How to Suffer Well

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Suffering will come. This is a promise. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). Just like God made us believe in Him, He also equally promised we would suffer for Him. Why do we have to suffer? The answer to this question is simple, “because God deemed it so.” Ask Job. God tests people. Suffering and trials reveal the real person. Suffering allows believers to better know the hope we have in us (Rom 5:1-5). Psalm 11 describes a situation where the wicked seek to destroy the righteous. The psalmist says, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked” (5).

images-3Will suffering come to us in a free country where I have the “right” to believe what I want to believe? Yes. The new agenda pushed by the media demands Christians give up their convictions regarding homosexuality and side with the new perspective on marriage. What happens when this perspective is “hate” speech? Simple, persecution and suffering. Believer, suffering will come.

Consider the suffering endured by one church. “You endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property.” In 49AD Claudius removed every Christian from Rome. Christians lost their property and homes. Imagine having the government take your house, car, and possessions because you are a believer. No really, stop reading and think about it for a few minutes. Where would you go? What would you do? Would you be sad? Upset? Mad? How would your spouse react? Children? Could you be included in this testimony and “accept joyfully the seizure of your property?”

What does it take to endure such a trial? Believers with the right perspective and actions can respond in a Christ-honoring way and “accept joyfully” the [suffering]. God teaches us four convictions believers need to endure trials. Prepare yourself before trials for the trial. They’re coming. Be ready and know beforehand.

First, please understand suffering derails false converts. Jesus says one group of seed falls away because, “Yet he has no root in himself, but is temporary, and when affliction or persecution arise because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt 13:21). The church who “endured great conflict of sufferings” had already seen some of their members fall away (Heb 6:4-8). The author mentions their former suffering in the same context where he warns them regarding willful sin. This explains why we see people fall away from the church who we once thought believed.

How does willful sin and suffering relate to each other? In the middle of suffering, people will abandon Christ and His will to flee the trial. Hebrews and Jesus teach us, unbelievers will abandon the church, willfully sin, and reject Christ because He is not worth more than the trial. There is no reason to follow something a person doesn’t really believe, let alone suffer through it . . . that is mere foolishness. Only true believers will endure suffering. Why?

Second, believers know their true possession. The Hebrew church endured sufferings and accepted joyfully the sufferings because, they “know that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (10:34). Believers have Christ Jesus. Plain, simple, true, and yet do we need to dwell on this more? Probably. When Christ died for us, forgave us, and caused us to repent, we gained a Father. We entered into His family. Once a believer becomes His child, forever we are His child — it is a “lasting possession.” There is no power on earth or in heaven who will remove us from His family. We have full access to the inheritance, a seat in heaven reserved for us, the Holy Spirit of promise, forgiveness of sins eternally, and confidence we will receive the reward of eternal life. Death has no effect on a believer. Believers have Jesus Christ. Is there anything greater?

But you don’t know how bad I have it? How much I’m mistreated! I know this: at bestimages-2 you’ll suffer 80 years??? What is 80 years to eternity in heaven with Christ? Today’s afflictions and suffering are nothing compared to eternity. I also know, no treasure on earth was able to save you from the wrath to come, forgive you, and then lavish love on you everyday. Yes even on bad days when struggling with sin. God does not condition His daily love for believers based on our performance. Believers have an eternal Father in heaven who lavishes love, grace, and mercy. We have a High Priest who ministers to us forever, interceding on our behalf, pointing us to Him, aiding us to walk in holiness. What possession is better than the Triune God?

Third, believer obey. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, . . .” (Heb 10:36) The temptation for us during trials will be find the quickest exit out of the struggle. Often, we are presented with disobedience. Accept homosexual marriage and the name calling hatred will stop. Husband is abusive? Just divorce him. Neither situation is ideal. No one wants to be abused or hated — in fact, no one wants to watch it either. I can take it for so long, but after a year of this, I want out. There has to be a better solution.

The solution is simple. Obey the Lord. Follow His will. Do you fear the Lord and love Him? What has more value to our soul? Leaving the sufferings or honoring the Father? When I stand before the Lord someday and give an account to my life, what actions will I want to accompany me before Him (Heb 10:30-31)? May I suggest obedience. Yes, divorce and acceptance may win temporal relief, but there is no lasting honor before the Lord in either action. When the Bible clearly communicates how we follow the Lord, then follow the Lord even in difficult situations. Those who willfully sin need to heed the warning, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

Finally, endure the trial. This has already been hinted at in the previous point. Endure, endure, endure. Faithfully keep your eyes focused on the prize. Faithfully remind yourself of God’s perspective, “I have a lasting possession.” “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance,” (Heb 10:35-36a). Do not turn your back on Christ — who is our confidence. My confidence resides in His work and I take refuge in Him! Being in Christ has a great reward (see point 2). “For I have need of endurance.”

images-4How long do I endure? The entire time. How long do I follow God’s will? The entire time. 1 year? Yes. 5 years? Yes. 10 years? Yes. 35 years?!? Yes!!! Endure it. Every day, dwell on the eternal perspective. Every day, remind yourself what the Lord’s will is during this situation. But what if he never quits making fun of me, mocking, or making my life difficult? The Lord’s will always abounds! Love your enemies. There is no out clause. Love is an action. Love him. Love her. Why? Because submission to God’s will contains a reward and a promise given to believers. The author bluntly states it, “You have need of endurance.” (For more depth on endurance, see here).

In fact, consider the final exhortation in this pericope, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Heb 10:39). The reward of endurance is Christ! Keep your eyes focused on Him, follow Him, and look forward to spending eternity with Him!

 

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