Posted tagged ‘Suffering’

Jesus’ Sheep: Sent, Suffer, and Secure

March 2, 2010

Have you ever considered how precious is this precious promise of Jesus?

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  (John 10:27-29)

Every one of Jesus’ sheep are safe and secure in the grip of the Good Shepherd who put the choke hold on death and crushed the head of the serpent.  This security, grounded in the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son before the world began, does not mean we are free from dangers, absent from the threat of wolves, or immune from the plotting of thieves and robbers.  Indeed, not only are we not free from them, our Good Shepherd sends us in the midst of them.  To His disciples, Jesus says:

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves . . .. (Matt. 10:16)

This promise of security and eternal life is precious because we are sent in the midst of people who want to take our lives from us!  We are sent in the midst of wolves for the sake of rescuing other sheep.  Is this not what Jesus means when he refers to in John 10:16?

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16).

How will Jesus bring those other sheep who are not of this fold if it is not done through his sheep who are being sent in the midst of wolves?  The salvation and deliverance of other sheep will come through the sent living of his sheep who are not afraid to go into the heart of the wolves den and embrace suffering as their calling.

(more…)

Continue to pray for Matt Chandler

January 15, 2010

Here’s the latest from Matt Chandler.  May God continue to give Him grace to suffer well and commend to a watching world the unsearchable riches of knowing and treasuring Jesus Christ.

Shafia’s Story – What’s Yours?

November 10, 2009

This past Sunday was dedicated as the International Day of Prayer.  Take four minutes to watch Shafia’s story.  Please.  And then take four minutes to replay the story of your life.  Does being a Christian mean anything different here than in the land of our slain brethren?

Imprisoned, Hacked, and Ripped to Death

August 12, 2009

This Sunday, I am preaching my third message on Matthew 10:16-25, a very difficult passage dealing with persecution, suffering, hatred, and death–all because of living on mission and becoming like Christ.  As I am reminded of the relative absence of such realities here in America, reports like this are vivid testimonies of what our brothers and sisters face daily around the world.  This report comes from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and is dated August 5, 2009:

A thirteen-year-old Nigerian Christian has told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) sources how she was forced to watch her pastor’s murder, and has also spoken of her four-day ordeal as a prisoner in the besieged compound of Islamist group, Boko Haram.

On 26 July, Mary was in church with her pastor, his brother and an older Christian woman when a group of fifty militants broke in. She and her pastor hid as the group killed the pastor’s brother and dragged the older woman out of the room. On discovering their hiding place, the militants cut off her pastor’s hand to stop him holding on to her, then hacked him to death with machetes before setting him on fire.

The girl and the woman were dragged to Boko Haram’s compound in Maiduguri’s Railway district, and were placed in a room with around 100 other Christian women and girls. They were all asked to renounce their faith or face continued imprisonment, while Christian men were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying.

Mary vividly describes how she was forced to wash the blood stained clothing of Boko Haram fighters. She was in the camp for four days, but managed to escape with a few others when military forces intensified their attack on the compound.

Mary’s pastor was one of three Christian ministers targeted and killed by Boko Haram during last week’s violence. Photographs showing the corpse of one murdered pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Rev Sabo Yakubu, indicate that his heart may have been ripped out.

Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director said: “CSW is deeply saddened by the appalling nature of the crimes committed by this sect against innocent civilians. Local Christians have also expressed disappointment that some western media have disregarded the targeted nature of attacks on their community, and the brutal murders of Christian pastors. Unless this aspect of the violence is recognised by all and dealt with effectively, people in Northern Nigeria will continue to suffer because of their religious beliefs”.

As world Christians, let us pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters under such intense suffering for the sake of Christ. They may rip the hearts of men of whom the world is not worthy, but God has given them hearts that beat only for the glory of Christ–a rhythm that will continue for eternity.

On Silence and Sinful Prudence

July 28, 2009

The easiest way to avoid persecution and suffering is to be silent for Christ and then come up with justifications to make such silence feel legitimate.

Jesus tells those who are entrusted with His mission in Matt. 10:17-20 two things they can count on: (1) they will be delivered up by men operating as “wolves” and (2) it will be given to them what they should say as those led by the Spirit of God.

Informed Christians might consider the call to “beware of such men” is to avoid them altogether. Don’t live among them or seek to reach them.  We think to ourselves, “After all, what does sheep have in common with wolves?  Aren’t they after us?  Just play it safe.”  This is the opposite of mission and living sent.  It is staying where you are because the comfort and safety you enjoy is of far greater value to you than the glory of Jesus Christ spread by means of suffering for His name.  At this point, one begins to look for the best alternative to mission, as though Jesus makes such a provision in his instructions.  J.C. Ryle, in his Expository Thoughts on Matthew, powerfully addresses this “so-called prudence” in the avoidance of mission:

“The extreme into which most men are liable to fall in the present day is that of silence, cowardice, and letting others alone.  Our so-called prudence is apt to degenerate into a compromising line of conduct, or downright unfaithfulness.  We are only too ready to suppose that it is of no use trying to do good to certain people: we excuse ourselves from efforts to benefit their souls by saying it would be indiscreet, or inexpedient, or would give needless offence, or would even do positive harm.  Let us all watch and be on our guard against this spirit; laziness and the devil are often the true explanation of it.  To give way to it is pleasant to flesh and blood, no doubt, and saves much trouble: but those who give way to it often throw away great opportunities of usefulness (100).”

(more…)

Putting Things in Perspective

December 2, 2008

At a time when our attention is unnecessarily drawn the continual division over nonessentials in the SBC, I would like to remind us all of what our brothers and sisters are facing around the world.  For instance, consider our brothers and sisters in Orissa, India.  They don’t wake up to find what the next comment or blogpost has to say; they wake up to discover who lost their lives for the sake of Christ.  Consider these staggering reports:

300 villages have been pillaged and plundered, 70,000 Christians have been left homeless, many of them having been forced to live in the jungles.

4,000 homes have been destroyed.

3,000 people are missing and 77 people have been burned or hacked to death.

450 churches have been burned to the ground.

One Christian worker who was attacked by a mob while praying, said, “It’s like a never-ending nightmare . . . we’re living in constant fear of more attacks.”

The violence in Orissa, according to Voice of the Martyrs, is due to the increasing number of Indians converting to Christianity.

At a time when those of us who either write or read blogs, I felt that it is necessary to call us back to Christianity 1.0 where there’s a cross to carry and a price to pay far greater than anyting we have known in front of a computer screen. Let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and by their lives, determine to have a right perspective about the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God where the weight of glory conforms our character and characterizes our conduct as we seek to follow Christ.

Piper on Bunyan’s Life of Suffering and Service

May 8, 2008

One of the greatest blessings of the writing and preaching ministry of John Piper is his commitment to remembering and learning from great men and women in church history. His messages, articles, and books on these saints of old have profoundly affected many today, and we would be well-served to avail ourselves to such pacesetters in the race of faith.

In 1999, John Piper addressed the life of John Bunyan, focusing specifically on his suffering and service. His message can be read or download (MP3) for your benefit. Piper concludes the biographical portion of his message, stating,

So, in sum, we can include in Bunyan’s sufferings the early, almost simultaneous, death of his mother and sister; the immediate remarriage of his father; the military draft in the midst of his teenage grief; the discovery that his first child was blind; the spiritual depression and darkness for the early years of his marriage; the death of his first wife leaving him with four small children; a twelve year imprisonment cutting him off from his family and church; the constant stress and uncertainty of imminent persecution, including one more imprisonment; and the final sickness and death far from those he loved most. And this summary doesn’t include any of the normal pressures and pains of ministry and marriage and parenting and controversy and criticism and sickness along the way.

In the second half of his message, Piper makes five observations from the suffering service of John Bunyan. Here they are:

1. Bunyan’s suffering confirmed him in his calling as a writer, especially for the afflicted church.

2. Bunyan’s suffering deepened his love for his flock and gave his pastoral labor the fragrance of eternity.

3. Bunyan’s suffering opened his understanding to the truth that the Christian life is hard and that following Jesus means having the wind in your face.

4. Bunyan’s suffering strengthened his assurance that God is sovereign over all the afflictions of his people and will bring them safely home.

5. Bunyan’s suffering deepened in him a confidence in the Bible as the Word of God and a passion for Bible memory and Biblical exposition as the key to perseverance.

After reading and listening to the life of such a man as John Bunyan, I cannot help but think of how little I have lived and suffered for the sake of Christ. We need to read about Bunyan in the morning, Brainerd at noon, and Baxter in the evening to keep us sober in the day of spiritual inebriation. May God help us to live for Him that is invisible as we progress to our heavenly home.

Gospel Perspective for a Growing Pandemic

October 26, 2007

Having battled sore throat, cough, and massive headaches this week reminds me that it is that time of year again when everyone is talking about getting flu shots. However, Tom Ascol is taking the conversation to another level in response to our government’s course of action for rationing flu shots in the future event of a flu pandemic. Ascol argues, “Followers of Christ should think about how the Gospel works when a killing disease is spreading across their nation.” When you think about flu shots this time of the year, does the gospel come to your mind? Ascol asks, “How will American Christians respond to a deadly pandemic? Will we clamour for the vaccine without regard for our neighbors? Will we be terrorized like those who have no hope?”

These are pertinent questions we should be asking, that is, if we consider the gospel to be normative in our lives, including times of disease, sickness, and suffering. Ascol explains, “Those of us who know the Gospel should minister out of the grace that we receive in Christ, and should prefer others above ourselves and teach our people to do the same.”

In a large scale, the government is making preparations for the likelihood of a flu pandemic. In a smaller scale, parents are making plans to secure the healthy and safety of their family. But how are the churches preparing? Ascol concludes,

“The time to prepare for tragedy is before it strikes. The way to prepare is to drink deeply from the wells of God’s grace in the Gospel. Knowing and delighting in Jesus sets us free from the tyranny of death and dying. And it empowers us to show the way of liberty to those who are held captive to such fears.”

Amen.