Persecution & Suffering: 6

Matthew 5:4 tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This is related to the old saying, “God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.” If we want to be on the right side of this equation for all eternity then I would far rather face affliction now and comfort for eternity. You remember in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 6:19-31, in verse 25 it says “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”

In the seemingly upside-down Kingdom of God, delayed gratification is extreme. The discipline and training and testing provided by various afflictions help to prepare us for an eternity of reaping the benefits of character and strength and soundness. This is especially true in the Kingdom of God, but we recognize similar principles even in earthly endeavors. General Norman Schwarzkopf said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” The idea is that thorough and intense training prepares soldiers for greater effectiveness.

One of the personal frustrations in my life is when people misunderstand the place of “good works” in Kingdom living for the Lord. It is a plain and obvious fact that we can do nothing to earn our salvation. It is entirely free and sets us free from sin and shame and death. We can and should rejoice and relax in this wonderful blessing. Some people, however, then have a distorted view of labor for the Kingdom. They misunderstand completely its valuable and prominent role and place in a life lived for the Lord. They immediately object when anyone begins to speak of discipline and sacrifice, claiming that Jesus wants us to dance rather than march.

I propose that Jesus wants us to march with joy and love and gratitude and freedom. Here I am speaking of marching in terms of disciplined obedience to the Lord. The fact that we are free and still choose to submit to whatever He asks, whenever He asks, however He asks, is a demonstration of our great love for Him. Anyone who understands salvation knows that it has nothing to do with seeking to earn salvation. It still has a vital role, however, in living for the Kingdom. It is a demonstration of our love and obedience. It demonstrates our allegiance and devotion. It prepares us for an eternity of serving the Lord and one another.

As Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” Let us then commit ourselves to suffering well for the Lord and His Kingdom. Let us be ready to do His will even when it means sacrifice and suffering. It is precisely our willingness to do so that shows everyone His greatness and goodness and worthiness. He is worth suffering for. We will have an eternity to dance without sacrifice or suffering.

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