SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS

SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The New Testament is clear that if we hope to share the inheritance with the Lord Jesus Christ we must share in His sufferings. What were the sufferings of Jesus Christ? Why are we called to share in them? Why do we have to be made like Christ in His death? What does such suffering and death accomplish in our personality?

SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11—NIV)

The New Testament is clear that if we hope to share the inheritance with the Lord Jesus Christ we must share in His sufferings. What were the sufferings of Jesus Christ? Why are we called to share in them? Why do we have to be made like Christ in His death? What does such suffering and death accomplish in our personality?

In the third chapter of the Book of Philippians Paul tells us that he counted all that he had gained as a prominent Pharisee as garbage in order that his whole personality might be immersed in Christ and be part of Christ.

Paul sought to know Christ in the very deepest, fullest sense.

Then he expressed his driving motivation in the above passage.

Paul wanted to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. Paul wanted to become like Christ in His death.

Paul was endeavoring to be so much a part of Christ’s death and life that he would be totally ready to be raised in eternal Divine life at the appearing of the Lord from Heaven.

Because of current Evangelical teaching we cannot readily understand Paul’s effort to attain the first resurrection, the resurrection out from the dead. Our doctrine does not accept this point of view, pointing rather to a "rapture" in which all believers, regardless of spiritual attainment, are included.

In the days to come we will be found to have been incorrect in our understanding of the resurrection from the dead. The truth is, the resurrection to life must be attained.

But how is it attained? How do we prepare ourselves today to participate in the coming resurrection of the royal priesthood?

We prepare ourselves today by living each day in the power of Christ’s resurrection and being willing to permit the Holy Spirit of God to bring us into the kind of sufferings that Christ experienced.

We know when we are baptized in water we are baptized into the crucifixion of Christ and into the resurrection and ascension of Christ. This is a position we are to take by faith. As we count each day that we have died with Christ and have been resurrected with Christ, the Holy Spirit brings our dual position into reality. We are brought down to death each day, in some form or another, and we are raised up each day by the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is the true nature of the Christian life.

The fifty-third and fifty-fourth chapters of the Book of Isaiah give us insight into the some of the forms of suffering we will experience if we are being prepared by the Spirit to rule with Christ.

Most of us are familiar with the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. This famous passage tells us of the sufferings of Christ. While many of the sufferings described in this chapter have to do with the sufferings associated with the atonement for sin, which we shall never be called on to experience since the atonement has been made once and for all time, there are other aspects that are common to Jesus Christ and to the members of His Body.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2—NIV)

Sometimes we hear people talk about the "beautiful Jesus." Anyone who follows Jesus in sincere discipleship will soon find out that our salvation is far from beautiful. It is rugged, difficult at times, demanding all the patience and courage we can bring to the conflict. So it was with our Lord.

God may bring us down until there is nothing in our appearance that is desirable to people.

We may build a beautiful church and hope people will be impressed with how wonderful everything looks. It is well to have a clean, attractive building; but in other countries today Christians are being raped and sold into slavery. It is not unusual for saints to leave bloody footprints in the snow.

We are far too soft in America. I think the coming days will show us that God is not interested in our being beautiful and wonderful. We may be brought down to horrible circumstances. But, historically speaking, this is part of the normal Christian life.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3—NIV)

Would we be popular? Christ was despised by people. This is part of the sufferings of Christ which we are to experience—being made despicable in the eyes of the people around us.

We are not being persecuted very much in America. Maybe we will some day. Then we will have a clearer understanding of how Christ and the Apostles lived on the earth.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4—NIV)

As I said before, we are not called upon to make an atonement for sin. But as we serve God we may be required to fill up that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24—NIV)

We hear of a young minister who is all excited because he believes that God has called him to found a church in a certain area. It is one of the highest of all honors when the Lord God of Heaven commissions us to start a church.

But you can be sure that before the church is firmly established our young minister will suffer the pangs of spiritual birth. This always is necessary if Satan is to be overthrown and a place made ready for God’s feet.

It reminds me of the five young missionaries who were speared by the Aucas. Their death opened the way for salvation to come to these Indians. But what a price was paid by the wives of the young men! It is always so when God sends us against the kingdom of Hell.

The sufferings of Christ must be fulfilled for the sake of His Body.

No, it is not a beautiful sight to see the bodies of five fine young men floating in a river. Strange ashes indeed!

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7—NIV)

The Apostle Paul tells us how he was afflicted, struck down, perplexed, in frequent fastings, and in perils of many kinds. But he continually was being lifted by the power of Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s power was being made perfect in Paul’s affliction.

Sometimes in America Christians act as though they own the country, as though their kingdom is this present world. They are loud in their demands that their will be followed. But the Lord Jesus Christ was not like this. Satan invited him to be a king. People tried to make him a king. But God’s King did not force His will on anyone. He waited patiently for God to raise Him from the dead. Now He possesses all authority and power in Heaven and on the earth.

So it is true that we ultimately shall be brought to authority and power over the nations. But not until we are willing to be as a sheep before its shearers, when the occasion calls for it.

We American Christians need to learn quietness and humility! We are not to attempt to force our will, unless God should specifically direct us to do so. The way of Christ is to keep our mouth shut when we are oppressed and afflicted. This is the only kind of treatment we can expect to receive, in the present hour.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9—NIV)

One of the most difficult of the sufferings we American Christians are called upon to experience is that of being treated unjustly. This may not be the case with Christians in impoverished countries, who are accustomed to being treated unfairly. But in America we must have our rights or we shall sue someone.

The truth is, a true Christian will suffer many injustices and have lies spread about him. Satan will make sure he will be slandered by his fellow Christians—especially if he has set himself to wait on God that God’s will might be done.

Others will seek to supplant him, to take credit for the hard work he has done, to ascribe evil motives to him when he is endeavoring to do good. Though his mouth is free from deceit he will be called a liar.

Has any of this happened to you? If it has you will know of what I am speaking.

We are not to respond. We are not to seek to justify ourselves, unless God directs us to speak out. We are to forget about our marvelous testimony and look only to God. Unjust accusations were voiced against Jesus Christ. You and I are called to experience His sufferings. And we shall—we must if we expect to rule with Him.

Our sinful, adamic nature will howl in protest because we are not being treated fairly. We are not receiving our just due. But we are to shut our mouth and submit ourselves to God. We are not to become bitter against the Christians the Lord permits to criticize us. We are to let every pain drive us further into the Lord, further into conformity to His death.

Satan was continually seeking to call Christ down from His high place in God. People will accuse you of all sorts of things and seek to call you down from your high place in God. Continue peaceably on your way. No weapon that is formed against you will be successful. Trust in God.

We have been called to walk in the resurrection power of Christ and to share in His sufferings. Only by so doing can we attain the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood, the resurrection and ascension that will take place when the Lord appears from Heaven with His holy angels.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10—NIV)

As I said, we do not become a guilt offering. But the other aspects of this verse are true of each member of the Body of Christ, each person destined to appear with Him and rule with Him in His glory.

The Lord will crush us until our natural strength is greatly weakened.

The Lord will cause us to suffer. There is too much rebuking of the devil among American Christians. Our problem is not the devil, it is Jesus Christ. When we please Christ, He will take care of the devil. It is God who is causing us to suffer even though God may use Satan as an instrument, just as Christ did in the case of the Apostle Paul.

Please Christ and let Him take care of the devil!

Who do you think you are—God’s conquering hero? Let God bring you down into the dust so He may raise you and use you according to His desires. He is not your servant. You are His servant!

If we are willing to let the Lord crush us, then the will of the Lord shall prosper in our hand. We shall see the children who will be brought forth because we were faithful to God. If we give our best to God, God will give His best to us. You can count on this!

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;  by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11—NIV)

God may call on you to labor for many years with apparently meager results. All that matters is faithfulness. Let others brag about their great success in the Kingdom. Know that God is not impressed with great success, as measured by the opinions of people. God honors one virtue above all, and that is faithfulness. Be utterly faithful to that to which God has called you, and you will be part of the appearing of Christ.

God is looking for faithful people to follow Him whose very name is Faithful!

If you are faithful to God, you can be certain one day you will come forth into the light. Then you will be satisfied when you see what God has done through your faithful obedience.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,  and he will divide the spoils with the strong,  because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12—NIV)

We are coheirs with Jesus Christ if we are willing to share His sufferings.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17—NIV)

Christ will divide the inheritance with us. The inheritance is people. But we must be strong in the Lord, and we must be willing to pour out our life in the service of God. We must deny ourselves for Christ’s sake and His Gospel’s.

We may not think of people as being the kind of inheritance we would prefer. Perhaps we are pleased with the idea of a mansion in glory and a backyard filled with diamonds. What nonsense!

The only inheritance worth having is people! To inherit one person is better than ten thousand heavens. Jesus knows this well and tells us all about it in the Song of Solomon.

Christ has inherited a vast number of people and the farthest reaches of the earth for His possession. He is delighted to share the inheritance with His younger brothers, but only if we are willing to walk in the power of His resurrection and be brought into conformity to His sufferings and death.

Remembering that the Prophets did not write in chapters, we pass now to a continuation of the description of God’s dealings with His suffering servants.

"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1—NIV)

We understand from the Scriptures that for a woman to be barren in those days was a terrible affliction, perhaps in some cases a tragedy. Yet God invites the barren woman to burst into song, to shout for joy, for she shall have many children.

We think of Sarah, of Hannah, of Elizabeth. When God is ready to do a great work He first causes barrenness. He tears apart and then binds up.

If we would serve the Lord we must accept the fact that God often brings us low before He raises us up. This is the way the Lord works.

If we are being denied the joys that ordinarily would be ours, and we are a servant of the Lord, then we are to rejoice mightily in the assurance that God is doing something special. He is preparing to lift us up.

There was nothing wrong with Hannah’s ability to bear children. We know this because she had several children after Samuel was born.

But Samuel was a special child from an early age. So was John the Baptist. God has His ways and they often are not our ways.

The average woman may have many children. But would you like to try to count the children of the barren Sarah?

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. (Isaiah 54:2,3—NIV)

Just because God has kept you in prison, don’t become a prisoner in your heart. Remember Joseph who one day was in prison and the next day second only to Pharaoh of Egypt.

Set joy before you. Then you can endure your cross. If God’s hand is on you, you may be destined to bring forth an astonishing amount of fruit. Grasp your life and you will lose everything of value. Be willing to die with Christ and you shall gain all that is of true value.

There is no disappointment in Jesus. Those who suffer in Christ are destined to govern nations!

Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. (Isaiah 54:4—NIV)

Yes, you may be embarrassed in front of younger people who are very successful. Yes, God may make you nothing in the sight of others. But if you are suffering in God and not because of your own laziness and indifference, you can be assured that the hour will come in which God will vindicate your patient trust in Him. Then you will forget your momentary embarrassment and your temporary barrenness.

For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5—NIV)

How wonderful to be married to God! How marvelous to be set aside by the Lord until we are dead to the opinions of other people. How desirable to be special to the Lord in this manner.

Others may have great results to show for their religious endeavors. Their names may be household words while you remain unknown.

Someone said we do not take our most precious things or relationships and flaunt them in front of people. So it is with those who are precious to God. He often keeps them hidden from curious eyes. He does not cast His jewels before swine.

We may long for the acclaim of the people of the earth. But God is the God of the whole earth. It is better to be acclaimed by God than by the whole population of the world.

When God is dealing strongly with us we can forget about help from other people. He may use someone to assist us, but He is quick to remind us that our help comes only from Him. He becomes jealous over us and will not let us be either hindered or raised up by others. He lets us know that from now on we are in His keeping, and other individuals, no matter how highly placed, can neither harm us nor help us. We are His, and He is the God of the whole earth.

The breath of every human being is entirely at the disposal of Jesus Christ. To place our trust in men, even those of high distinction, is a snare to our feet and blindness to our eyes.

"The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. "In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:6-8—NIV)

If you have not already experienced such apparent rejection, let me assure you that you shall if you keep following the Lord. It is His way.

When we first receive Christ we are as children. The Lord treats us as children.

But then there comes a time when God sees that we are going to seek Him consistently.

Now, we must understand there are many areas of our personality that are not at all in keeping with God’s personality. He is angry with these. He brings us into much suffering that our worldliness, lust, and self-will may be driven from us. This is how He reconciles Himself to us and us to Himself.

It is of the greatest importance that we hold steady during such seasons of seeming abandonment. We need to keep assuring ourselves of God’s faithfulness, because His dealings with us may continue for several years, depending on our calling in the Kingdom.

When our suffering has accomplished its purpose, God returns to us and comforts us. We come up out of the wilderness leaning on our beloved, so to speak. It has been a Valley of Achor, a place of judgment. But this is the only route to marriage to the Lord.

It is a Job experience. We cannot expect others to understand us, and their advice may be as a tinkling cymbal. But we are to hold fast in faith, because the Holy One of Israel is utterly faithful.

It may seem that we have committed some grievous sin and God has forsaken us. But God never forsakes those who are steadfastly trusting Him to save them. He may chastise them severely, but He never, never, never shall forsake those who are trusting Him to save them.

After we have suffered sufficiently we shall be brought forth into peace and a larger place.

Think of how Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross. "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" We will be given our own Gethsemane, our own cross, if we are called to govern with Him. But hold steady. Such suffering does come to an end. Stay in your prison and you will receive the crown of life. All of God’s saints have the same experience of seeming abandonment and then renewal into a larger place.

You indeed shall see the travail of your soul and be satisfied. God has never failed anyone yet and He will not fail you!

"To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:9,10—NIV)

How do you like this promise: "I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again"? Isn’t that something?

It is worth having the Lord tear us apart, because when He binds us up it is such a blessing. This is easy to say once we have been through the Divine fire, but the program of redemption can be very demanding while we are going through it.

The following verses tell us the barren woman has become the new Jerusalem.

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise,  your foundations with sapphires.  I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. (Isaiah 54:11,12—NIV)

So it is , as the Apostle Paul says, that our momentary affliction is creating for us an indescribably great, eternal weight of glory. We simply are unable to imagine the wonders that the Lord God has prepared for those who love Him, who wait patiently for Him while religious men plot, scheme, and work feverishly in order to secure their own advancement. They always will scorn the humble of heart who look only to Jesus. They always will seek to murder the Lord’s Christ wherever He appears. This you can expect.

All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. (Isaiah 54:13,14—NIV)

Much of our life on earth is filled with dread, with fear, with terror. One of the happiest thoughts of our future with the Lord is that all terror and dread will be far removed from us and never come near us again.

While the expression "great will be your children’s peace" may possibly be speaking of our spiritual children in the future, I think we might be safe in claiming this promise for our children in the present world. This particular promise has been a comfort to me and my wife.

The Lord stores up good things for those who wait patiently for Him.

If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Isaiah 54:15—NIV)

The Bible tells us that whoever departs from iniquity makes himself a prey. In many instances in the Bible the prophets and saints were the prey of the Israelites themselves. Look how the men of Anathoth sought to kill Jeremiah, and how he was treated by the nobles of Israel!

We do not necessarily incur the wrath of other Christians when we make a profession of Christ. It is when we actually depart from sin and begin to practice righteousness that the trouble commences and we are called hypocrites, Pharisees, legalists, and whatever else comes to mind. It is always this way with Israel!

It is so today. When we turn from the typical church foolishness and begin to seek the Lord earnestly, we may find that the other Christians will scorn us. It doesn’t matter. All that truly matters is God’s opinion of us.

Then we have the promise that if our ways please the Lord He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us.

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7—NIV)

And in addition:

"See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:16,17—NIV)

We do not have to worry about our enemies. It is God who creates the destroyer and his ability to destroy. If we are found in God, how can we be harmed? God will never permit His own to be harmed, unless, as we have stated, He is bringing them to Himself through suffering.

Nor should we be overly disturbed concerning those who slander us. We do not have to rush about and defend ourselves. God will vindicate us.

We ought always to pray when people criticize us. Perhaps they are correct and we need to turn to God for help in changing. This is a good and constructive attitude on our part.

But after we are assured they are in error in their accusations, we can rest in God until He vindicates us. We do not have to worry about our reputation or our testimony. The Lord Jesus was slandered on many occasions. This is part of His sufferings that we are to share.

Resurrection life comes only from crucifixion. Let us join the Apostle Paul in seeking to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Paul had suffered so much he had the sentence of death in himself such that he did not trust in himself but in God who raises the dead. Paul went from one source of pain to another, it appears. His life after his conversion was not an enviable one.

Yet Paul learned to rejoice when he was made weak, because then the strength of Christ took over and accomplished the tasks at hand.

Our adamic wisdom and life at their best are so very frail, so very incomplete. This is the way God has made us. It never was God’s intention that the adamic race be permanent. Our first life is nothing more than an opportunity to surrender to God so the only true, eternal life, that which Christ is, can have another dwelling in which to be enlarged.

We are destined to be a life-giving spirit. This is the role of each member of the royal priesthood. We enter our destiny only to the extent we are willing to be brought down to death each day in order that we might be raised in eternal resurrection life.

Thus our sufferings in Christ, that which brings our natural life down to weakness and death, are the only means to what we desire above all else—to live in Christ in eternal love, joy, and peace.