This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Pastor Samuel Lamb (imprisoned for over 20 years, and persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ, by Chinese Communist Authorities), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)
In the Old Testament, people received joy after they suffered. But in the New Testament the disciples rejoiced while they suffered (1 Peter 4:14; Matthew 5:11-12).
When we suffer for Christ, not only do we have to rejoice, but we have to rejoice greatly. 'In this you greatly rejoice...' (1 Peter 1:6).
'Blessed are you when men hate you...because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy' (Luke 6:22,23).
'The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name' (Acts 5:41).
In Luke 6 the disciples are told to leap for joy because they will receive a great reward in heaven. In Acts 5:41 the apostles rejoiced because of their unity with Jesus. Because we love Him, the world will hate us.
We should not look at the hatred, the insults, the persecutions or hardships but at Jesus. He suffered--so will we. He was glorified--so shall we be. He lives forever--so will we.
'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.' (Romans 8:18)
Twenty years in prison is long. Very long. But not worth comparing with the eternity which awaits us. What a future--what a joy!
A moment of introspection: Pastor Lamb provides a brief glimpse into a life that had shared Christ's reproach for 20 long years. Yet the tenor of his comments is not that of brokenness and fatalism. No, he sees victory in persevering despite the trials or setbacks or sufferings we may experience in living as Christians. Increasingly we see "living as Christians" as being in sharp contrast to living as pagans or "fake Christians" who believe that there are many ways to heaven and to God. Or do we truly perceive our lives as being different than those of non-believers around us? Let's compare our faith to that described in our manual for living, the Holy Bible.
Pastor Lamb quoted from the New Testament book of James, and described "pure joy" as our response to encountering trials of many kinds. Why do both Pastor Lamb and the author of the book of James concur on this? Let's see:
James 1:2-4 - Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
So we count the experiencing of trials/exasperations to be pure joy--because we desire to be "complete" or "mature" as believers in Christ. In Paul's letter to the church at Rome, the apostle concurred (Romans 5:3-5) in averring the following:
Romans 5:3-5 - Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Now three sources aver that we as Christians rejoice amid suffering; the apostle Paul adds the following sequence in agreeing with Pastor Lamb:
Suffering --> Perseverance --> Character --> Hope.
Paul goes on to say that hope does not put us to shame--because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Paul had earlier rationalized this reason before the Roman church members:
Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Hope does not put us to shame, for the Gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, do count it pure joy when we meet trials of various kinds, and we rejoice in our sufferings for the hope that the Gospel brings.
But God's Word goes on, in saying why it is that suffering and trials elicit joy within us:
Luke 6:22-23 - “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Acts 5:41 - 'The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.' As Pastor Lamb summarizes these two references, he observes, "In Luke 6 the disciples are told to leap for joy because they will receive a great reward in heaven. In Acts 5:41 the apostles rejoiced because of their unity with Jesus.
1 Peter 1:6-7 - In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Many encouragements and words of wisdom come from within Scripture, to grab our attention and perhaps to tweak our conscience and soul to more absolute surrender. Read, for instance, 1 Peter 4:14-19, or Matthew 5:11-12. The spread of radical Islam around the globe, the militancy of "gay" activists, the corruption of the Gospel via "new age" paganism--all of these and more pressures are exerting greater intensity of attacks on Christ's church on earth today. As Pastor Lamb wrote, "Because we love Him, the world will hate us."
But, he corrects us... "We should not look at the hatred, the insults, the persecutions or hardships but at Jesus. He suffered--so will we. He was glorified--so shall we be. He lives forever--so will we." Our attentions are ill-focused, when focused on the hurt, the suffering, the trial--and not on Jesus. Focusing on Christ enlivens us. Focusing on the Risen One gives victory amid travail, and triumph that strengthens us and bring us closer to God. With God's strength, we live to serve afresh. Let us rejoice and be glad! Romans 8:18 promises that we haven't seen anything yet; our present or coming sufferings cannot compare with the glory that will be revealed in us. Persevere, dear ones--and be glad!