Monday, January 27, 2014

Rejoice in Suffering

I'll admit, I don't get it. It's counterintuitive. This whole idea of rejoicing in times of suffering is difficult to grasp. I read the account of the apostles preaching in Jerusalem as "more than ever believers were being added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women." This turn of events and the attention being given to the saving message of the gospel was unacceptable to the religious leaders. So they took the apostles and threw them in jail. Only for them to be miraculously released to go right back to the temple in order to pick up where they left off last. Once again they were captured and brought before the religious council who forbid them to continue any more teaching in Jesus name. Peter, speaking on behalf of the others said, "We must obey God rather than men." In other words, you can forbid us if you want to but we will only do what the Lord has called us to do. In order for the religious leaders to put some teeth into their demands, they punished the apostles with a beating before sending them out. And the amazing thing is, as they walk away, skin bleeding and body bruised, the scripture says,
"Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." (Acts 5:41)
As you read closely, you'll find that the apostles didn't rejoice in their beating. They didn't enjoy their physical suffering in a kind of sadistic euphoria. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ. They realized that the lashing they received was they same that was given to their Savior. After all, they (like Jesus) were not being punished for a crime. These religious leaders didn't have a problem with the apostles per se. They had a problem with their message. And so, in the end, they rejoiced because they knew that the message they were preaching was being heard. For many who were seeking a Savior, it was the good news of salvation. But for those who were doing just fine on their own, it was an irritable inconvenience to their preferred way of life. But in either case, it was confirmation for the apostles that the good news of salvation in Christ was heard and understood by all. Lord, I too desire to be in a place where I might rejoice when suffering dishonor for Your name. Where my life is so centered around your gospel that my reaction to circumstances is not judged by the presence or absence of pain, but instead, on the understanding of the message I am called to proclaim. I realize that some with respond with great joy, while others will lash out with hatred. But may I realize that the reaction, in both situations, is not based on me and what I have done. It is a response to your truth which is salvation to some and foolishness to others. In whatever I do (or not do), may it be for the glory of your name.

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