There is a kind of gospel, another gospel that tells people that they should run from their earthly problems and come to Jesus where there are no problems. This is a lie.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, ‘l believed, and so l spoke,’ we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).
There is a kind of gospel, another gospel that tells people that they should run from their earthly problems and come to Jesus where there are no problems. This is a lie. There is more suffering in the christian life than in the world. There are a number of very obvious reasons for this.
First of all, we are called right from the beginning of the Christian life into war. War demands sacrifice. War demands suffering. War has casualties. To think of a war in which the front-line soldiers are exempted from suffering is unimaginable.
Secondly the Lord Jesus calls us to suffer for Him. The Bible says that it has been granted unto us not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His name’s sake.
Thirdly, when we become Christians, we commit treason against the devil. We leave his army to fight for his arch-enemy, the Lord Jesus, and we carry out this fight in this world in which the devil is the god. We are, therefore, fighting someone who hates us on his grounds and within his reach.
Those who have not suffered are not believers, for the call to come to Christ also includes a call to take His yoke. The Lord Jesus said,
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and l will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for l am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Any who think that they have come to rest in Him while running away from His yoke are self-deceived. And there are many self-deceived people who think that they are saved. That Day will be a dreadful shock for multitudes.
Suffering is real – very real. We can say that the greater the saint the greater the suffering, and the lesser the saint the lesser the suffering. Small saints are those who run away in part or in whole from the hard demands of discipleship. By refusing to suffer, by loving ease, they choke the seed of life that the Lord has put within them.
For the apostle Paul, suffering was a hard reality. We shall come to this again at a later chapter. However, here he gives us a glimpse of it. He says,
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are persecuted, but not forsaken.
We are struck down, but not destroyed.
Yes, he was:
It was possible for him to be:
afflicted and crushed,
perplexed and driven to despair,
persecuted and forsaken,
struck down and destroyed.
Why did these possibilities not happen? The answer is simple. All these things happened to the earthen vessel. The earthen vessel was not empty, but it contained the treasure. The Lord Jesus, being therefore the treasure, prevented His afflicted servant from being crushed, and His perplexed servant from being driven to despair. He did not forsake His persecuted servant, and when he was struck down, He prevented him from being destroyed. The transcendent power of God, resident in the Lord Jesus and at work in the minister of the New Covenant, made this possible.
This is the wonderful privilege of the earthen vessels that have the treasure. The earthen vessels of the world are often crushed in their affliction, driven to despair in their perplexity, forsaken in their persecution and destroyed when struck down.
There is a note of triumph as the apostle talks about these things. The following suffering servants of the Lord also bore a note of triumph in their suffering:
“l want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that one of us is dead. One of us at least (it may be l) will surely fall before that. But what l want to say is this: When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to fill the vacant place”
Mckay of Uganda.
“Here l am, Lord, send me, send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth, or earthly comfort; send me to death itself, if it be but in Thy service and to promote Thy Kingdom.”
“Yet more, Oh, my God, more toil, more agony more suffering for Thee.”
“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
“l have felt – come life, come death – God’s will would be my choice. Should anything prevent my ever adding to this, let all my beloved ones at home rest assured that l was happy beyond expression and would not have changed situations with any man living. Let them also be assured that my hopes were full and blooming with immortality; that heaven, and love, and Christ, were in my heart; that the hope of glory, the hope laid up for me in heaven, filled my whole heart with joy and gladness, and that to me to live is Christ, to die is gain; that l can say, ‘l am in a strait betwixt two, to abide in the body, or to depart and be with Christ which is far better.’ ”
Richard Williams (just before he died from starvation as a martyr).
With him died the sailor saint, Captain Allan Gardiner. Slowly he starved to death for Christ. “A little rice, two cakes of chocolate, six mice, and one pound of pork,” was all the food left for him and his companions. Yet this was the way he faced it.
“My prayer is that the Lord my God may be glorified in me whatever it may be, by life or by death, and that He will, should we fall, vouchsafe to raise up, and send forth other labourers into His harvest, that His name may be magnified, and His kingdom enlarged, in the salvation of multitudes from among the inhabitants of this pagan land.”
Captain Allan Gardiner
As he neared the end, Gardiner, in spite of his awful predicament, wrote as follows:
“Blessed be my Heavenly Father for the many mercies l enjoy; a comfortable bed, no pain or even cravings of hunger, though excessively weak, scarcely able to turn in my bed, l am, by His abounding grace, kept in perfect peace, refreshed with a sense of my Saviour’s love and an assurance that all is wisely and mercifully appointed.”
“And grant that if l die for Thee,
O Jesus Christ, my Master,
Those who behold, may by my death
Thy Christhood come to know;
O Christ, my Lord! so dwell in me,
That even by my dying
Those watching may be drawn to find
Thy Blood’s redeeming flow.”
Suffering is often inward or outward or inward and outward. Perplexity is inward suffering. Anguish is inward suffering. When a man was punished for his faith by being allowed to see his children buried alive, the suffering was inward but very real. When the Lord Jesus suffered on the cross, the agony of being separated from His Father was certainly more unbearable than the physical pain of being crucified.