Monday, January 09, 2006

Suffering....

I think you all will agree that the Lord will lead a Christian during his life. How does He do this? He may lead us through a trial to develop us...to develop our character, or to impact another person, He may lead us through a time of prosperity, He may desire to strengthen your faith in Him. How about trusting Him? Sometimes there is even discipline. But, what about suffering? I do believe that the path of every believer will, sooner or later, include suffering. The Lord gies us these trials to keep us humble and dependent on Him for our sustenance.

First Peter 4:1 states, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in His body is done with sin." Brother Yun in his book, The Heavenly Man, makes a statement which he says, "I believe when suffering and pain increases, sinning decreases. I've certainly not yet reached the point of being "done with sin." I still complain to the Lord when I suffer." Here is a man who has suffered unbelievably for the Lord. The torture which he has endured for the sake of Christ is mind boggling; all for the privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus with people who seem to have no hope.

Maybe how we mature as Christians largely depends on the attitude we have when we are faced with suffering. Think about the people you know who have faced suffering. Some try to avoid it or pretend it doesn't exist but doesn't that just make the whole thing worse? Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief. Maybe this is better? It still falls short of the full victory God desires to give to each of His precious children.

So how do we approach suffering? Brother Yun says, "The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend. We need a deep realization that when we're persecuted for Jesus' sake it is an act of God's blessing to us. This might sound impossible, but it is attainable with God's help. That is why Jesus said, '"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."' Matthew 5:11-12. The more we are persecuted for His sake, the more reward we will receive in heaven.

"When people malign you, rejoice and be glad. When they curse you, bless them in return. When you walk through a painful experience, embrace it and you will be free! When you learn these lessons, there is nothing left that the world can do to you, " says Brother Yun. This from a man who has spent over 7 years of his 20 year marriage in prison labor camps in China where all kinds of torture were used.

Is this possible? Well, this is what he says, "God is my witness that through all the tortures and beatings I've received I have never hated my persecutors. Never. I saw them as God's instruments of blessing and his chosen vessels to purify me and make me more like Jesus."

When asked by Western visitors what seminary they (Chinese Christian house church leaders) attended they jokingly yet with underlying seriousness reply that they have been trained in the Holy Spirit Personal Devotion Bible School (prison) for many years. In that prison seminary they have learned many valuable lessons about the Lord that they could never have learned from a book. They've come to know God in a deeper way.

"Christians who are in prison for the sake of the Lord are not the ones who are suffering. When people hear my testimony they invaribly say I must have had a terrible time in prison. But that isn't so. I was with Jesus and had overwhelming joy and peace in His intimate presence."
(Brother Yun)

According to Brother Yun, "The people who really suffer are those who never experience God's presence. The way to have God's presence is by walking through hardship and suffering...the way of the Cross. You may not be beaten or imprisoned for your faith, but I am convinced each Christian will still have a cross to bear in his or her life. In the West it may be ridicule, slander, or rejection. When your're faced with such trials, the key is not to run from them or fight them, but to embrace them as friends. When you do this you'll not fail to experience God's presence and help."

Brother Yun shares what he thought about his first time in prison. He struggled, wondering why God had allowed it. Slowly he began to understand He had a deeper purpose for Brother Yun than just his working for Him. God wanted to know him, and Brother Yun to know Him, deeply and intimately. He knew the best way to get his attention for a while was to give him rest behind bars.

Brother Yun feels strongly about this. Whenever he hears a house church Christian has been imprisioned for Christ in China he doesn't advise people to pray for his or her release unless the Lord clearly reveals they should pray this way. "There is always a purpose behind why God allows His children to go to prison. Perhaps it's so they can witness to the other prisoners, or perhaps God wants to develop more character in their lives. But if we use our own efforts to get them out of prison earlier than God intended, we can thwart His plans, and the believers may come out not as fully formed as God wanted them to be."

One final thought. He says pastors have no rights, except the rights of a slave! Everyone in this world is a slave. They're either slaves to sin, or slaves to Christ. Brother Yun says, "Our 'rights' are in the hands of Jesus. We must fall on our knees in complete dependence on Him. The world can do nothing to a Christian who has no fear of man."

8 comments:

jettybetty said...

I totally agree with Brother Yun--of course, it's easy for me to say--I have NEVER suffered like the Chinese Christians--so perhaps I am *suffering* because I am not as *strong* as they are?

sparrow said...

ouch.

G~ said...

Woah, what a deep post, Claire! I guess I delved into this subject several months ago when I was hurting so bad with my shoulders & couldn't seem to find any relief.

I agree totally that suffering is to our benefit because it keeps us focused, hopefully, on our inadequacies (sp?) and our need for Christ. If we're all self-sufficient, then we tend to hardly give God a thought, right?

One of the most precious scriptures for me is II Cor. 12:8-10
===
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (KJV)

Public Domain

8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
===
(emphasis mine)

I found these verses years ago when my particular disease began to become a 'suffering' for me. They kept my head above water. You know as I do that dealing with a chronic medical condition can wear you down emotionally as well as physically, even when the disease is "under control", it's tiring to deal with.

Another book I highly recommend to anyone dealing with any sort of pain is Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand. Reading this book was fascinating on many levels, but it helped me get past a focus on the constant pain I was feeling. It gave me a whole new veiwpoint of pain, even though it's something I've dealt with off and on for most of my life. I'd never had it continue so consistantly for such a long period of time (unless due to an injury that people could "see", kwim?) that could not be allieviated at all.

Anyhow...wow. ;) This is a good topic to study every so often, I think. Good job!

~hugs~

Pilot Mom said...

G~ You are so right. It is difficult to deal with physical pain for any length of time. The verses you quoted are some of my favorites. In fact, every medical "thing" that happens to me gets put beside verse 10 along with the date diagnosed.

I haven't read that particular book but will add it to my list of 'to-reads'. Thanks for the recommend.

Melissa said...

Claire...one of the things my pastor says is it isn't about what we go through but how we go through it, another truth is we go through our worship, our service, our life, not expecting anything from God, and therefore we never see the hand of God at work...John Eldredge says in Journey of Desire that the two most initimate acts that we have with our Lord is grief and worship...suffering, no matter how bitter and unwanted, is good medicine!

Suz said...

What a powerful post. I dont know if I totally agree with Brother Yun, but I do know that God doesnt give you more then you can handle as I have found out in the past.

Hugs Suz

Jungle Pop said...

Thank you for posting this. Coincidentally, I just finished "The Heavenly Man" yesterday and posted about it myself (and probably will post about it today too!). What a challenging book.

Pilot Mom said...

Welocme, Jungle Pop! I'm so glad you left a comment. Come often and, I hope, leave refreshed! :)
I'll pop over and visit you at your place...