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Many brethren have troubles. Many have health problems, some have employment problems, some have family problems, some have economic problems. But it is the pains of living a Christian lifestyle that most bothers many Christians. These pains are described in the Bible as suffering. What is suffering? Why must we suffer? What causes suffering?

Some time ago I talked to you about trials and how to cope with them. Today I want to talk to you about what sounds like a related subject, suffering, by taking you through many scriptures which describe suffering. What is the difference between trials and sufferings? According to Strong's Concordance, "trial" means "tried and approved"; "suffering" means to experience a painful sensation or impression.

There are many kinds of suffering. One is God-induced suffering. We all know that a loving Father punishes and tests a child He cares about. That is a trial (tried and approved). But today, I want to talk about man-induced suffering.

One kind of man-induced suffering is obviously persecution. Every good Bible personage from Abel to the congregation at Smyrna suffered from persecution. And so do many Christians today. One has only to look at the country of Sudan, where Christians are killed and enslaved today, and where little children are taken from their parents and forced to become Moslem, to see that persecution exists today. And, as we will see, persecution will increase as time grows short. And as we will see, suffering is almost a daily experience.

(Mat 24:9 NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation [man-created tribulation] and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.

Doesn't sound like a fun time.

1. But, God has called those He has chosen to suffer like Christ.

(1 Pet 1:1-11) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, {2} who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. {3} Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, {4} and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, {5} who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. {6} In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. [The words "of trials" are not in the original text.] {7} These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. {8} Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, {9} for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. {10} Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, {11} trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

So Peter shows us that we will suffer, but also shows us our potential inheritance.

In Hebrews 2 we see that Christ himself was made perfect through suffering:

(Heb 2:1) We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
(verses 9-18) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. {10} In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. {11} Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. [We are His siblings.] So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. {12} He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." {13} And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." {14} Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- {15} and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. [Again, we see why God's people do not wail or become hysterical over death as most unbelieving people do.] {16} For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. {17} For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. {18} Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Luke 18:31-33) Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. {32} He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. {33} On the third day he will rise again."

Let's go back to 1 Peter.

(1 Pet 2:21-24) To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. {22} "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. {24} He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

In Phil 1:29 we find that we are to suffer for Christ as well as believing in him:

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,

We must not feel sorry for ourselves because we have to suffer for Christ.

(1 Pet 4:13 NIV) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Notice how Paul feels about sharing Christ's suffering:

(Phil 3:10-11) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, {11} and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Notice that Christ's suffering was predicted centuries before by Isaiah:

(Isa 53:3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Today fundamental Christianity is under attack. We are increasingly hated by liberals who have no place for God in their lives; lives which are dedicated to pleasures and selfishness and falsehoods and intolerance and hatred of those who are good. We can read of this in 2 Tim 3.

(2 Tim 3:1-7 NKJV) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: {2} For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, {3} unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, {4} traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! {6} For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, {7} always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Sound like anyone you know? Have you been reading or watching the news lately?

2. What are some of the causes of our sufferings for Christ? Let's look at three:

A. As we just read in 2 Timothy, many evil people hate good people.

(1 John 3:11-13 NKJV) For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, {12} not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. {13} Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
(Mark 3:2) Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.

Now let's read of the great cover-up of the chief priest's crime.

(Mat 28:11-15 NKJV) Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. {12} When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, {13} saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.' {14} "And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure." {15} So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Sort of like the cover-ups we have seen in Washington DC, isn't it?

B. Another form of persecution is the rumor mill - loose and accusing talk. The media is a good example but how many times have people waited and watched you so they could say "that person claims to be a Christian but look what they do."

We can only be heirs of God if we share Christ's sufferings:

(Rom 8:17) Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Everyone must suffer persecution:

(2 Tim 3:10-12 NIV) You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. {12} In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...

If we're never persecuted, we may not be living a Godly life in Christ.

Continuing on in Mark 3 we see again that we can suffer because of anger and persecution:

(Mark 3:3-6 NIV) Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." {4} Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. {5} He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. {6} Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Our suffering can come from government, so-called "religious" people, even our friends.

C. Suffering can come from family too.

(Mark 3:20-22 NIV) Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. {21} When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." {22} And the teachers of the law (lawyers, teachers, religious leaders) who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub ! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."

Ever been laughed at either behind your back or to your face by your relatives for your religious beliefs?

(Mat 9:23-24) When Jesus entered the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, {24} he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.

But those who expected the Messiah in their day were watching him in a positive sense.

(Mat 11:1-19 NIV) After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. {2} When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples {3} to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" {4} Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: {5} The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. {6} Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

Is Christ too much for us to handle? Are we going to fall away because we are not able to do what Christ requires or stand up for Christ's way of life?

Continuing in verse 7:

{7} As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (A side show) {8} If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. {9} Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. {10} This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' {11} I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. {12} From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. {13} For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. {14} And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. [Because he spoke of the Kingdom of God] {15} He who has ears, let him hear. {16} "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: {17} "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' {18} For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' {19} The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions."

It doesn't matter what you do, others will criticize you, especially if you don't live a worldly life. We see this attitude increasing today as time grows short. The press loves to make snide remarks and innuendos about those they perceive to be dedicated religious people. President Bush with his corporate church beliefs and President Obama seem to escape some of this criticism.

There has got to be severe disappointment when your hometown friends and relatives won't listen to you. Christ undoubtedly suffered disappointment here.

(Mark 6:1-6) Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. {2} When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! {3} Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? [The Hebrew names of His brothers are Ya'akov, Yosi, Y'hudah, and Shim'on.] Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. {4} Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." {5} He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. {6} And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. [Notice that Christ's ability to perform miracles hinged upon their faith and so it is today when the sick are anointed].

Luke goes into a little more detail of this account:

(Luke 4:16-30) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. {17} The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: {18} "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, {19} to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." {20} Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, {21} and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." {22} All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. {23} Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'" {24} "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. {25} I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. {26} Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. {27} And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian." {28} All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. {29} They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. {30} But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

These were people from his hometown. They could not stand his truth. This had to hurt him.

(1 Pet 4:1) Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

Suffering from the aftermath of sin teaches us to avoid that sin. Suffering is inevitable, but we can get through it because we're called to do it. With enough confidence and perseverance, trials become surmountable. Christ suffered because of our sins, not His.

(Mark 8:31-38) He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. {32} He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. {33} But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." {34} Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {35} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. {36} What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? {37} Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

The adulterous and sinful generation of his time is even worse today, as prophesy predicted it would be. And many keep their religious beliefs secret because they are fearful or ashamed to admit them to our secular generation.

Do we have the patience to wait out the suffering we should be experiencing? We should look to the prophets for our examples.

(James 5:10) Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
(1 Pet 4:12-16 NIV) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. {14} If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. {15} If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. {16} However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

3. We are certainly in the end times, seemingly just at the start of the tribulation with its false religions and war. Let's look at some prophesied examples of suffering in the end times:

(Rev 13:15 NKJV) He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
(Mat 24:9-10 NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. {10} "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
(Mat 10:21-23 NKJV) "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. {22} "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. {23} "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Umm, then why do some say you only have to "give your heart to the Lord" to be saved. There's more to it than that. We also have to be obedient and faithful and endure to the end. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in our Savior's sacrifice for payment of our sins.

(Luke 21:7-36 NKJV) So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?" {8} And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them. {9} "But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately." {10} Then He said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. {11} "And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. {12} "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. {13} "But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. {14} "Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; {15} "for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. {16} "You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. {17} "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. {18} "But not a hair of your head shall be lost. {19} "By your patience possess your souls. {20} "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. {21} "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. {22} "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. {23} "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. {24} "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. {25} "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; {26} "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. {27} "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. {28} "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." {29} Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. {30} "When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. {31} "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. {32} "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. {33} "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. {34} "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. {35} "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. {36} "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Some of this prophesy was partially fulfilled in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple but, as you can see, much of this prophesy can apply only to the end times.

4. Here's some more Biblical examples of suffering:

(Heb 11:24-26) By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. {25} He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. {26} He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

In verses 35-40, Paul refers to Old Testament sufferings of converted people of his day:

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. {36} Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. {37} 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-- {38} the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. {39} These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. {40} God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
(Heb 12:3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Mat 26:1-5) When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, {2} "As you know, the Passover is two days away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." {3} Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, {4} and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. {5} "But not during the Feast,"[of unlevened bread] they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

Notice that they knew the difference between the Feast and Passover: It was OK to kill Him on Passover but not on the High Day of the Feast. How appropriate is Passover! Could the similarity of the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Passover lamb partly account for Judaism calling the Feast of Unleavened Bread Passover?

Skipping to verse 14:

{14} Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--went to the chief priests {15} and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. {16} From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

David seemed to be close to God and be above any who might disagree with him. But he suffered too. Psalm 55 gives us another view of David's life and, for many of us, our life today:

(Psa 55:1) Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; {2} hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught {3} at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. {4} My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. {5} Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. {6} I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest-- {7} I would flee far away and stay in the desert; <Selah> {8} I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm." {9} Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. {10} Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. {11} Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. {12} If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. {13} But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, {14} with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. [David's close friend caused him to suffer too.] {15} Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them. {16} But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. {17} Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. [Notice that he prayed three times a day.] {18} He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. {19} God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them-- <Selah> men who never change their ways and have no fear of God. {20} My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. {21} His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. {22} Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. {23} But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.

Does this apply to the violence in our cities, the betrayal by friends, the deceitful and adulterous government leaders we have experienced?

Christ had similar feelings about His sufferings during His trial and crucifixion.

(Luke 22:42) "Father , if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Christ knew we would suffer persecution too.

We've read Mat 24:9 before but it needs emphases, so let's read it again.

(Mat24:9) "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. [Not ourselves]

We can see this today by the way people are increasingly anti-Christian toward fundamentalists, but not so much toward main-stream so-called "Christian" churches, what I call corporate churches.

What can we do to lessen the affects of persecution and suffering for Christ's sake?

(Heb 12:2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We must keep our eyes on our goal.

Is all suffering, suffering for Christ's sake?

(1 Pet 2:20-24) But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. {21} To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. {22} "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. {24} He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Many, referring to the sins of a previous President, like to say, "but we are told to forgive others, especially if they express regret." This verse makes it clear that criminals can still be punished for their crime. Nearly all criminals and even some sinners regret what they've done after they're caught. Even King David was proof of this.

The life of some married couples can only be described as pure suffering. What can we do to reduce persecution from our spouses? Wives are told to have a gentle and meek manner. Husbands are told to be considerate. Both must submit to the other.

(1 Pet 3:1-22) Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, {2} when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. {3} Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. {4} Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. {5} For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, {6} like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. {7} Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. {8} Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. {9} Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. {10} For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. {11} He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. {12} For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." {13} Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? {14} But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened." {15} But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, {16} keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. {17} It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. {18} For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, {19} through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison {20} who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, {21} and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, {22} who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
(Acts 14:22 NKJV) . . . . "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."

We're here now to focus on the next life, not this one.

(1 Pet 4:12-19 NKJV) [We've read part of this before, but let's read it again.] Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; {13} but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. {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. {15} But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. {16} Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. {17} For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? [Gospel being the good news.] {18} Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" {19} Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

The message that we must suffer is clear. What is not clear is whether others know our beliefs so they can persecute us, and whether we are prepared to suffer from their indignation as well as from our sins. Brethren, stand up for Christ and His way of life. Don't be ashamed of Christ or His message or His way of life. But be ready for the persecution and suffering... It will come in one form or another.

Your conduct, your way of life, and your conversation should reflect your Christian belief. In due time it may result in your persecution and suffering but it will also qualify you for Christ's Kingdom by demonstrating that you are willing to suffer for Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:12-13 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
18 February 2012
Copyright 2012, Wayne Bedwell