Is this suffering?
Maybe someone at the office doesn’t like us much, maybe we have a boss that picks on us, maybe it’s a neighbor who goes out of their way to make our lives a living hell. Does this constitute suffering in the eyes of Almighty God?
I believe many of us sleeping in our cozy cotton beds at night have no idea what suffering is. I believe many of us are confused over what constitutes real suffering and what does not. Counterfeit suffering glorifies the created, whereas true suffering glorifies the creator.
We have to be careful to distinguish the truth of true suffering and be diligent to never let it lead to glorifying something other than God. Because this can be very easy to do! Especially when it seems as if the entire world is against a particular person or even a group of people. We are admonished in scripture over and over again to never give glory to a person, or to anything created. Isaiah says “Our righteousness are as filthy rags…” The terms ‘filthy rags’ being likened to menstrual rags (if you can believe that) and as fallen human beings, there is no one righteous, no not one.
So, how does a sinful human being become glorified, or worthy of glory? When our eyes are not focused on Jesus Christ, or in other words when it is counterfeit (and I will come back to this statement a few paragraphs down). The dictionary defines counterfeit as,
“Forged or fraudulent- an imitation. To make a copy with intent of defraud; to practice deception.”
When we focus on the glorified suffering of a person, maybe it isn’t always with an intent to defraud, however this can certainly happen. In Christendom, when this does happen, the focal point becomes misdirected or taken away from what is true, and in the end the pure intent of the Gospel is what suffers. And this is tragic.
On Saturday, I finally got to meet my team leaders with VOM, Mr. Ken and Mrs. Nancy (I‘ll leave out their last names for privacy 😉 ). It was a wonderful experience to be able to put faces to the voices! The weather was perfect, the park was beautiful, Miss Nancy made us a delicious lunch and I even got to meet several other couples endeavoring to also ‘remember them in bonds‘ (Heb. 13:3).
Ideas were shared, friendships were developed and sweet fellowship was had by all. It was also relaxing and informative! Ken and Nancy even gave us a book, DVD and CD which is what is leading me to talk about real vs. fake suffering. Here a group pic!
The book Ken and Nancy gave is called, “Wear The Crown” by Bill Drake and VOM. It has inspiring stories and photos of modern day martyrs and I highly, highly recommend it (someday soon I promise to implement a page of my recommended reading list). I pretty much finished it by that evening after I came home (I just couldn’t wait!). I had tears in my eyes quite a few times as it moved me emotionally in so many ways. I have to say this book was a little bit different than other books on martyrs that I have read in that it followed up after the persecution parts by how God moved during and after these tragedies.
We often read stories of martyrs where the believer refuses to deny their faith in Christ, they die and that is the end of the story. We are inclined to say in our hearts, “What faith! If only I could be as strong…” And we never really hear about the furtherance of the Gospel due to their deaths.
In scripture when the apostle Paul was imprisoned he spoke about how the Gospel was furthered because of his bonds (or chains). People were talking! News was being spread like wildfire, just as it does today when we hear stories of persecution.
And this book details aftermaths, if you will, on how God furthers the Gospel through the deaths of these martyrs. People get saved because of what happens and that is the glorifying result of true suffering folks! When a brother or sister is called home violently or tragically because of their witness, or because they refused to deny their faith, and the glory is given to Jesus Christ, there is an outpouring of the Gospel. This is what is true… it is what leads the lost to the Light of the World and that is genuine!
The reason I say this is because when we read these stories, and we shed our tears for the families of the fallen it is so very easy to focus on the pain of earthly loss and not the things of heaven. For, we do not have the vision God does, we cannot see the future and how this will all eventually play out. Thus, our downfall and the turning away of our sight from Jesus Christ. What shame and disobedience! We are commanded in Colossians 3:2 – Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
There was one couple documented in this book that gave me the idea for this post today. I originally wanted to strictly talk about the VOM meeting on Saturday, but the stories in this book whirl-winded me into blogging about the heartbreak of glorifying people and not the person of Jesus Christ (and how easy it is for all of us to do).
The couple I want to share with you felt a calling to the country of Turkey (many of the Apostle Paul‘s missionary journeys were to cities in Turkey). Their names are David and Jenni Goodman. They immersed themselves in the culture; dressing, cooking, speaking the language, everything Turkish, all to shine the light of the Gospel to the people of this country; basically to introduce as many as they could to Jesus Christ in a mostly muslim populated land.
After around 2 years of living in Turkey in June 1977, just a few weeks before Jenni gave birth to their first child, David was shot point blank up to 5 times one morning when he answered a knock at the door. This is what is stated in the last couple paragraphs of their story and it is what caught my full attention and had to read it a couple times:
“It is good that David and Jenni’s story can finally be related, although if its purpose is to draw attention to them and their testimonies, neither of them would want it told.
The only benefit in it is to point people to God, to give glory to Him, and to raise up workers for His Kingdom.
“If the telling of this story can cause more people to pray or go, then it is of value,” says Jenni. “But if it is just to glorify a man, then it is of no value.”
Wow. What an incredible statement. There were many things that happened because of David’s death, which are too long to document here, but one touching follow-up is David’s well-tended tombstone in a non-muslim part of a Turkish graveyard that will be seen by untold amount of people. It says,
D. David Goodman. Follower of Jesus.
But as for you, be strong and do not give up,
for your work will be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7
David gave his life for the sake of the Gospel as a follower of Jesus. Was he aware of the danger? I’m sure he was. Did he know he could lose his life? I’m sure he did. But the bottom line for all of us followers of Christ is that we have already died… and even so, we ALWAYS have a tomorrow whether that be on earth or immediate transportation into the presence of our Lord through the death of our bodies. This is the crux of the matter for all missionaries whether they travel to foreign lands or travel across the street.
Col. 3:3 – For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Let us all, in everything we do, give glory to the only man worthy of it… Jesus Christ.
Before I go, I want to ask for prayers. Our 5-Day Club will begin next Monday, the 20th. This is a vacation-type Bible school that will go on in my neighborhood. There will be games, prizes, Bible stories, Bibles given out, and most of all the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ will be preached. Please pray that it would be fruitful more than anything. A lot of neighborhood kids in the park came last year, and although my park had the most of all the groups in our church, we are praying for more this year. Also, please pray for protection as well. Thank you all, love you!
John 20:31 – But these (words) are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
May God bless you all,
Yours In Christ,