The Prosperity Of Suffering 27th Jan
The Prosperity Of Suffering 27th Jan
Tennis Sharapova and Hennin – some amazing athleticism and just enormous skill. They knew the boundaries of the court so well they could challenge a call millimetres from the line. Both women played at times without actually looking where they were hitting the ball – they have trained and practiced so much – they have dedicated themselves to winning to such a degree the racquet is an extension of their bodies. Determined, dedicated, and ruthless – in fact that stood out.
There was no compassion, no letting up – their attitude was simply - victory at all costs, nothing else matters. This attitude, along with the dedication to practice and self discipline sets them apart from the average person. In fact the thing we admire in sports people and others that excel in any area, is their ability to dedicate themselves to a cause – even if that cause is themselves and money – in fact we PAY to let them entertain us with their dedication and self discipline.
They are men and women who are prepared to pay the price to achieve what they long for – whether that is fame, fortune, power, or being the best! Discipline in food, sleep, late nights, entertainment, recreation, anything that might hinder their success is brought into submission to the greater goal. In terms of world population and media coverage – there are relatively few who make this grade, who are able to dedicate themselves and discipline themselves enough – they become heroes, idols etc.
Same in Christianity there are some who have excelled, whose determination and discipline stand out. They have in some way soared above the rest of us and we look to them, and what they have left to us, and try to find out what it was they got, as though they were able to catch something from God – they found a method, a secret, a revelation – and we pour over their writings, [because it seems most of them are long since dead], and we read in hope of a discovery --- What was it they got!???
Mt 16:15-20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
God gave Peter a revelation – the greatest revelation given to man. Jesus is the Christ – the Son of God, Messiah, the anointed One. Jesus then adds to this revelation another – this revelation is the foundation upon which Jesus is going to build His church and that church will be given keys of great power and significance – Divine authority to cooperate with Heaven and bind or loose conflicting powers and antagonists against this church. Keep it a secret for now!! ( great revelation for Peter – joy etc.)
Jesus then went on to teach them of what was going to happen next – according to the Scriptures – which they would have all known – Is 53, Psalm 22 etc. He was explaining Prophesy – [I wonder how Peter received that revelation – in a dream? An angel? The Holy Spirit coming upon him? An awakening in His heart – a Divine impartation? – I can still remember when I first believed how exhilarating it was and how I just wanted to tell everyone – great joy and excitement!!Peter was pumping!] Jesus went on to teach of His impending death : --
Mt 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Building on the Divine revelation Peter had received from God the Father, and that Jesus had added to already – Jesus now began to teach of the resurrection – but before resurrection there had to be death. God had personally communicated the revelation of Christ to Peter and Jesus had revealed the Church – now a very disturbing thing happens. As Jesus is unfolding Prophesy – Peter interrupts Him and rebukes Him – Knowing now who He is! Peter forbids the death! This shall not happen to You!
Jesus’ response is clear and direct -- “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” – Deep into Peter’s revelation from God, Satan intrudes with demonic power. Jesus actually turned and rebuked the Devil influencing Peter – infiltrating his heart and mind, prodding to life what was already there through the fallen Adamic nature. Man fears death and hates the thought of suffering – right from the garden – the fear of death and the fear of suffering prevail.
Heb 2:14-15 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
The fear of death and suffering for followers of Jesus Christ is unbelief – why should we fear Paradise and Eternity with God – why should we fear anything if God will be glorified by it?
1 Pe 4:14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Now we are not talking about suffering for the sake of it or looking for martyrdom – but can you see as soon as Jesus began to talk of death – even in the midst of Divine revelation from God – Satan reemphasized fear, death and suffering – don’t accept this doctrine! – So Jesus responded with this –
Mt 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Here is part of our great spiritual conflict – the flesh and the Spirit – or even Jesus and the devil – as soon as the thought of death, pain or suffering is introduced for the glory of God, the devil immediately intrudes with “Is that really what God expects – doesn’t God want you healthy and strong and prosperous—you don’t have to suffer!” “Sufferings not of God!” “Prosperity is what God wants for you in every area of your lives!” – The flesh wars against the Spirit!!
Jesus said if anyone! – Not just the apostles and those present disciples – but this is written for us as much as for them then – if ANYONE desires to come after Me, -- I think this is a very important thought – is our desire to “come after Jesus” – or is it to follow at some distance and watch what happens to Him, to observe what He does. Sort of like going to the Tennis and admiring the excellence and ability of the players and vicariously playing tennis through those who have paid the price ---
Allowing the power of imagination to be our point of identification with the price they have paid – We go home feeling good, refreshed and entertained – but the only cost for us is money! – I wonder if there have not been some who so desired to “come after Jesus” – their desire compelling them, their desire seeing Him for who He is – you know Peter had that revelation from God that Jesus was the Christ – glorious Divine intervention – yet was almost immediately deceived by Satan ---
the devil knowing the weakness of man offered a way of escaping -- he tainted the desire – YET --
King David on the other hand so desired to know God – He risked his life with giants, lions and bears
Maybe the defining thing here is the DESIRE – the heart after God’s own heart?
Ro 6:20-21 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
As I read this the other day I was very convicted – actually reminded of how my wicked desires produced incredible fruit – the things I wanted to do, I did – and what abundant fruit in the things of which I am now ashamed. What selfishness, what destruction, what pain and hurt and conflict – yet the life I lived produced a great crop. Isn’t it funny how the things we desire, do produce fruit, and we can pursue excellence in sport or music or other gifts – but to desire to “Come after Jesus???”
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” To take up our cross means we have to be alive – the dead, martyrs, can’t carry crosses. Jesus is not talking about unnecessary suffering and a death wish – He came that we might have life and have it abundantly – Jesus is not talking about self denial in the way some of the monks and mystics have understood it (although many of them touched God St. Francis – poverty)
To take up the cross and deny ourselves is to accept the rejection of the world, being crucified to the world and the world to me – if we seek the fruit of acceptance and not making waves and being “nice” to the world – if we seek to be like them and relate to them at their level so that they will not reject us then we are not desiring to follow after Jesus but rather are seeking to save our lives. Jesus was saying that if we desire acceptance in this life – if that is the most important thing –
Then we might find that desire fulfilled but lose our souls in the life to come. ---- Jesus was responding to Satan’s attempt to trip Peter up and rob Him of the Divine revelation – and to corrupt the foundation of the coming Church – to follow Jesus is to have a desire so clearly defined it is prepared to deny all our own ambitions and worldly desires to glorify Him – it is to allow the Holy Spirit to so influence us that in Him, Jesus is glorified. Jesus said when He the Holy Spirit has come He will glorify Me!!
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
1 Pe 3:13-15 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
I wonder if we have not succumbed in some ways to the same old plot of the devil – particularly in Pentecost – the whole teaching on spiritual gifts, power and ministry – there has been such a promotion of this whole aspect of the Holy Spirit that we have very subtly, learned that He is a commodity, a power, a means to our own purposes. – One of our primary motivations in our spiritual walk has been the seeking after prophesy, W.O.K., deliverance – the gifts through a man.
Now of course there is a legitimacy in this – but the Holy Spirit has primarily come to glorify Christ Jesus who is our righteousness!! And He when He has come will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment – Remember we were looking at the sacrifice, the oxen and fat sheep, we were looking at Jesus saying unless we eat His flesh and drink His Blood – we cannot abide in Him, we do not have life eternal. And so how do we make that identification – what does that mean?
I think it means we are to suffer for righteousness’s sake – to so desire Him we will deny ourselves in such a manner that we are likely to suffer persecution – so different from the world’s desires – and we have the power and the authority to do so through the Holy Spirit ---
Binding and losing and establishing the Church – building on that foundation that is laid in Christ, the Messiah and coming King –
Jn 16:13-15 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
The means of any transaction between heaven and earth, to bind and lose, must depend upon the Person of the Holy Spirit – He will guide us into all truth, He will speak to us – He will glorify Jesus – but you see to be able to really do that He needs clean hands and a pure heart so we may ascend in Him, He needs us seeking Him for the glory of Jesus and that means pursuing righteousness and Holiness, but so much of what we pursue Him for actually must grieve Him.
Because we are seeking Him to build ourselves up, to glorify ourselves and satisfy our own desires. I think there is a place of knowing the Holy Spirit – or maybe being Known By Him – just like Gideon
Jdg 6:34 But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet,
This literally means the Holy Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon – put Him on like a glove! O I think God is looking for men and women who will so yield themselves to Him that Jesus will be glorified in us. We talk of great revivals and the repentance – because it was in repentance, in humility, in the F.O.G. the glory was able to remain. And God was glorified in such a way we still talk of those times today!! – Identifying with Christ – carrying about in our bodies the marks of His suffering.
Making up in ourselves that which is lacking in Christ’s suffering for the church – His church and bride! Like the tennis players committing ourselves in the same way for a much greater goal than temporal glory and it’s fleeting returns – looking instead to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
1 Co 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
I think this is the Holy Spirit’s desire for us – to build one another up in our most Holy Faith – encouraging and standing together – until Christ is glorified in us!!
Pray for one another
Honour each other.