HOW TO REACT TO SUFFERING
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Lord Jesus rebukes and disciplines every person He loves. The rebukes and the disciplines often cause us considerable suffering. How we react to this suffering determines whether we become bitter and vengeful or whether we take our place with Christ on the throne that governs all the works of God’s hands.
HOW TO REACT TO SUFFERING
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21)
The three verses above are related. Let us explain why.
If we are one of those whom the Lord loves we are going to be rebuked and disciplined. Because of recent teaching we do not always know how to react to the Lord’s rebuke and discipline. We have been taught Christians are not supposed to suffer. If we have faith we will never suffer, it is claimed.
They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (Hebrews 11:37-39)
Since the above believers suffered, and yet were commended for their faith, we conclude that the current teaching, which stresses if we have faith we will never suffer, is unscriptural.
God always chastens severely and thoroughly every son He receives. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. The Lord chastens us because He loves us and does not want us to be under condemnation when He judges the world.
The household of God is being chastened in the present hour. The world will be dealt with as soon as the saints have been purged of their spots and wrinkles.
Since it is undeniably true that every Christian will be rebuked and disciplined, it becomes important that we learn how to react correctly to suffering.
The sufferings the Lord sends on us for our perfecting often take one or two forms: either we are denied something we want desperately, or else we are required to continue in a situation which we detest. These are the two kinds of prisons the Lord confines us in.
If God permits Satan to cast us into a prison, we must remain faithful unto death, that is, until our self-will and personal ambitions have been crucified.
If Satan is being permitted to sift us as wheat, then we can be sure that the Lord Jesus is praying for us that our faith does not fail.
We must never take matters into our own hands and attempt to escape from the prison we are in. We always are to give thanks to God, and we always are to pray that God will gives us the desires of our heart. We must set joy before us, or we will never be able to bear our cross for any length of time.
When we are in darkness for a season we are never to work up some kind of solution by our own wisdom and strength. We are to wait on the Lord until we know what He wants of us.
Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10,11)
We must never, never, never blame other people or become vengeful and spiteful toward them. More often than not, it is people who are causing us pain and discomfort. But we are not to attack them or even harbor anger against them. We are to go to the Lord for relief. These people are doing us a favor because they are pressing us into Christ; so why should we harbor resentment against them?
Sometimes people become angry with God because they are not getting what they want. Have they never thought of Calvary? Do they doubt God’s love? Or are they spoiled children who have a tantrum when things are not going the way they think they should?
Consider that God in His goodness is teaching about Himself—the most valuable instruction we ever will receive.
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2,3)
It is God’s love that is withholding from you the desires of your heart. But it is only for a season. If you will permit the Lord to train you in righteousness and holiness, the hour will come when you will experience endless joy at God’s right hand.
If you will delight yourself in the Lord, especially during a time of trial, He will give you in due time the desires of your heart.
God knows the details of your life. God knows the desires of your heart.
God is pleased to give you joy. God has the power to bring you to joy. God will bring you to perfect joy if you will submit to His will.
If you are being rebuked and disciplined in the present hour, it is so you will be conformed to the image of Christ and brought into untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will.
If you are a wise individual, you will esteem being made in the image of Christ and being brought into untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will as being the most marvelous of all possible treasures. Therefore you will remain patiently under the hand of God during your time of testing, your hour of darkness.
So much for Revelation 3:19. The next verse, Revelation 3:20, tells us how to react to the rebuke of the Lord.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
The rebuke and discipline of the Lord is a knocking on the door of your personality. The Lord is seeking to enter your life in a much greater way than ever before.
How are you to react to this knocking, this pain that gets your attention? You are to open the door of your personality to the Lord Jesus. You are not to look about you to see who is to blame, who is making you uncomfortable. You are to go immediately to prayer and seek the face of the Lord. You may have to do this thousands of times. It does not matter. What you are sowing now you are going to reap for eternity, so do not take the way of pleasure now. The pleasure will come later if you continue with your discipleship.
When you open the door of your personality to the Lord He comes in to you and eats with you and you with Him.
- He is nourished by your worship and obedience.
- You are nourished by His body and blood.
- It is a time of restful communion.
This is how we are to react to the suffering that comes from the hand of the Lord. We are to sit peacefully at the table with Him and commune with Him. As we do He feeds us with His body and blood and we receive the strength and wisdom we need to respond peacefully and lovingly to the people, things, or situations that are causing us pain.
No one can take your peace from you unless you allow them to do so. You can choose to blame people for your pain and frustration, or you can permit the pain and frustration to drive you to prayer, to the Lord.
While I am writing, a narrow vote in a presidential election is being decided. Many people are in an uproar. As American citizens we should vote, and as Christians we should pray that God will install whomever He wants to be president.
But we who belong to the Lord are not to become all excited. It does not matter who is elected, it will continue to be true that all things will work together for every person who loves God, who has been called according to His purpose in Christ. If Satan himself were to be elected president of the United States, it still would remain true that all things would continue to remain true for each individual who loves God, who has been called according to His purpose in Christ. The Word of God cannot be broken!
There is nothing that Satan or people can do to us that will not work for our good, if we bring each situation to the Lord. Satan believed he had won a major victory when he inspired the priests to crucify the Lord Jesus. The result was an atonement for the sins of the world. It always remains true that everything the wicked do to harm the righteous turns out for the good of the righteous.
It is God who makes the weapons of destruction as well as the person who wields them. It is God who ensures that no weapon formed against one of His saints will ever accomplish anything except good for that saint.
All of us who are following the Lord need to understand thoroughly that Christ is in control of all people and events. One of the greatest problems facing Christians today, and which will increase in danger during the age of moral horrors we are approaching, is that of the temptation to fret about evil. We are never to fret about evil or become anxious and fearful because of the actions of the wicked. The very hairs of our head are numbered.
We always are to keep permitting Jesus to enter our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We always are to be dining with Him on His body and blood. In many instances Christ does not set a table before us in the presence of our friends but in the presence of our enemies. Christ is so powerful He disdains the presence and feverish activities of the wicked. He wants us to share His confidence.
No, we do not fret when we see danger approaching. We do not struggle against the darkness. We invite the Lord Jesus into our personality in an even greater way than ever before, and we dine with Him and enjoy His Presence.
Verse nineteen, of the third chapter of the Book of Revelation, speaks of the Lord rebuking and disciplining those whom He loves.
Verse twenty tells us that the rebuking and disciplining are as a knocking on the door of our personality so we will let the Lord into our life that He may dine with us.
Verse twenty-one goes on to tell us if we overcome as He overcame, that is, if we do not become bitter and vengeful because of the pain we are suffering but instead permit Christ to enter us and have fellowship with us, we will be given the right to sit with Him on His throne just as He sits with His Father on the Father’s throne.
To sit with Jesus Christ on His throne may be the greatest promise in the Bible, in terms of the heights of authority and power it offers to the victorious saint. It is interesting that this incredible promise is held out to the overcomer in Laodicea. Laodicea represents the church that places great emphasis on the rights of people, on human welfare. It is the self-centered, self-focused church, just as is true in America of today.
It is so like the Lord to make the greatest demands, and offer the greatest reward, to the worst of the seven churches.
Revelation 3:20, about Jesus knocking on the door of our heart, has been preached to multitudes of unsaved people. No doubt numerous fine Christians have come to the Lord because of this verse.
However, Revelation 3:20 is written to the self-centered churches of our day. We have a great many programs and activities, but how many of our efforts are coming from the Lord? How many believers are actually hearing from the Lord? Or are we working for the Lord instead of with the Lord?
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done by Christ will last. Only what is done by the Lord will stand for eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ builds His own Church on the Rock that He is. The efforts of the flesh, unless it is Christ who is behind the efforts of the flesh, accomplishes nothing of eternal value.
That which is of the flesh is flesh, and that which is of the Spirit is of Christ and will endure through the ages.
As recorded in the Book of Acts, the Apostles never once preached “Let Jesus into your heart” to unsaved people. It is we Christians of today who are to open our heart to the Lord so He may enter our personality and prepare us for the evil day that is upon us.
What is at issue is the throne of Almighty God. Jesus Christ sits on that highest of all thrones. In comparison with that throne of thrones, the most powerful king who has ever governed on the earth was a threadbare pauper playing with his toys in a sandbox.
At one time there was only a realm of spirits. There were numerous high-ranking angels dwelling in marvelous glory and beauty.
Then Satan, a cherub who covered the throne of God with his wings, decided to set his own will against the will of God.
God, at that time, could have hurled Satan into the deepest prison and confined him there for eternity.
During the ferment among the angels, one Person stood out—the Logos, the Word of God. He totally rejected the mounting wickedness and embraced righteousness.
The Father made a decision. He anointed the Word with the oil of joy above His fellows.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalms 45:7)
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:9)
Therefore God determined to make a new race of creatures created from the righteous personality of the Word, and then to appoint them as the kings and priests of a physical world. This is the Kingdom of God—Heaven clothed with a physical robe.
All human beings are made in the image of God. But some of these humans were predestined from the foundation of the world to be made in the image of Christ (formerly the Word) and to be His brothers.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Beginning with Christ, the Firstborn and Lord of all, each of the sons of God had to be tested as to his obedience, for the original sin was disobedience.
Christ passed the test. He overcame pains and pressures, frustration and bewilderment, perversity and wickedness, that none the rest of us could have survived. In addition He carried on Himself the burden of the sins of the world, meanwhile being threatened by Satan, with the horror that God would never receive Him again.
None of us will ever be able to experience the burden of darkness and oppression that the Lord carried. We would not keep our sanity for thirty seconds. He is the worthy elder Brother, the Captain of our salvation.
Christ overcame. He emerged in perfect victory. Now he possesses all authority in Heaven and on the earth. No creature can lift hand or foot apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. All things are upheld by the Word of His power.
Christ is sitting with His Father on the Father’s throne.
The next in line are God’s elect. We will be tested, tested, tested again as to our obedience. We must gain iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father. Nothing less! This would be impossible if we were required to do it, but it is Christ who accomplishes these three virtues in us. In fact, they are of His Nature which is being formed in us.
We will be assaulted. We will be imprisoned. We will experience perversity. What we desire fervently will be withheld from us. We will be forced to continue in situations we detest. We may suffer torture or martyrdom—many Christians have. We will be despised and rejected, although this is not true in the present hour in the United States. It indeed is true in some other countries. Let us never forget this.
How long will we suffer such rebukes? Such disciplining?
Sometimes many years. We will suffer rebukes and disciplines until God is satisfied that we are worthy and competent to govern with Christ.
We must overcome. What does this mean? It means there will be challenge after challenge to our claim to the throne of the universe. If possible, our crown will be taken from us. We have to gain the victory over each challenge to prove we are able to rule with Christ in any and every situation.
This is no place for the weak, for the cowardly, for those who wallow in self-pity. It is for the individual who does not look to his shortcomings but keeps his eyes fastened on the Lord. He does not complain when the years go by and his desires are not granted to him. He does not grumble when he is treated unjustly—and he indeed will be treated unjustly, for this is one of the principal sufferings of Christ.
The Christian discipleship is a rugged training. And why not? We are speaking of governing the works of God’s hands. There is no place for the weak, silly, foolish, fearful, pleasure-loving American believer of today who would flee from the sanctuary if the pastor ever dared to present the demands of Christ.
How many believers would remain in the Christian churches if every pastor told his congregation that the only true Christian is the one who has denied himself, taken up his cross, and is following the Lamb each day? How many American Christians would even think of denying themselves something they desired fervently? How many American Christians would serve Jesus if it meant breaking off a relationship in which they were deeply involved?
We may imagine every believer is going to rule with Christ. The truth is, only the victorious saint is authorized to sit on the highest of all thrones. Even if the Bible did not state this qualification, our common sense ought to bring us to this truth. If we cannot govern our little situation today, what would we do were we placed on the throne with Jesus Christ? This is nonsense!
It is my point of view that God, revealing His total disdain for those high-ranking angels who decided to rebel against His will, decided to create a new throne for himself. To further confound His enemies, God has determined to make His new throne from dust—probably the most useless substance in the creation. So God made man from the dust of the ground.
Why did He make man? To govern the works of God’s hands, meanwhile advising the angels that they are to minister to the needs of the dust-men.
Then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Word, partook of the dust. The King, the Firstborn from the dead, became dust, so to speak. The young Prince of Glory was tested in every conceivable manner. Having come forth in superb victory, He sat down with His Father on His Father’s throne. This throne is so exalted as to be incomprehensible to us in the present hour.
But where is this throne? Is it in Heaven? Yes, but more particularly in the heart of Jesus Christ.
Now it is our turn. We will be tested in every conceivable manner. The powers of darkness will bounce us up and down like a rubber ball. Will we quit? Will we give up and return to the life of the flesh? Or will we keep going, keep going, day after weary day, until the Lord says it is enough?
If we come forth triumphantly we will be authorized to sit with Christ on His throne.
But where is that throne? It is in our heart.
There is a throne room in each one of us. Perhaps it is necessary for a season that we step off that throne and permit the Father and Christ to take Their place. Where? In our personality.
Would you object to climbing down from the throne of your life and permitting the Father and the Son to be established there? I do not believe you would object to this at all. It is a great privilege to allow yourself to become the throne of God and the Lamb.
But then what? Perhaps when it has been proven beyond all doubt that you will never, never, never under any circumstance attempt to rebel against the will of God and Christ (which is one will), you will be permitted to get back on the throne of your own personality.
Now there are four persons on the throne of your life: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and you. Think of it! You have become an integral part of the very throne of God. Is this why you were created? Is this why God is bringing you through such rigorous experiences?
Maybe so. It is written in Daniel that in the last days it will be given to Antichrist to ascend to the heights of the heavens and tear down part of the host. What this means in practical terms is that the prayers of people will be greatly hindered. They no longer will be able to pray to God through Jesus Christ. They will discover the powers of darkness are preventing them from speaking to God.
However, a warlike remnant of saints will have been driven into the wilderness. I think at that time the Throne of God will move from Heaven into the personalities of those who have emerged in victory. Therefore they will always be able to speak to God. There will be salvation in these for whoever calls on the name of the Lord.
Just as the leaders of the Jews had to go out to the wilderness to hear from God through John the Baptist, so it will be true that people will have to leave the cities and seek out the godly remnant in order to hear from God.
We understand, then, that the Lord Jesus rebukes and disciplines each one He loves. The rebukes and disciplines come to us as a knocking on the door of our personality, a knocking that calls our attention to the fact that God desires that we have a closer relationship with Him.
If instead of becoming bitter at the people and circumstances God uses we determine to open up the door of our heart to the Lord and commune with Him, we will overcome all desire to strike back, to rebel against God’s will for us. We will gain this victory by spending much time dining with the Lord, eating His flesh and drinking His blood; for our resurrection life is found in His body and blood.
As we overcome in this manner, the Father and the Son come to us and make their abode with us. Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and guiding us into all truth.
If we thus submit ourselves to the will of God, gaining victory each day through the virtue found in the body and blood of Christ, which we eat and drink by faith as we obey the Lord in every detail, the day finally will arrive when we are a full-fledged chariot of God. Now our role throughout eternity will be to bring the Presence, rule, blessing, and knowledge of God throughout His creation. We now are a member of the governing priesthood.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
A prayer: God grant that in every place and at all times, every thought I think, every word I speak, every action I take, and every aspect of my appearance will be filled with Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
(“How to React to Suffering”, 3833-1)