March 12, 2011

Suffering For Christ

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." - Luke 9:23

"I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."  - Acts 9:16

"I want to know Christ- yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings..."  - Phil. 3:10

Jesus tells us that if we want to truly follow Him, first we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. To truly follow and serve Him, we need to deny our wants & desires, and our will, and "take up our cross" - or in other words let go of our own will and do the will of God instead. For Jesus, doing God's will meant going to the cross and suffering terribly, and dying a horrible death on the cross. Thanks to Jesus' obedience, suffering, and sacrifice, the gift of God's salvation & peace & eternal life in heaven is available to all of us.

Many Christians believe or want to believe that following Jesus will bring only success, material comfort, peace, joy, and other good things to their lives, and that God would never allow suffering. This is not what God's Word tells us. If God's plan involved suffering and a painful death for His Son Jesus, and for others in the Bible as well, then it is very likely that it will mean some suffering in our lives too. Paul is another good example of a person suffering because he was fully obedient to God's will and calling for his life. Paul suffered a great deal because he was fully committed to doing God's will (preaching the Gospel and making disciples), and he knew beforehand that he would suffer. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 for a list of some of the things Paul suffered, for the Gospel and for Christ.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul talks about knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and participating in Christ's sufferings. Most Christians sincerely want the first 2 things - to know Christ and to know the power of Jesus flowing through their lives; but they are not willing to radically obey God and pay the cost. There is an expression "Salvation costs you nothing; being a disciple of Christ costs you everything". Paul is writing about these 3 things in Philippians 3:10 as a package deal ... in other words if you are not willing to pay the cost and to suffer for Christ, then you will not be able to know Christ and know the power of His life flowing through you. The cost of following Jesus is great ... for Paul and the other apostles it literally cost them their lives, like it did Jesus. However, to them the high cost was worth it to know their Lord Jesus, and the power of His life flowing through them and enabling them to participate in His Kingdom work. Through them many came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The cost was great, but the cost if they had not radically obeyed would have been far greater, in terms of many people not coming to Christ and not having peace with God and eternal life.

The cost of obeying and following Jesus will be great, but the cost of not obeying & following will be greater in terms of other people's eternal destiny. We personally do not suffer as Paul suffered, or as some others suffer who are serving Jesus in places where it is dangerous to share the Gospel with others, but there still is a great cost. We are separated from our 3 sons who live in the US, and from our families. There is a large financial cost, since we sold our business and everything else and are using our own funds for our ministry. We experience a great deal of spiritual warfare, especially when we are sharing Jesus with many people in a school or in a special outreach event. The spiritual warfare takes various forms, including many difficulties or problems during the days we are sharing Christ (car problems, relationship problems, conflicts, health problems, interpreters not showing up, and other types of difficulties). At times we go into areas that are unsafe and have alot of crime, especially at night (such as in favelas - slums), and we need to rely on God's protection. And the work can be exhausting at times, as we speak sometimes up to 40 times (20 times each) in a week. Even though we do not live in a place where it is a danger to our lives to share Jesus, it has cost us alot to be able to participate in God's work here in this area of Brazil. For us it is a great privilege and honor to be a part of God's work, and it is well worth the high cost. God is looking for more people willing to pay the cost of following Him ... are you one of those people ? If so, He can use you in great ways in His work.

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