and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul did not consider suffering of any kind to be outside the Christian life. It was God who when he called Paul said “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name sake.” Paul's suffering authenticated his Apostleship. This is why Paul stated in Rom.12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction fruitful in prayer.” Paul's obstacles became his pulpit. He was able to preach Christ with more conviction and with a Brokenness. His asset was his weakness so God could be strong on his behalf.

It is the mature Christian that can be afflicted without complaining and serve him through their affliction.

Jesus learned obedience through his suffering Heb.5:18, shouldn't we. Are we not suppose to be walking in his steps. Wasn't the first thing said to Ananias from the Lord about Paul that he would learn how many things he must suffer for the Lords name sake!

Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians was because of the suffering they were going through. In chpt.1 vs. 6 he commends them because they received the word in much affliction that they became examples to all the regions around them. Contrary to those who teach today their is something weak and defeated in a person of this state the bible says the opposite. In 2:14 we find they suffered the same from their own countrymen the same as the Jews. In 3:7it states “Brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith (patient in affliction). Paul's prayer in vs10-13 sums it up for them to increase in love and for God to establish them blameless in holiness.” Nowhere do find Paul scold them for being in this predicament but they are commended in their attitude through it.

In Heb. 11 we find the men of the real faith of the Bible listed they all had one thing in common , suffering. Vs. 13 tells us all these men died in faith NOT having receiving the promises. We see that real faith desires a future country not earthly rewards now. They went around in sheepskins destitute rejected of the world(vs.38)wandering in deserts and caves. Not riding in the best chariots having expensive designer clothes these are our examples of faith.Vs.39 And all these having received a good testimony through faith, did NOT receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Ps.119:75 David said “in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.” It wasn’t the Devil who was faithful but God.

James 1:2-4:”My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

It is the mature Christian that doesn’t run to cover when trials arise that can love and serve God through his affliction. By being content in his trial it shows they have great faith and are trusting in Gods sovereignty. We can know God through our suffering and there is even a reward for it. Crown of Life, a victors wreath James 1:12. There is a blessing pronounced on those who endure under affliction and temptations , how do we handle the various testing's and trials. Our fortitude will be rewarded even to those who were 'faithful unto death. “ Rev.12:10 “they did not love their lives unto death.” This might relate to how one will enjoy heaven in light of their tribulations on earth. Rev 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

There are always two forces at work, one is Gods purpose the other is the enemy of our souls when he sees we are weak wants to take advantage of our weakest moments.

Job who was upright and fearing God was allowed to be struck said “When he has tested me I will come forth as gold.” Just as the tallest tree in the forest is most likely to get struck by lightning so it is for those who stand tall for God.

 Phil.3:10: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering being conformed to his death, notice Paul gives this as a package of knowing him. Suffering. Just as Jesus said to follow him one must pick up their cross and die to self. 1 Cor. 15:31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

Paul’s obstacles in his life became his pulpit. He was able to preach Christ with more conviction because he had a brokeness. His asset was his suffering, and his weaknesses which made him to rely on Christ more. It actually authenticated his apostleship. In 1 Cor.4:9 Paul explains what it was to be an apostle.” For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as man condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world both to angels and men”.

This is why the Holy Spirit was sent. We find Biblically the Lord will always break someone and bring them suffering so that they can have compassion and be used for his kingdom. Just as Christ was brought to his goal by his sufferings.

2 Cor. 12:7-10: “ And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This is quite different then Copeland who says “The Lord does not give trials. He does not give people suffering or kill anyone (Hawaii Aug. 1996, Word of Life Christian Center) Did he not make sure everyone of Israel's first generation in the Exodus die in the wilderness except two? Did he not kill 3,000 Israelites? Did he not kill the firstborn sons of Egypt in order to have Israel set free! God put Israel in bondage to Babylon. The very verses that Copeland uses to prove we are not under the curse of the law prove God does punish. Deut.28:19-28 the lord will strike with plagues to consume them from the land, he will give them fever, with the sword, he will change the weather so their will be no rain, he will have their enemies defeat them, and they will die. He will give them tumors which cannot be healed. While this was engrained in a covenant to Israel this does not mean God cannot do these things today

CHASTENING OF THE LORD

Ps.94:12 Blessed is the man the Lord disciplines.” People constantly pray for Gods anger or correction to be turned away, but there is a purpose for it and if ignored we may find ourselves not walking in his guidance or will.

Heb. 12:5-11: “God himself chastens the believer for disciplinary action. long enough to get your attention. Sometimes God teaches us things through our suffering. He uses multiple means to get our attention and chasten the believer out of love. Today the word faith movement says it is Satan who kills and judges only. This is false. There are two areas that judgment can come from Satan which God must allow it first for it to be possible and also from Gods hands himself.

Heb 12:7-10 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”As J. Vernon Mckee says We give disciplines to our kids by taking the hand of correction to the seat of understanding.

Heb.12:8 We are not to despise or reject the chastening of the Lord otherwise we are illegitimate not sons.vs.11 tells us to be trained by Gods corrective measures so it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

God can use sickness to chasten something he could not do if physical healing were a finished work in the atonement in the same sense as is the forgiveness of sins.

In Jer.30;15 Because your sins have increased I have done these things to you.” If we confess our sins forsake them God says vs.17 “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.”

Ps. 119:67: David says “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep they word.”Vs.75 “In your faithfulness you have afflicted me.” David attribute his affliction to Gods hand not the devils.

Kenneth Copeland says, the Lord does not give trials. He does not give people suffering or kill anyone. We hear the devil comes to kill steal and destroy. Many of the word faith teachers say the same rhetoric. That he physically is trying to kill us. Maybe we should consider him trying to steal Gods word and our spiritual life instead. Just maybe he’s stealing some spiritual blessing God is trying give someone by bringing them through suffering so that they can understand and experience real faith!

Lets look to the word to see the truth not the fancies of the Gnostic practitioners.

Deut.28:20-22 God warned the Israelites that they would receive pestilence if they disobeyed him.

Deut. 32:39: 'Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.

Lam 3:37-50 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins.”

Exod 4:11: “So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

Numbers 12 Mariam was afflicted with leprosy because she disobeyed the Lord, she was healed when she repented of her rebellion.

In 2 Sam.6:6-7 Uzzah put his hand out to stop the Ark from touching the ground and God struck him dead. 2 Sam.12:15-18 The lord killed David's son from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba.

The truth is God judges and can actually afflict people . It wasn’t the devil that lead Israel through the wilderness for 40 years and punished all those who God who judged the earth with a curse rebelled from the first generation out of Egypt by having them die in the desert. It was when Adam and Eve disobeyed he judged later with a flood. It was God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. In 1 Chron.21:15 God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. Like ways Jesus pronounced judgment in 40 years on Jerusalem which occurred 70 AD. In 2 Chron.21:14-15: “Behold the Lord will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children ,your wives, and all your possessions; and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines…”

Job.27: says God takes life..

In Lk. 1:20 Zacharias is struck dumb (mute) by Gabriel who obeys God. In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphirra were judged by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t by Satan that killed them.

The judgments in revelation during the tribulation come from angels who are doing Gods bidding. It is God who sends destruction upon the earth for them to repent.

WHO DO WE GO TO FOR HEALING

I believe you should go to the Lord and believe Him for healing, and trust Him for healing, and actively pursue Him for healing. And you should search your soul to make certain there is nothing in your life standing in the way of healing. But you must come to Him and trust yourself to His conditions. The Scripture says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Then there is always the possibility that Gods intention is to teach you something through an illness, He might not heal you immediately. God is able to speak more clearly when we are on our back then up and moving. We need to remember his ways are above ours.

As James 4 says do not say today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city spend a year there buy and sell and make a profit! Its not our will but his will unless of course you want his job of running the universe, where some actually think they can do a better job.

Sometimes a person, after praying for a healing, may receive a no from God -- a benevolent no, a kindly no, a protective no maybe, but no nevertheless. There are decisions that we will never understand this side of heaven and we are to accept them as obedient children. The Tragedy is there are teachers -- in the Faith movement who have the audacity to tell people that if they were more spiritual, if they had more faith, if they believed like they believed, they would be well. This is flawed teaching which can crush whatever faith these people who are seeking health have. Luke who wrote The book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke was known as a physician. This would be abandoned if God did not approve of medicine. In Rev. in paradise god gives the tree in the midst of the garden for the healing of the nations, yet he is there in there midst as well. He seems to believe in medicine.

It is the mature Christian that doesn’t run to cover when trials arise that can love and serve God through his affliction. By being content in his trial it shows they have great faith and are trusting in Gods sovereignty. If we have a joyful attitude in adverse situations we will see God empower us and give us the H. Spirit. It is a choice we have to make ourselves it is not God making it for us

Cor. 5:1-2: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,

Ps 116:15: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” When we leave this earth we have a welcome waiting in heaven .

Heaven and Hell are not rewards for good or bad living but places of occupation. It is for those who have made the decision in life in giving their allegiance to who they serve. We will end up spending eternity with the one we spent our time with when we were alive on earth. However there will be rewards for how we conducted our journey in getting there.

1 Cor. 3:11-15: “ For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

THE BIBLE LISTS AT LEAST 5 TYPES OF CROWNS:

1. Incorruptible/imperishable Crown 1 Cor.-9:24-27. This is a crown given to those who exercise self-control over themselves and the world, gaining the victory in the Christian life by their faith. They showed discipline, denying things that would weigh them down. Paul compared this crown to the Greek games and the winner receives a garland of flowers or a wreath. While theirs perishes, we receive something that that last forever.

2. Crown of Rejoicing, 1 Thess.2:19. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” This is a crown given to all those who do the WORK of evangelism, bringing souls with them to heaven because of their witnessing by their life, deeds and words (2Tim.4:5).Those who would be beside us in eternity worshipping God will certainly give us something to rejoice about.

3. Crown of Righteousness,. A victors wreath 2 Tim 4:7-8 “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

This crown is for those who have run the race and have kept the faith , stewards over the doctrines and have exhibited righteous conduct in their service in spite of adverse circumstances. It is a crown given to those who wait patiently, looking forward and watching for the return of Christ, holding the imminence of his coming.

4. Crown of Life, A victors wreath James 1:12. There is a blessing pronounced on those who endure under affliction and temptations , how do we handle the various testing's and trials. Our fortitude will be rewarded, even to those who were 'faithful unto death. “ Rev.12:10 “they did not love their lives unto death.” This relates to how one will enjoy heaven in light of tribulations on earth. Rev 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Jesus states in Rev 3:10: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.:11”Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

5. Crown of Glory, 1 Peter 5:1-4. This is a crown for faithfully feeding the flock of God. It is given to those pastors, elders and others who feed the sheep with the Word of God correctly. Were they honest, did they do it by compulsion or compassion , did they protect the sheep. they’re is a harsher judgment for teachers that teach false or sterile doctrines, not bringing maturity to the sheep. This is why the bible says few should be teachers.

Whatever crowns we receive, whether they are literal or facets worked in our character as individuals , representing his glory, they are cast to the saviors feet, giving him the glory for all this was done or accomplished in our lives and others. The suffering we go through cannot be fully understood nor seen in as beneficial now. But we can rest assured it will all be worth whatever any of us went through. In Gods economy there is no waste   Lets learn to count it all joy just as Jesus did , for the joy set before him he endured the cross . It was all for us, so we can be with him, that will be eternal joy.

Instead of hanging on tenaciously to this life we should loosely hold it as we should everything because our name is on the roll at our real address, that should be where our heart is. As Paul proclaimed to the church as his hope and ours Phil 1:22: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. :  For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Paul went on to say he’d stay for our sakes but he’d much rather be in the Lords presence. He had an advantage since he already went there and experienced what it was like in 2 Cor. 12. he describes only that this event happened, he didn’t write a bestseller with the details of his experience.

Rev 21:4: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

No more sin, corruptibility, the things of earth will be changed to accommodate our new life in a new and permanent place.

Rev.22:3: “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

As David said Ps 27:4: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. “

To behold his beauty face to face in his presence is fullness of joy. That day is coming for all of us lets make sure we are prepared.

   

 I'm rich!    

 

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