LEARNING OBEDIENCE THROUGH SUFFERING

(Trumpet Ministries, Inc. / Words of Righteousness)

LEARNING OBEDIENCE THROUGH SUFFERING Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Life on earth is a time of testing. It is a probationary period. What is the purpose of the troubles we experience continuously in the world? These pains and dreads discipline us; they teach us obedience to the Father; they drive out of us the love of the world. Obedience! We learn obedience to God through the things we suffer. As was true of the Apostle Paul, when we are faithful in our prisons and sufferings other people are blessed.

We Christians suffer many tribulations and pains throughout our discipleship. It is a comfort to know that when we are serving the Lord diligently our troubles are not chance occurrences or pointless harassments but are the disciplining hand of the Lord.

LEARNING OBEDIENCE THROUGH SUFFERING

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Hebrews 2:6,7)

We Christians suffer many tribulations and pains throughout our discipleship. It is a comfort to know that when we are serving the Lord diligently our troubles are not chance occurrences or pointless harassments but are the disciplining hand of the Lord.

We are God’s children. God is our Father. God is teaching us obedience—perfect obedience to Himself. God will not tolerate disobedience in any of His sons.

King Saul lost his throne through disobedience. The Lord had commanded Saul to totally destroy the Amalekites and all their livestock. But Saul spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, plus the best of the livestock.

When the Prophet Samuel came, Saul blamed the people. Saul protested that the people had kept the animals alive in order to sacrifice them to the Lord. When we disobey God we often put the blame on other people.

Samuel declared to Saul that obedience is more important than sacrifice:

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of sorcery, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (I Samuel 15:22,23)

So it is today. There are many who are "praising" Jesus and calling Him Lord, Lord but are not doing what He says. They are not obedient to God but are hoping to make up for their disobedience by praising the Lord.

Fervent, enthusiastic worship is one of the most important activities of an assembly of saints. Fervent worship is necessary if we are to please the Lord. But strict obedience to God, to both His written Word and specific, personal guidance, is more important even than praise.

Obedience to the Father is the basis of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is manifested in doing God’s will in the earth as it is performed in Heaven.

Obedience must be learned and it often can be learned best through suffering.

Life on earth is a time of testing. It is a probationary period. The main lesson we learn on earth is the knowledge of the Holy One of Israel, that is, complete trust in the faithfulness of God and stern obedience to His will. The result of trust and obedience is the Presence of God, which is the only true holiness.

Iniquity can be removed from our personality in a moment while we are on earth or in the spirit realm.

And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. (Zechariah 3:4)

But it appears that only during life on the earth can the knowledge of the Lord, perfect trust in and obedience to the Father, be wrought in the soul.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Offspring of God. Christ is filled with the Father. He is the Word from eternity. He always does the Father’s will. His Spirit and Character are flawless. He is the express Image of the Father’s Person.

Yet even Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering during His life on the earth.

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8)

If Jesus, who is altogether above us in every way, had to learn obedience through suffering on the earth, it is no wonder we who are completely undone in our sins and rebellion are chastened continually. We are sent tribulation after tribulation. Our Father in Heaven is disciplining us. He is teaching us obedience to Himself.

There are three primary realms of disobedience in the believer: the love of the world, the love of sin, and the love of self. These three loves are in us, and this is why every one of us is deeply rebellious against our Father in Heaven. God deals with each of these three areas by means of suffering.

The love of the world that abides in us presses us continually to disobey the Lord. The world calls to us with a loud, enticing voice. The world projects to our minds a glamorous future filled with delights of all kinds. But it is a siren call inviting us to the rocks of destruction, to the bleached bones of those who have succumbed before us.

Jesus commands us through the Apostle John:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (I John 2:15)

But many find obedience to Christ so difficult and the world so attractive!

Therefore God pours tribulation (chastening) on us in order that we may not be condemned with the world.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)

Notice how the Lord calls us to Himself, "In me ye might have peace." In the world we shall have tribulation but in Jesus we shall have peace.

It is human nature to turn away from what is painful and to seek joy and peace. By sending tribulation on us God causes us to turn away from the world and to find rest in His Son. We learn obedience through the things we suffer.

Should we get married? Should we work in the world? Should we participate in the world? Many times it is God’s will that we marry and participate in the world.

But then we run into trouble in the flesh. There is incompatibility. There is anxiety. There is that boss who is perverse. Our Eden is plagued with weeds, mosquitoes, and serpents. Trouble!

What is the purpose of the troubles we experience continuously in the world? These pains and dreads discipline us; they teach us obedience to the Father; they drive out of us the love of the world. This present world is not our rest, our inheritance, and God reminds us of that fact every day.

The current doctrine that through "faith" we can escape the tribulations God sends to us is erroneous and destructive. It is of the False Prophet. It is contrary to the Scriptures and seeks to prevent our progress in the Lord.

When we are sick, or otherwise in distress, we are to pray and seek God, using the faith and trust He gives us. In numerous instances the Lord heals our diseases and delivers us from our troubles. All experienced saints know this is true. Going to the Lord for help in our hour of need is scriptural.

But believing that if we have faith we never will experience suffering or sickness is not scriptural. It is the spirit of the False Prophet attempting to emphasize the immediate happiness and welfare of people at the expense of God’s will for them; at the expense of God’s will being done in the earth; at the expense of bringing the light of God to the nations of the earth; at the expense of the eternal joy and blessing of the believer who is being seduced by this humanistic teaching.

The Lord Jesus suffered much in the world and is an example to us. We must share His sufferings if we desire to experience the power of His resurrection.

The love of the world is in us, causing disobedience. Also, the love of sin dwells in our flesh.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 7:20)

God causes us to turn away from our sins by sending fiery sufferings on us.

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; (I Peter 4:1)

If we commit acts of lust or covetousness or violence or drunkenness or sorcery Divine judgment will fall on us and our sin. We may become violently ill or lose our job or hurt someone or end up in prison. Calamity may fall on our household. We may die before our appointed task has been completed.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [die physically]. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:30-32)

God is teaching us obedience. God does not want us to be conformed to this world, which is of the devil, or to sin; and so He sends pain to us continuously—enough pain, dread, perplexity, and sorrow that to live a righteous, holy, obedient life becomes preferable to sinning.

There was no sin dwelling in the flesh of Christ. He did not have to learn righteous behavior. But He took upon Himself our sins and suffered the terrible penalty.

We now are learning through suffering the peaceable ways of righteousness.

He who would obey God must, through Christ’s grace, gain victory over the love of the world and the love of sin. Finally, the love of self must be overcome. The love of self, and trust in self, may be the deepest, most resistant aspect of the believer’s rebellion against God. Perhaps it is in this realm that even the holy, righteous Christ had to learn obedience through suffering.

The world and sin are obviously evil. Even the unsaved can understand that much of what is practiced is wicked and destructive, being contrary to the law of conscience that dwells in every person.

But the love of self and trust in self are not always deemed to be wicked and hostile to God. Neither the world nor the Christian believers, for the most part, understand the monster of evil lurking in the cavern of self-love. It may be true that the love of self is a more horrible serpent than the world and sin combined.

The individual who is free from self-love is far along on the path to the Father’s heart.

Since the love of self is the most vicious of all forms of rebellion and the most firmly entrenched in the human personality, so it is true that the sufferings required to dislodge it, to cleanse it from the soul, are the most intense, the most fiery of the tribulations the believer experiences.

There are in the Scriptures two dreadful portrayals of God dealing with self-love. One is found in the Old Testament, the other in the New. One took place in the land of Moriah, the other in Gethsemane—both within the boundaries of Jerusalem.

God "tested" Abraham in the realm of self-love, self-will, trust in self. This trial had nothing to do with the world or with sin. It had to do with Abraham’s trust in God.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be in number as the stars and as the sands of the sea. Then He made Abraham wait for the birth of Isaac for a quarter of a century. You can imagine the patience involved in waiting twenty-five years for something desired so intensely.

Finally the promise was kept, as God’s promises always are. The glorious, impossible hope became flesh and blood. Abraham’s future was all joy now. Or was it?

One day, out from the darkness came the most frightful words Abraham had ever heard or ever would hear again. "Offer up Isaac as a burnt offering."

This was a perfect, comprehensive test of Abraham’s self-love. His whole soul was wrapped up in Isaac. To slay Isaac was to slay himself.

Had Abraham refused to surrender his soul to God, neither Abraham nor Isaac would have become the ancestor of Christ. God will not tolerate disobedience in His children—and no excuses are accepted.

The greatest testings are reserved for those whose destinies are the highest. Abraham learned obedience through suffering and thus became the father of many nations, the father of all who are part of Christ. God disciplines every son whom He receives. If we are without chastening, God is not our father. The extent to which we are brought under discipline depends on our particular calling.

Christ is destined to be Lord of all, the King of kings, the Center and Circumference of all things. The love of the world was not in Him, neither did sin dwell in His flesh.

But Christ learned obedience to the Father through the things He suffered.

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:9)

God has promised Jesus the nations for His inheritance and the farthest reaches of the earth for His possession. The kingdoms of this world shall be His to do with as He will.

Satan offered a short cut to his inheritance, which Christ quickly rejected.

Christ was tested in the wilderness. He was rejected by His neighbors. He was persecuted by the Jews. He was accused falsely. He suffered perplexity, perversity, loss of dignity, spiritual and physical pain.

But none of these approached the agony of Gethsemane.

"Gethsemanes" cannot be evaluated as to the intensity of their pain except by those who are experiencing them.

The enormity of Jesus’ suffering is indicated in a few sentences:

And there appeared an angel unto him from Heaven strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:43,44)

Christ’s unequaled strength, courage, and obedience are evident. But what was taking place in His soul that was causing such extreme agony of heart and mind?

The testing was somewhat similar to that of Abraham. Christ possessed the fullness of the Presence of God and the hope of a truly marvelous inheritance. His future was spread before Him—golden, glorious, wonderful—the dream to end all dreams.

Now this apparently was being taken from Him. Not only the golden dream but the very Presence of God. Christ was losing His salvation, His eternal life, His very soul, because this is the penalty of sin against God.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me (Psalms 18:4,5).

"Oh," we say, "but it was only for a few days. Christ knew that soon He would be raised from the dead and enter His inheritance. The Presence and Glory of God would be restored to Him. There actually was no basis for His extreme agony!"

How did Christ know His travail was but for a brief period? From the Scriptures? We too have the promises of God. Do they make our "Gethsemanes" less excruciating?

The fact is, Christ, as is true also of us, had to lean totally on the faithfulness of God. During those dark hours in Gethsemane, Christ was being required to give back to God His inheritance, His glory, His very eternal Life in the Presence of God. Would they ever be restored? How could He be certain? After all, He was bearing on Himself the sins of the whole world.

What if He was doomed to spend eternity among the demons? What if God did not raise Him from the dead? The demons to the present hour claim that Jesus is chained to a rock in the underworld and is hurling profanities at God. This is what they threatened Him with that night in the garden of Gethsemane.

This is why Christ sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. This is why a holy angel was sent to strengthen Him. Christ was being cut off from God. He was bearing our sins on Himself and paying the penalty for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. He became the bronze serpent that was lifted up.

Christ understands, as does no one else, the extent of God’s wrath against sin and rebellion.

This was the moment of supreme obedience, the obedience that reversed the effect of Adam’s disobedience.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

Christ drank a frightful death from the cup. In doing so, He surrendered His will to the Father in absolute obedience.

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

Obedience! We learn obedience to God through the things we suffer. As in the case of Abraham, Joseph, Christ, the Apostle Paul, and countless others less well known, when we are faithful in our prisons and sufferings other people are blessed.

Will there ever be an end to our sufferings? Yes, there shall indeed be an end. As soon as we are perfectly righteous, perfectly holy, perfectly obedient there will be no more need for chastening.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (I Peter 5:10)

We are chastened more severely than is true of the world. We receive of the Lord’s hand double for all our sins. The sailors were not swallowed by the fish, only Jonah, only the man of God. But as soon as our "warfare has been accomplished" the Lord speaks comfortably to us.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2)

What a blessed thought it is to realize we shall not be chastened forever! If we remain faithful, praying in our afflictions, there will come a time when the chastening is concluded. It shall come to an end!

God will not be forever scolding us. One day we will walk in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:16)

We can prolong our sufferings by refusing to learn obedience; or we can shorten the program by being quick to learn, quick to obey.

But in no case can the sufferings of the righteous be avoided, for obedience must be formed in us so deeply, so perfectly, that God will be able to trust us with the power and glory of the ages to come.

We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God.