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:
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. (1 Peter 4:1)
Different people may have different reasons for suffering. Needless to say that there is no gain in suffering that is caused by sin.
As Christians we all experience different degrees of suffering. Therefore, we should arm ourselves with a right attitude--the attitude of accepting spiritual suffering as a mark of true discipleship.
Jesus said: 'You will indeed drink from my cup' (Matthew 20:23). We need to be willing to suffer daily, even though God did not call us to suffer daily.
If we fall through the trials that come our way, then we do not have the right attitude towards suffering.
Suffering is limited--but the attitudes of accepting suffering should be limitless...even unto death. Do we have the right attitude? When you grumble you lose your peace, when you curse suffering you have no victory.
We must make up our minds daily to be willing to suffer for Christ. Then, and only then, will we experience blessing, peace and victory.
A moment of introspection: "He [or she] has a poor attitude!" This might be heard in school rooms, workplaces and other locales. It normally connotes a negative, mildly anti-social display of behavior or speech. But I would like to rescue that attitude and assert that, as Christians, we might aspire to have a "poor" attitude. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the "poor" in spirit are blessed. John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, explained "poor in spirit" as "they who are unfeignedly penitent, they who are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness, guiltiness, and helplessness." Dictionary.reference.com says that an "attitude" is a manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing." So having a "poor [in spirit] attitude" would mean that we as Christians espouse true penitence, conviction of sin, sensibility of our sinfulness, guiltiness, and helplessness before God. Pastor Lamb reads in God's Word that, "since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." Having a "poor [in spirit] attitude" might well mean having "an attitude of accepting spiritual suffering as a mark of true discipleship." Should we not spiritually rue our sins while trusting God to cleanse us of sin through Christ? (1 John 1:9)
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke with the mother of James and John, two disciples of Jesus Christ. In the verbal exchange with the woman, Christ replied to her asking for a favored status, in heaven, for her sons; He "answered, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink? '" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will drink my cup..." (Matthew 20:22-23a) Pastor Lamb extrapolates this story into our minds and hearts. He says, "we need to be willing to suffer daily, even though God did not call us to suffer daily. If we fall through the trials that come our way, then we do not have the right attitude towards suffering." Again, he emphasizes our attitude of accepting spiritual, emotional or physical suffering, as a mark of discipleship. Will we drink Christ's cup? We accept it from Jesus' hands if offered.
Samuel Lamb asks, "Do we have the right attitude?" He then talks about the effects of grumbling. The apostle Paul wrote about the same subject to the church in Philippi. He left instructions, saying "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life..." (Philippians 2:14-16a) Pastor Lamb adds to Paul's words, "When you grumble you lose your peace". When we grumble, we tend to forget that we are "poor in spirit." We would do better, if we demonstrated an acceptance of suffering--not grumbling that we in some way deserve better. The Handbook for Bible Application adds:
"What is true will remain true, even in suffering. We can't really know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure. It is easy to be kind to others when everything is going well, but can we still be kind when others are treating us unfairly? God wants to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain. Instead of complaining [or grumbling] about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times. Ask him to help you solve your problems or to give you the strength to endure them. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; he will stay close and help you grow."
Pastor Lamb finished, saying "when you curse suffering you have no victory." The story of Job lends credence to such an assertion. Consider that Job, because of his suffering, cursed the day on which he was born. He was cursing his suffering. While he continued to rail against the suffering he experienced, Job was without victory in his life. Later, Job came to an acceptance of his suffering--came to accept God's sovereign will. God may not call us to suffer daily; yet we must be willing, daily, to suffer for Christ. That is a mark of a poor attitude--poor in spirit, yet experiencing blessing, peace and victory.