THE CONSTANT WARFARE
The antichrist spirit operating in this world in all its varied forms will tirelessly continue to pursue the true church and all those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ, causing them much pain (Revelation 12:17). Jesus said; “The light came in the world, but men loved darkness and hated light because their deeds were evil”(John 3:19). This was so, even from the beginning of time, when Cain, who was of that wicked one, slew his brother because his works were evil and his brother righteous (1John 3:12). The evil one, the “prince of the power of the air” as he is called (Ephesians 2:2), the devil plans and works, invisibly inciting both ungodly individuals and governments of this world to kill and destroy the children of God. “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Stand against him by remaining firm in the faith…” (1Peter 5:8). This is the lot of the righteous and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus bearing their testimony to Him in a world that is governed and deceived by Satan. This war against God and His children shall continue to rage and will finally be concluded at the second coming of the Lord. Until that day the true church shall have her battles to fight and her struggles to overcome, “You are of God little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater that He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). This is the history of God’s people in every age, they are continually at war, fighting against the principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. Spiritual wickedness in high places is present everywhere and to overcome in the fight is the calling and destiny of God’s church. In the powerful vision that illuminates these things the people of God overcame the great dragon who pursued them, “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11). The church must overcome him when, as a serpent, he attempts to deceive and corrupt her mind from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). She must resist him when he brings lying accusations against her and against God her Savior and she must overcome him when he comes as an angel of light to seduce her with his false manifestations and lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). Soon the Lord shall return and shall crush him beneath her feet (Romans 16:20). The Lord warned His disciples concerning the tribulations that awaited them in the world. In His prayer He asked His Father not to take them out of the world but to keep them from evil as they lived in it (John17: 15). He encouraged them also, telling them that He had overcome the world and at that there was no power that could pluck them out of His Father’s hand, for He was greater than all (John 10:29). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? …We are more than conquerors though Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities and powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ (Rom.8: 35-39).
EXPECT TRIALS AND KEEP TRUSTING
Peter writing to the dispersed pilgrims, chosen in the foreknowledge of God says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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”(1 Peter4: 12-13). What the apostle was affirming, both to them and to us, is the fact that trials and sufferings are unavoidable in the Christian life and must not be considered as something unusual, rather, they are to be expected and even welcomed. The church, because it is the body of Christ partakes of His suffering and this is a cause for joy. Joy in the midst of trials, exceeding joy when the glory of the Lord is revealed.
Isaiah the prophet, in his description of the Lord Jesus, says that He Who was to come hundreds of years later would be, “a man of sorrows acquainted with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). As Isaiah continues his prophetic word he shows that the Servant of the Lord (fulfilled in Jesus) would make His way to glory through many sorrows and trials (Isaiah 53:10-11). It was essential that Jesus should thus suffer and so enter His glory and Peter, right through his first letter carries this theme forward and shows how the “fiery trials” have an important role to play in the lives of God’s children, for like the intense (but controlled) fire used to purify metals has its work to do, so they, are allowed by God to test, cleanse, purify and perfect His people for the day of Christ. It is faith in God and His word that sustains and keeps the church and every individual member of it through the fiery trials God sends and the siftings of Satan He employs. Peter knew this to be true from His own personal experience. Satan had sought to sift him as wheat, but Jesus had prayed that his faith would not fail and he was kept by God passing through the dark hour of his trial spiritually shaken and suffering loss it was only of that which needed to be removed, for he was the better for passing through that trial (Luke 22:31-32). Peter knew the truth that; “You are kept by the power of God through faith” (1Peter 1:5). He encourages us to stand against the devil by remaining firm in faith (1 Peter 5:9). As we continue to trust in God and His steadfast love, sovereign power and dominion He will uphold us and keep us through whatever trials we are passing through. Jesus Himself endured forty days in the wilderness during which time He was sorely tried by Satan and we should take note how His faith in the word of God was the ground of his victory. When challenged by the wicked one Jesus stated, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is unchangeably true, for His word will sustain and strengthen us when we are faced with the wrath and subtlety of the enemy and we must let that word abide in us (John 15:7).
Jesus Christ is Lord, far above all principalities and powers and our faith in Him must never waver. We may not always have answers to everything we are allowed to go through, but if we suffer according to the will of God, we do well to commit to Him our souls in well doing, as to a faithful creator (1Peter 4:19). May the Lord grant us faith that is not shaken even in the most adverse situations, and may we be able to say, “I beheld the Lord before me always because He is at my right hand so I will not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).
GIVE THANKS AND ENDURE
Another striking thing we notice in scripture is the admonition by Paul the apostle to give thanks to the Lord in everything (1Thessalonians 5:18). He does not specify what exactly he means by ‘everything’ but we can assume that he means tribulations and sorrows also. He admonishes us therefore to thank God in everything even when we go through rough times, for this is the will of God for us. Should we not seek to live by faith like this, faith that takes all that comes our way as part of His will and receive it as His gift and therefore thank Him for it? What a victorious way to live, though some will doubtless say that it is fatalism, but we reject that notion entirely, instead we affirm that it is trust in God! Fatalism teaches that blind destiny ordains what will be and cannot be changed, whatever will be will be, therefore, no matter what we do or say; we are locked into a dreadful cycle of events that are inevitable. But the word of God does not teach that heresy. Our lives are not controlled by blind destiny, nor are we powerless chess pieces being moved around by a brilliant god on his board. We are living persons in the hand of the living, loving God and our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). The whole storyline of the Bible exhibits the truth that God works all things for His glory and our ultimate good and He is expecting us to trust Him to accomplish His aim.
Paul was suffering many troubles and thought to be an evildoer by many, because of the gospel. In everything he learned to endure for he could see very clearly that without the continuing grace of endurance he could not reign with Christ. Those who reign are the ones who overcome in testing times; they stand when everyone else goes down; they go through. Paul learned to glory in tribulations, for he had come to understand that the character of an overcomer could not be formed without them (Rom.5: 3). Whilst in chains in Rome awaiting his execution, he could write to young Timothy, “For this reason, I suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed…” (1Timothy 1:12). God is faithful and knows our strength, we must remember this as we pass through things that test and try our souls. His promise is sure, He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape, so we can be able to bear it (1Corinthians 10:13). Paul in another place, when referring to the sufferings of the present time triumphantly considers them as not worthy to be compared with the future glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). Crises, temptations, tribulations, sorrows and tears come and go, Christians are not exempted from them, but as we go through them patiently we become better men and women, the likeness of Christ is formed in us and God is glorified thereby. As we walk the walk of faith we must take great care not to allow anything to come between us and our Lord, so that it might be said of us, “that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Of all our treasures as believers the relationship we enjoy with God the Father and His Son Jesus is to be prized above all. It is God Who is our strength and our song and the grace to live through whatever comes our way is from Him. There are occasions when we pass through some strange and perplexing circumstances and we suffer in a variety or ways but even then we must maintain our hearts open, sensitive and submissive to Him, adoring and loving Him in all and above all.
THE GROAN, THE WAIT AND THE REDEMPTION
We mentioned above that trials are directly connected with the devil’s rage against the church and her harassment through apostate man. We realise though, that there are trials of many kinds, (1Peter 1:6) all of which cause much grief, distress, discomfort and sorrow to the children of God. All of these are rooted in the fact that mankind fell into a life of sin and this tragedy eventuated in a world where nothing is as it was originally created to be. The whole creation still lies under a powerful bondage, we could say that everything in it, in a very real way is simply ‘wrong’ and dislocated. The bondage of corruption is a dreadful reality, and death and sin the normal state to be found in the earth. All Creation has suffered and continues to suffer much because of the folly of the first man, though we must not blame that man for we (when in our unregenerate state) perpetuated his sin even while trying to improve the world in which we lived! Paul tells us, that creation groans and labours with birth pangs, earnestly waiting for deliverance. But not only is this true of the creature but we who have been redeemed also groan as we wait for the adoption, the redemption of our body from the last enemy which is death (Romans 8:19-23). These earthen bodies of ours, in spite of the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, have not been renewed yet. Mortality is our experience, our bodies weaken and age, our strength deteriorates and weariness increases until eventually we shrivel up and die. Even in our younger years we are reminded of our temporariness by the fact that we hunger and thirst and need sleep and do not always remain healthy. All of these things should stir in us the desire to be clothed with our new immortal body, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). The truth is that the time of deliverance which is in God’s diary has not yet come, so there is still much anguish to be seen everywhere, not only amongst the unredeemed, but the redeemed are not excluded, for the resurrection of the body has not yet come and the unredeemed creation has not yet been made new. Again, the admonition to be patient, waiting and trusting the Lord with thankful, rejoicing hearts comes to all God’s people no matter what might, on the surface seem to be going out of control. He reigns and is working His purposes through. He Who has begun a good work will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
THE DECAY AND THE DARK
In the beginning, when God made man, His plan and provision enabled him to live in paradise without worry and fear and pain. He was God’s beloved creature and God cared for him in every way. He lacked nothing, food, drink and company were all his with much more beside. This man and his wife had bodies that were strong and healthy and they possessed abilities that were not impaired because sin had not entered in. Nevertheless these states did not last, for after the fall they were driven out from the garden paradise and the presence of the Lord was denied them in the way they had previously known it. They were guilty in heart before God and everything then started turning upside down, both in their hearts and in their relationships with each other and with all around about them. Being separated from God, Adam and his wife experienced the dreadful inward power of what was later called “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Nothing was the same from that moment, for the seed of corruption and decay had been sown in them and as a result their bodies began to die slowly and their days away from the bliss of a right relationship with God became days of darkness and pain, hardship, tears and loneliness. Job captures something of this in the words, “man who is born of a woman is of short life, full with hardship, and he springs like a flower and vanishes like a shadow that remains not” (Job 14:1-2). Generation after generation reaped what Adam sowed. As time passed man became more and more alienated from God, without hope, striving alone to survive in an alienated unstable earth, which had been delivered into the control and the government of the devil. Patterns changed and as the hearts of men became alienated from God they became selfish in their desires, in their nature they became vicious, bloodthirsty, hateful and full of warlike tendencies. Even animal life was impacted; nothing in the creation remained unaffected by the fallen state of man. There was no remedy, no hope of restoration, order collapsed to a great extent, hunger, illness, wars, natural disasters and wild beasts, were the outcome. Now all man’s efforts were poured into his drive for self-survival and that apart from any consideration of God (Romans 1:28).
REDEMPTION, RESTORATION AND RESTITUTION
The things described in the previous paragraph paint a bleak picture indeed but God did not forsake His creation for one millisecond! In due course, in the fullness of time restoration came through the redemptive work of Christ. What we must grasp at this point is that although is that the sacrifice of Christ was complete and sufficient from every aspect in order to accomplish the redemption of man and all creation, the time of the restitution of all things has not yet come, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things…”(Acts 3:21). The work is done and finished yet all does not yet appear as one day it shall because God had ordained a period during which His church would be come into being and be built. Everything the Lord Jesus suffered was for her sake so that eventually she would be His bride, of His flesh and of His bone, a wife who would share His glory and His eternal kingdom with Him. He knew though that this could not be achieved without her having to face something of what He faced and pass through manifold temptations and necessary testing along with those fires of tribulation that would help fit her for her task of ruling with Him forever. She had to learn to overcome in the midst of the rigors of life in this world so contrary as it is to Him and His church. The times we live here on earth, after we first believe upon Him, are vital for His purpose of fashioning his church into a bride ready to reign with Him. He knows that this can only be achieved as she is brought through much suffering and testing. This is one of the reasons that full restoration was delayed and not implemented immediately after the ascension of Christ, for there are other reasons also, “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand side of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13).
THE COMING (S) OF THE KINGDOM
When Jesus came the kingdom of God came. The coming of the kingdom is linked always with the coming(s) of the King! He said, “but if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come unto you”(Matthew 12:28). Of course, that was in a limited way, because it was manifested only through His person and His presence. Where ever the Lord went in Israel when He was on earth, so the kingdom came, the demon possessed were set free, the sick were healed, the dead rose, on occasions Jesus ordered the storm and raging sea to be still and they obeyed Him. Peter the apostle later described the earthly ministry of Jesus in these words, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Ghost and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed from the devil for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). But though He was victorious in every battle against the devil and his works for those three years still the decisive struggle on the cross, the great victory, the climactic battle lay ahead. Jesus, on one occasion prophesied, saying to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you that there be some that stand here, which shall not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). Their first glimpse of the kingdom took place on the mount of Transfiguration but this was simply a foretaste of what was to come. When Jesus had ascended on high after His death and resurrection the day of Pentecost occurred. From heaven the Holy Spirit was poured out and ever since the Kingdom of God comes wherever the gospel is preached in His power. The Father’s showed His might when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head of His church” (Ephesians 1:19-22).
Yet, although the kingdom is here, wherever Christ is preached and known in the power of the Spirit still the fullness has not yet come. When the King comes in His great glory then shall His kingdom come in its completeness but until that time He is “waiting till His enemies shall be put under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). This does not mean that there are some enemies that have not been defeated by the Lord for His triumph on the cross was complete; nothing remains unconquered from His point of view. So what does the fact that He is waiting imply? Without doubt it is connected with the fact that the church through the centuries is learning to defeat the enemies that have been already defeated by Him who is the Head. The body of Christ, the church is yet upon earth and confirming in its life and experience in each generation the victory of its Head. The body faces the same trials and tests that its Head triumphed over and these enemies are left for the sake of the perfecting of the testimony of Jesus Christ in every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Enemies are still allowed by God to challenge His people through these days and the victory of Christ is established among the nations as the church lives in triumph over the tempter and his ways. Not a single enemy shall be left that the Lord will not subdue under His feet; that is His church! For every member of His body it begins with the coming of the Spirit of God into the heart. When He comes, the victory of Christ on the cross begins to be experienced and His kingdom is being established in reality in the very presence of the enemies.
LIKE A ROYAL PRINCESS
We must understand and believe that the redemptive work of Christ is complete; it is finished and cannot be undone. Because of His victory the Lord could have removed all His enemies and put an end to their activities there and then. He could have also put an end to all the abnormalities, sickness and disorder that had entered and upset His creation. He did not do so though for the sake of His church. She had to learn to endure and overcome and through many trials to become the royal princess she was called to be. The Lord allowed this limited period of time before the final removal of these enemies, for her sake. He left them to challenge His own, to tempt them, to harass them, until they learn to overcome and triumph in the life of faith, hope and love. Their destiny involves a place in the coming kingdom beside Him enthroned and glorified and unless the temporal suffering that results from the conflict with these enemies takes place this is not possible, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12). Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints is vital if we to overcome in this fight and keep the enemies under our feet (Ephesians 6:18).
Under His surveillance and pastoral care the Lord Jesus allows these enemies to interfere for the training and the discipline of His own. This will cease when He returns to the earth to rule over the nations with a rod of iron “For He must reign till he hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25). The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death who continues to have power over our mortal bodies. Our confidence is in God who raises the dead. He Who delivered us from such a great death, and continues to deliver us is He Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:10). The antidote of this great death is the life of Christ in us. Through faith in Him that Life will destroy and eliminate every foe in us, subdue every invader and correct every abnormality that ever touched us.
God uses these enemies who seem untamed and non-submissive, until His return, He will then abolish them. They are not ‘on the loose,’ rather, they are chained and can only do what He permits. It is a source of great relief as well as release when we enter by faith in the finished work of Christ. For though we are confronted by things that are powerful and formidable; at the same time we know that we are under the constant protection, watch and care of the Lord. Like sheep at pasture among innumerable dangers, we are under the pastoral care of the Great Shepherd and like children we are in the bosoms of our Father. Let nothing quench the joy or disrupt the peace, He keeps His own in safety. Through the years that pass our experience of His faithfulness increases and His love proves constant and so drives away our fears. We learn gradually to count it all joy, as James advises us, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James1: 2-4). Peter writes something similar at the end of his first letter, “But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen us, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Peter 5:10-11). With the dawn of the new day our Lord Jesus will bring the end of our trials and sorrows. Death will no longer be, neither pain, nor sorrow, nor tears, for the Sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.
GOD DEALS WITH US AS WITH SONS
Suffering is allowed by God to touch His children for their chastisement. In some earthly families where some wisdom is to be found, discipline is administered with the rod. Disobedience and persistent naughtiness is corrected in this way, and it is the same in the family of God. Many of God’s children are not always ready to listen to fatherly admonition; they become dull and like some sheep, can be slow to hear and then follow the voice of the shepherd. They need the correction that comes in the form of discipline. This would have been unnecessary should they have chosen to walk circumspectly. It is quite possible, that on occasions we each have become careless of our Shepherds’ leading and might even be stubborn, insisting on our own path instead of walking in ways that do not please the Father. Such carnality, old characteristics and habits, wrong attitudes and distortions that our longsuffering Father puts up with for a while. He then admonishes us through the word and brings correction and put things right and all the while His purpose is to build us into a new man in Christ. There are times when His goodness is enough to lead us to repentance, but not always for if we refuse to embrace and rejoice in His kindnesses to us then discipline is the only way that He can deal with us. God will not hesitate to use the rod of chastisement if such is needful for our good. We are living in a hostile environment and the devil still retains the authority given to him upon this earth. Even though he is defeated, as yet he is not eliminated and maintains his constant threatening behaviour as a roaring lion seeking whom to devour. He schemes and plans, setting snares by which he attempts to trap the sheep, especially those who are disorientated and go astray exposing themselves to him. Left without the Heavenly Fathers chastisement, these would easily fall into the enemy’s hands and be devoured. It is for this reason that we are warned to walk, “not as unwise but being wise, making best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). The attractions of this world, the desires of the flesh, the tempting voices, antichrist spirits, cunning people, false prophets, can distract us and trap our soul and turn us away from the paths of righteousness. They can quench our love to Him and one to another, make us lukewarm and formal, draw us into hypocrisy and eventually bring us under condemnation and guilt and of course into that awful place where we lose our consciousness of His presence. The snares are many in Christian life but our Shepherd watches over our souls and in order to draw our attention does not hesitate to rebuke us soundly and bring us to the humility of a more perfect obedience. He used the same method with His people Israel, when He made their enemies His rod to chastise them and when His people cried out to Him He delivered them from all their distress (Psalm 107:4-90.
Wisdom and understanding are rare virtues and not easily learned without chastisement and the rod. The Father of our spirits must use it at times to teach us things that we will not learn otherwise. So many times a difficulty, an obstacle, a sorrow, a crisis or a sickness are the means God uses to make His children think, humble themselves, revise their ways so that their attitudes, thinking and behaviour becomes submissive to the will of God and live (Hebrews 12:9). Without these chastisements they would continue in their folly and so find the road they travelled to be dead end and a deadly trap. There have been many, who, through God’s chastening found their way back again and were saved from destruction and shipwreck. Whatsoever God allows in His infinite mercy, grace and wisdom is for His children’s benefit and never for revenge. Because of this, His chastening and rebuke must never be despised but be regarded as tokens of His great love; “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him” (Hebrews.12: 5-7)
FOR THE PERFECTING OF OBEDIENCE
The duration of God’s chastening in each person’s life is according to the readiness to learn and be corrected. The wise swiftly respond to Him and conform to His will in humility, repentance, brokenness and confession of one’s faults. Hardness of heart is abhorrent to God and He cannot fellowship with such a spirit so those who resist His loving correction will go into a wilderness of dry places in their souls. There are great perils in such desert places; they are the lairs of enemies. Our Heavenly Father, the Father of our spirits, though He is longsuffering, He is neither tolerant nor indifferent to our faults or disobediences, but those He loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives so that none should remain in those desert places at the mercy of wild beasts. This must not seem strange to us, because chastening is always the demonstration of love and show of interest even from the part of our earthly fathers who at times with encouragement, at times with punishment seek to incite and admonish their children so they can grow and become upright men and women, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?” (Hebrews12: 6-7). Our walk and behaviour are under His tireless watch and there are occasions (may they be rare!) when He comes with great firmness. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom. But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:15&17). We must joyfully recognise and accept that without painful pruning the heart will follow its natural and carnal tendencies and so we would miss the mark that God has ordained for our life.
God calls us to the obedience of faith. Though we do not realise at first all that this means it is the willingness of a heart to obey and submit to Him that causes us to experience the powerful realities of salvation. Obedience and faith go together, hand to hand; faith without obedience is an invention of unregenerate man attempting to manipulate God. Those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ shall perish (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Obedience to God is absolutely essential throughout our Christian life, for without it, we cannot reach our ultimate destiny and maximum stature in Him. Jesus attained to the high position of Priesthood, able to save, because as we read He learnt obedience and was perfected through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9). This does not imply that Jesus was disobedient for He never once disobeyed His Father. What it does mean is that His obedience was proved and was tested and was perfected under the extremities of suffering. In a similar way this applies to all the sons God adds to His family, for their obedience must be forged, and their manhood perfected, through various trials and tribulations. The condition of a heart can never be tested properly without fiery trials.
At Calvary Jesus became obedient unto death, indisputably proving in the highest degree His submissiveness to His Father. It was at Gethsemane, when facing His agony, that the fire burned most intensely, proving Him to be all pure gold, there was no impurity of resistance or disobedience in Him at all. His humanity reached perfection enabling Him to come to that for which He was appointed, for He became not only the sacrifice of atonement itself but also the compassionate Great High Priest able offer for and save completely those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 5:7-10). The pains of the cross were immense and beyond human understanding, for God’s righteous judgment on sin were executed on Him. He embodied sin in that way we cannot understand and God poured His wrath on Him without mercy, bruising Him on every side. Jesus bore it all, the betrayal, the denial, the stripes, the mocking, the nails and the thorny crown. In the face of all the unjust accusations, He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth. He did not defend Himself and being reviled, He reviled not. Whilst suffering beyond all powers of our describing He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). Here is the mystery, for though the devil was the main instigator of His suffering; it was God Who was behind it all, “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10). All Jesus could see, was that His cross was the will of His Father. Though the antichrist heart of man was expressed in all its cruelty and viciousness against Him, He received it all as from the hand of God, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me? (John 18:11) He asked Peter. He drank the cup to the full without complaint.
It is different with us, for though we too are gold, (His nature in us) we are not all gold. There are still so many impurities, so much of the old ways that need to be dealt with. The Lord allows the light afflictions (they are light in comparison with the Lord’s suffering) to cleanse and purify us. The devil, men and various circumstances might occur and seem to be the cause, but God will use everything for His purpose and for our good, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish strengthen and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1Peter 5:10).
THE SEED MUST DIE
The message of the Lord to the angel of the church in Smyrna was that the devil would put some of them in jail to be tested and that he would cause them sorrow for a given period of time but it would be limited (Revelation 2:10). He urged them to remain faithful unto death and to receive from the Lord the crown of life. Death and life are inseparable. Resurrection life can only emerge where they has been death. Paul the apostle experienced that continually and described it in these words, “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). The potential of a seed of grain lies within it, but this cannot be released unless the seed dies first. The fruit acceptable to God is not the outcome of natural strength or an outward accomplishment of the flesh, neither is it brought forth through a dynamic ministry or some other method normally accepted and praised by the world. The fruit we bring which is the life of Christ, can only be manifested through suffering and the life of the cross being worked into our lives, “so then death works in us, but life works in you”, (2 Corinthians 4:12). Had Jesus not gone to the cross there would have been no freedom from guilt for mankind or victory over sin; newness of life could only come through the Lord’s suffering and death. It is a principle in God, one of the many mysteries in Him, we live and others live, but only as we live crucified. Τhe ointment that is a sweet savour of Christ unto God and unto man is the result of the crushing and the beating of various trials that we experience as we live for His glory (2 Corinthians 2:15).
All that we pass through during our short life on earth is working for the glory of God and our own good and the good of others and is connected with our eternal destination and our glorious salvation. No one is more wise or more worthy to accomplish this work in us than our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. “We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3). We know that not one of us is made of steel, we are human beings with flesh and blood, “frail children of dust,” and we feel the pain and the sorrow just as our Lord did, “Who while in the flesh He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared” (Hebrews 5:7), but we are comforted greatly with the prospect of being found in Him in that day without fault, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
When we read the book of Job we would be in the realm of guesswork if it were not for what is contained in the first two chapters. We would have had little comprehension of any reason as to why Job, that righteous man was suffering as he did. The foolish friends, the three who tried to comfort him in his grief and confusion were ignorant and in-advertently became co-workers with Satan, adding more burdens to those Job was already bearing. They were so quick to condemn him by their various attempts to explain what had taken place. Job on the other hand, in despair and pain at times perilously ran close to accusing God and attempted to justify himself. We know that they were all wrong because of the door open into the unseen in those two first chapters but they were unaware of the events that had taken place in heaven between God and Satan. They were the unknown factors involved, which put at stake the integrity of the Name of God and His righteousness. God on His part, had confidence in Job that he would not fail Him. The cause of the suffering of the righteous may not be clear and understood at first glance and sometimes we shall never understand until the Lord comes. We must not attempt to explain and if called to help and counsel we must be wise and slow to arrive at conclusions. It may well be the case that the story of Job was included in the Holy Scriptures by God because in it the overall thought of the suffering of the church throughout the ages vindicates Him and glorifies Him. His beloved church suffers not because of unrighteousness on her part but even as she continues to serve Him in love and trust Him both in good and bad times she adds her testimony to the fact that He is God, He is love and He is faithful. Through her patience and perseverance, Satan is silenced and he is defeated under her feet. Having pondered these things we must yet humbly conclude all with the thought that though God gives us some understanding, not everything yet is known. We only see in part and know in part and therefore we ought not be quick to judge and give opinion lest our wrong judgement be considered before God as unrighteousness.