The Gain in Suffering

26 09 2014

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

If I were to ask you, what are the greatest attributes of God which we can both experience and replicate, what would be on your list?

Love, grace, mercy, righteousness, compassion, faithful, holy will all be in every Christian’s top ten, I reckon.

What about Sufferer and Comforter?

Whilst these are not eternal attributes of God, within this age they are key activities of Jesus and of His church.
Some Christians believe that we should never suffer, that if we live by faith, no harm will come our way. That does not reflect what Paul writes to the Corinthians. He recognises the suffering and persecution that the Corinthian Christians are experiencing because they follow Jesus, so he pens these words.

He intimates that to suffer for decisions we make based on our faith in Jesus is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. He suffered for declaring, embodying and preaching the Kingdom of God, and so will we in some form at some stage, although we can also have favour with men too.

So how’s the suffering?

There is a wonderful upside to suffering for Jesus’ sake – we receive God’s comfort. And that blankets everything.

The word for comfort is the same root word for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. There is a sense of God’s presence that suffering for his sake brings us into – maybe because, having given all for Christ, we have emptied ourselves of the stuff of earth which competes for our soul’s allegiance. We enter into true joy in knowing the Author and Perfector of our faith. Jesus prayed in John 17 that to know Father was life itself – he was MORE than comforted. He was strengthened by the comfort, the presence of God for Gethsemane and the suffering of the cross which he faced.

Today, Christian children in Iraq were threatened by IS militants, and commanded to denounce Christ. As parents watched, helpless, one by one each child refused, and parents looked on as these murderers beheaded their children, one by one. Shocking, compassion- inducing stories such as these are hard for us to conceive as real, sat here in our comfort zones.

But the point is this; what incredible comfort our brothers and sisters will receive from the Lord through their sufferings.

Let’s pray today for the suffering church, for that abundant comfort to be so present in the hearts and lives of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, those dear girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

And let’s be provoked by the thought that we need to be ready to suffer for His sake, to stand for Jesus and His Kingdom in this world, and take heart in the comfort which is ours as we do.


Aids for praying for the Middle East and the 10/40 window

1 09 2014

1. Be aware that the Bible has predicted much of what we see happening today. Scripture tells us there must be unrest of this nature before Jesus returns.

2. Begin praying with acknowledging who God is. He sits, unmoved on his throne. Isaiah 40 is just one of the chapters that will help you pray in confidence, not fear. It is important that we move into faith, even whilst we may cry out to God in desperation.

3. When praying for the situation with Israel, separate the political state of Israel from the nation of Israel that God sees, and will still figure in his plans. God does not condone and support every act that Israel does. But pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm122:6). In a sense, we are praying for the Lord’s return as well when we do that.

4. Concerning the conflicts in the Muslim states, avoid praying what you think should happen politically. These are centuries-old issues, and are not just religious and political, they are also tribal. Get some understanding, but don’t over-complicate. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray. He knows all things, and will reveal what we need to pray.

5. We don’t battle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. Pray with the authority of Jesus against the dark forces behind the Islamic extremist ideas of jihad, shari’a and caliphate state.

6. Pray for supernatural protection for Iraqis and Syrians, and those in many of the Middle Eastern countries who stand against these extremist ideas, especially opposers of ISIS at this time.

7. Pray for protection, peace, provision and powerful testimony of Christians in these crisis zones. Pray for Canon Andrew White and the amazing work of his church in Baghdad. Pray for comfort for those who mourn.

8. Pray that, through this darkest time, the spread of the Gospel would increase rather than decrease in the Middle East and the 10/40 window of North Africa.

9. Pray for our nation and the Muslim communities here. Pray that they will not become hotbeds for Islamist extremism, and that those working to stop this will succeed. Pray for disaffected Muslim youths, that they will find greater purpose than fighting abroad.