The Sufferer’s Prayer (The Sinner’s Prayer Is Not Enough): We Were Called to Make Commitments, Not Decisions

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ which was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-two through fifty-one of the twenty-fourth chapter of this New Testament book. “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). “Then shall they delieve you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:9-14). “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any many shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:22-28). DECEIVE! SHALL DECEIVE! DELIVER! AFFLICTED! KILLED! HATED OF ALL NATIONS! OFFENDED! BETRAYED! HATE ONE ANOTHER! DECEIVE! INIQUITY! THE LOVE OF MANY SHALL WAX COLD! HE THAT SHALL ENDURE UNTO THE END, THE SAME SHALL BE SAVED! DECEIVE THE VERY ELECT! BEHOLD, I HAVE TOLD YOU BEFORE!

            “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8). “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of decolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, *whoso readeth, let him understand) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:15-21). “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is night: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:29-35). RUMORS OF WARS! NATION SHALL RISE AGAINST NATION! KINGDOM AGAINST KINGDOM! FAMINES, PESTILENCES, AND EARTHQUAKES, IN DIVERS PLACES! THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS! THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION! AFTER THE TRIBULATION OF THOSE DAYS! THE SUN BE DARKENED! THE MOON SHALL NOT GIVE HER LIGHT! THE STARS SHALL FALL FROM HEAVEN! THE POWERS OF THE HEAVENS SHALL BE SHAKEN! THEY SHALL SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN WITH POWER AND GREAT GLORY! HE SHALL SEND HIS ANGELS WITH A GREAT SOUND OF A TRUMPET, AND THEY SHALL GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS, FROM ONE END OF HEAVEN TO THE OTHER!

            HEAVEN AND EARTH SHALL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY! HE THAT SHALL ENDURE UNTO THE END, THE SAME SHALL BE SAVED! ENDURING WORDS, ENDURING SAINTS! “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:36-42). THEREFORE BE YE ALSO READY: FOR IN SUCH AN HOUR AS YE THINK NOT THE SON OF MANY COMETH! BLESSED IS THAT SERVANT, WHOM HIS LORD WHEN HE COMETH SHALL FIND SO DOING! When You come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew drawing to a close. With this particular chapter you will find Jesus not only preparing the disciples for His departure from this earth as He was going to return unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, but also preparing them for the times and days ahead which they were about to walk through. Perhaps one of the most astonishing and remarkable truths surrounding this particular passage of Scripture is when you think about and consider the fact that with and through these words Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the days and times in which they were about to walk through—days and times which were going to be filled with incredible deception, as well as intense persecution, suffering, affliction and opposition. Undoubtedly the days which were before and ahead of the disciples were going to be days of intense tribulation and trouble—days in which they would need tremendous endurance and tremendous patience in order for them to be able to stand in the midst of them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words found in this chapter, for the words which are presented before us are words which bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that while it was true that Jesus knew that He Himself was going to suffer at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, He also knew that after His departure His disciples would also suffer as well.

            As you read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find three different times—chapter sixteen, chapter seventeen, and chapter twenty—where Jesus declared unto and began teaching the disciples that He would journey unto the city of Jerusalem, and there at Jerusalem He would suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, and that He would ultimately die and be killed as a result. Of course we know that Jesus knew He was going to rise again, which is actually quite a remarkable and astonishing truth when you think about it, for while it is true that Jesus knew He would suffer, and while it was true that Jesus knew He would die and be killed, it was also true that Jesus knew He would rise again on the third day. Pause for a moment before we move any further within this passage of Scripture and think about the fact that yes it was true that Jesus knew He was going to suffer, and yes it was true that Jesus knew He was going to die. There is absolutely no doubt and mistake about this particular reality, for on three separate occasions Jesus taught His disciples that they must needs journey unto Jerusalem, for it was there at Jerusalem where He would not only suffer many things at the behest of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, but would also be mocked and scourged by the Gentiles. Moreover, Jesus knew that He was going to be killed, and even that He would be crucified as a result of going unto Jerusalem. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for directly linked and connected to Jesus knowing He would suffer and die, He also knew that He was going to rise on the third day.

            It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close and careful attention to these three portions of Scripture, for within these portions of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that yes Jesus would suffer, and yes Jesus would be killed, however, Jesus would also rise again on the third day. Each time Jesus taught His disciples that He was going to suffer, He also taught them that He was going to be killed. With this being said, we must needs recognize and understand that each time Jesus taught His disciples that He was going to be killed He also taught them that He would rise again. Although Jesus would indeed and would in fact suffer within the city of Jerusalem, and although as a result of that suffering Jesus would ultimately be killed, He would also rise from death to life on the third day. How absolutely incredible and astonishing it is to think about and consider the fact that each time Jesus taught His disciples that He was going to suffer, He directly and intrinsically linked that suffering to death. Jesus knew and understood that His suffering would indeed and would in fact lead to death and that He would be killed and crucified. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and reality, and how absolutely important it is, for Jesus’ betrayal in the garden by Judas Iscariot would ultimately lead to His suffering. Jesus’ suffering would ultimately lead to His being mocked and scourged, and would ultimately lead to His death. Jesus not only knew that He was going to suffer, but Jesus also knew that He was going to be killed and crucified. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely tremendous this particular truth actually is, for it can and will help us to understand the words which Jesus would teach and speak unto His disciples—not only here in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, but also that which is written and recorded in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of this same New Testament gospel. Perhaps one of the most intriguing truths that is found within this passage of Scripture is that Jesus—after teaching His disciples on three separate occasions that He would suffer, be killed and rise on the third day—would also teach His disciples that they themselves would walk through and would experience suffering.

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found within the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel narrative, and the more I think about the fact that Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the tremendous tribulation and trouble they would walk through—this wouldn’t be the first time He would do so. If and as you read the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that when Jesus first called the twelve apostles whom He Himself would appoint unto Himself, He would not only send them out preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom, and would not only send them out to cast out devils, and to heal the sick, and to raise the dead, but Jesus would also send them into the harvest, into the field, and into the vineyard which He spoke of in His parables where they would suffer, where they would experience tremendous tribulation and trouble, and where they would experience great affliction. This is truly something we must needs realize and understand when actually reading the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for although within this passage of Scripture we find the Lord Jesus Christ preparing the disciples for the tribulation and trouble and trials they would walk through—this wouldn’t be the first time He would do so. In all reality, we must needs realize and understand that almost from the beginning Jesus taught His disciples that they would suffer in this world, and that they would face tribulation, trials and trouble.

            I sit here today and I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that there is a drastic and vast difference between that which Jesus taught His disciples during the days He walked among us as the Word became flesh, and much of what is preached within and from the pulpits of our churches. If and as you read the words which are found within these chapters of Scripture you will find that on more than one occasion Jesus taught His disciples and prepared them to enter into the world where they would face and experience suffering, affliction, opposition, persecution, trials, troubles, and tribulation. You cannot read the gospel narratives which were written by the gospel authors and not encounter numerous times when Jesus prepared His disciples to suffer in this world, and this world would be a place they would experience dramatic suffering and persecution. There would be three times within this particular gospel where Jesus would teach His disciples that He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, and it would be there in the city of Jerusalem where He would suffer, where He would be mocked and scourged, and where He would ultimately be killed before rising from the dead on the third day. With this being said, we must needs acknowledge and understand that there would also be more than one occasion where Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples to face, experience and endure their own suffering, their own tribulation and their own trials and troubles. We must needs realize and understand this, for there is a vast difference between how Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples during those three and a half years He walked with them—and not only this, but also how He prepared them prior to His suffering, prior to His death, prior to His death, prior to His resurrection, and prior to His ascension unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven. If you consider and compare how Jesus prepared His disciples while He walked among them upon the earth you will acknowledge that there is a vast difference between how Jesus prepared His disciples to enter into and walk within the world, and how we prepare and make ready the disciples and saints of God within our churches during the days and times in which we are living.

            I remember being in a virtual men’s Bible study in recent weeks and emphatically declared that when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and when it forced church buildings to shut down and be closed to worshippers, there were a number of men and women—even men and women within the church itself who were caught unprepared and who were caught off guard. There were a number of men and women who emphatically and boldly declared that when the church buildings were being shut and closed down that it was persecution arriving in the United States of America. As a direct result of this, however, men and women within many of our churches did not respond with grace, nor did they respond as peace makers which Jesus spoke of within His Sermon on the Mount. What you will find during those early months of the pandemic is countless Christians either taking to the streets to protest the closing of the church buildings shouting and screaming that church buildings and corporate worship was essential within our culture and society, or threatening to take state and local governments to court. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when church buildings and the doors of our houses of worship were shut and closed to worshippers there were countless men and women who were caught off guard and who were unprepared for it when it actually happened. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must pay close and careful attention to this, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth within many of our churches that there are more men and women among us who were not prepared for what took place when the pandemic hit—and not only were men and women unprepared when the pandemic hit, but they were also unprepared when the doors of the church buildings were closed and shut.

            I sit here today writing these words, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there have been very few churches, very few ministries, and very few ministers who have prepared and made ready the saints of God and those who profess Christianity among us within this culture and society for suffering, for persecution, for trials, for tribulation and for trouble. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were a number of men and women who were caught off guard when the pandemic struck, and when the doors of our church buildings were closed and shut down—a reality which powerfully demonstrates and reveals the truth that there are and there will be men and women who aren’t prepared for that time and that moment when persecution, when affliction, when opposition, and when tribulation truly hits. In all reality, I would dare say there are a number of men and women among us within many of our churches who have been not been and who are not ready for the days and times which are before and ahead of us in the coming days. Perhaps one of the must fundamental differences between the teaching and preaching of Jesus and that which is presented within many of our pulpits today is that Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples for the intense suffering and persecution they would face and experience, and He did so and even spoke about it so when it actually took place—not only would they remember the words which He had spoken unto them, but they would also be prepared for it and would not be caught off guard. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that when the apostles actually faced and experienced suffering and persecution within this life—each and every one of them was ready and was prepared for it when it actually came upon them. I am absolutely convinced that there was not a single apostle who wasn’t prepared and made ready for the suffering, for the tribulation, for the opposition, and for the affliction they would face and experience. What’s more, is that although the apostle Paul would not walk with Jesus the Christ as did Peter, James, John and the other disciples, He Himself would also be prepared and made ready for the suffering he would face and experience within this life. Even before Ananias came unto Saul and laid his hands on him that he might receive his sight, that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit and that he might be baptized, it was revealed unto him how Saul would ultimately suffer many things for the sake and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Saul would even begin preaching and teaching a single word among the Gentiles, and among the Jews the Lord Jesus Christ had already determined and purposed that he would suffer great things for the sake of the kingdom, and for the sake of the name of Christ.

            I find it absolutely astonishing to think about and consider the fact that when Jesus taught His disciples, He taught and prepared them to enter into this world where they would face and experience suffering and persecution. At no point within and during those three and a half years did Jesus ever prepare His disciples and His followers for a life of ease, for a life of comfort, and for a life absent and trials, any trouble, and absent any tribulation. This is drastically different from what is being preached and taught from many of our pulpits within this generation—and in recent years—for there are countless men and women who have not been prepared for the suffering and persecution that they must needs walk through. It was the apostle Paul who would declare unto the saints that we must through many trials and tribulation enter into the  kingdom of heaven. Oh as you read the words which are found in the gospel narratives written by the gospel writers you will find time and time again when Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples for the suffering, the persecution, the trials, and the tribulation they would face and experience within this life. Oh we must needs understand and acknowledge this, for there is a dramatic difference between Jesus who taught and prepared His disciples concerning suffering and persecution, and that which many of our preachers teach and preach within our culture and society today. There are countless preachers and ministers within our churches today who neither speak about suffering and persecution, nor prepare and make ready the saints of God for the possibility of walking through such intense suffering and persecution within this life.

            If there is one thing the pandemic has proved and demonstrated—particularly and especially among our churches and among the saints of God—it’s that there are countless men and women among us who can and who will be largely unprepared for that which can and will take place within our culture and society. There were countless men and women who were caught off guard when the pandemic hit—and not only when the pandemic hit, but also when the doors of our church buildings were shut, and men and women could no longer gather together in corporate worship with one another. The pandemic aptly and profoundly proved that there were and there are many among us who cannot handle and will be unable to stand in the midst of persecution and in the midst of suffering. Oh with this being said I don’t believe there have been many ministers among us who have truly taught and taken the time to preach unto the saints of God that which the apostle Paul declared—namely, that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women who were caught off guard when the pandemic hit, and who were caught off guard when the doors of our church buildings were shut, and those same individuals are and will be those who will be caught off guard when tribulation, when trials, when trouble, and when suffering truly does hit. Please note and please understand that what I am speaking of it is not the suffering we walk through and experience when a loved one passes away, or when we experience some type of sickness or illness, or one of the many other trials we can and will face. I fully recognize that one of the single greatest examples of suffering in all of Scripture is Job who experienced the loss of all his possessions, and who experienced the loss of all ten of his children. I am very much aware that Job even experienced a tremendous amount of suffering with his own physical person and flesh as Satan would strike him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet with boils. I am fully aware that Job is one of the greatest examples of suffering in all of Scripture, as there would be two distinct times when Satan would come unto the presence of the LORD and obtain permission to raise his hand against Job. I am even aware of the fact that at one point Job’s wife would even ask him why he retained and held on to his righteousness, and why he didn’t simply curse God and die.

            Please note that when I am speaking of suffering, and when I am speaking of tribulation and affliction within this life, I am not speaking of that which is presented within the narrative of Job found in the Old Testament. When I speak about suffering, and when I am speaking of tribulation and affliction within this life, I am speaking of persecution which can and will rise up against us as a direct result of being disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, we have been great at speaking about personal suffering in terms of that which Job went through, however, we have sorely missed the point as it pertains to the second side and realm of suffering—namely, that which the ancient Hebrew prophets faced and experienced, that which the Lord Jesus Christ experienced, that which the apostles experienced, that which the early church faced and experienced, and that which our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and in Asia are facing and experiencing. Not to mention those countries within the continent of Africa are facing and experiencing as a direct result of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh we have been good at speaking about that suffering which touches our physical person as was experienced by Job, and we are great at speaking about suffering in terms of losing everything, or even in experiencing sickness, illness, and/or the death of a loved one or friend, however, we have been largely mute and silent concerning that suffering which men and women who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can and will experience within his life.

            While Jesus walked among us as the Word became flesh which dwelt among us we find Him preparing and making ready His disciples and His followers for the tremendous suffering and persecution they would face and experience within this life, and yet most ministers who stand behind the pulpits of our churches are unwilling to preach and teach such realities. There are countless ministers and preachers among us who are and who have been unwilling to touch the subject of persecution and suffering, and who have been giving a false and jaded picture of what it means to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. There have been countless men and women who have been sitting in many of our churches who are and who have been largely and widely unprepared for the tremendous amount of suffering and persecution that can indeed and can in fact await that man and that woman who makes the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for it calls and brings us face to face with the tremendous truth that while Jesus walked among us in the flesh He made ready and prepared His disciples to face suffering and persecution in this life. When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world as His ambassadors and as His partners together in the ministry He did in fact give them authority to preach the gospel unto the poor, and He did in fact give them authority to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons, and to raise the dead, however, with that authority also came a wonderful and powerful sense of preparation that they would walk through and would face suffering and persecution as a direct result of the name of Jesus the Christ. Oh they would be those who would heal the sick, and they would be those who would cast out devils and who would preach the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, however, directly linked and connected to that particular truth and reality was also the knowledge that they would face and experience suffering and persecution within this life. Although they would indeed be partners together in the work of the kingdom in this earth, they would do so at great risk and peril to their lives.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture, and I can’t help but think about and consider how drastically unprepared men and women are among us within this culture, within this society and within this generation. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are a number of men and women among us who are not only unprepared to any type of suffering and persecution within this life, but who will also be unable to walk through, face and experience it. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are a number of men and women among us within many of our churches who are and who will be largely unprepared for any suffering, and for any persecution they might very well walk through and experience within this life. Jesus was very careful to prepare and make ready His disciples for ministry after His departure from this life, however, Jesus was also very careful to prepare and make ready His disciples to walk through and face tremendous tribulation, troubles and trials within this life. On more than one occasion Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples for the suffering and the persecution that would rise up against them—a reality which would truly begin when He was delivering the Sermon on the Mount. Oh we must needs realize and understand that it wasn’t merely in the tenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew when we find Jesus preparing His disciples for suffering and persecution within this life. IN all reality—if you journey back to the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find that as early as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples and His followers to walk through and face persecution and suffering. It didn’t begin when Jesus called His twelve apostles unto Himself and sent them out in twos as partners together in the ministry, for it would truthfully and honestly begin much earlier when delivering the Sermon on the Mount. With this in mind, I now invite you to consider the words which are found in the fifth, the tenth, the sixteenth, and the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew in which we find Jesus preparing and making ready His disciples and followers for the imminent and certain persecution they would face in this life for righteousness’ sake, as well as for His name’s sake:

            “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reard in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in the synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciples is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which k ill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).

            “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. HE that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

            “…And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, IF any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? OR what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reard every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:17-28).

            These passages bring us face to face with the fact that even before Jesus began teaching the disciples about His own suffering He would first teach them concerning their own suffering and their own persecution. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that in the Sermon on the Mount—and not only in the Sermon on the Mount, but virtually at the very beginning of the sermon—Jesus taught His disciples that they would not only face suffering, but would also face persecution in this life. It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable when reading the words which are found within these passages of Scripture that at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry He would teach His disciples that they would face suffering, they would face persecution, and they would face being mistreated within this life. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that pretty much from the time Jesus first begin teaching and preaching unto the time Jesus would enter into Jerusalem where He would suffer many things and ultimately be killed, He would teach His disciples how they must needs suffer many things in this life. You cannot read the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and tremendous fact that from the very outset of teaching and preaching unto the disciples and those who would follow Jesus the Christ He would teach them how they must needs suffer many things within this life. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus wouldn’t merely speak of and suggest that those who walked with and followed Him would suffer and would experience persecution, but He would declare they would be blessed for experiencing and walking through such things. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding realities surrounding the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is that from the fifth chapter all the way through the twenty-fourth chapter we find Jesus teaching and preaching His disciples how they would indeed suffer in this life, and how they would be persecuted. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would declare concerning His followers how they would suffer and would experience persecution in this life, and how they were not only blessed when they faced and experienced such things, but also how they must needs rejoice when walking through such realities in this life.

            I find it absolutely incredible how pretty much from the time Jesus began teaching and preaching in Judaea and Galilee He prepared His disciples and those who would follow Him for suffering and persecution in this life. This is so intriguing to me, for it begs the question that if Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him for suffering and persecution—why don’t we do the same? Why do we find within the four gospel narratives Jesus preparing and making ready His disciples for suffering and persecution, and yet many ministers, church leaders, preachers, teachers and the like seem to refuse to prepare and make ready those whom they speak to concerning suffering and persecution? Why would Jesus spend so much time, effort and energy in making ready and preparing His disciples and followers for suffering and persecution in this life, and yet we hear so very few and very little sermons and messages concerning suffering and persecution. Oh I would love to do a survey of all the sermons, all the teachings, and all the messages that are preached by every single minister within this nation—and not only within this nation, but even within the Western hemisphere of the world—and see of the possible fifty-two sermons that are preached within and throughout the year, how many actually deal with suffering and persecution. If you were to go online and survey the sermons which are preached from the pulpits of all the mainstream churches within this nation—how many of those sermons would actually touch in suffering and persecution within this life? If you were to survey the sermons which are preached by some of the most popular and well-known Christian ministers among the mega-churches within this nation—how many of them are actually taking the time to prepare and make ready the people they have been entrusted with teaching concerning suffering and persecution? I am absolutely and completely convinced we would be absolutely and utterly shocked to compare how many times Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples and followers to face suffering and persecution within this life versus how many times ministers and leaders within our culture and society prepare and make ready disciples in this generation.

            Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly making disciples within our churches, or whether we are making members within and of our churches. Are we truly making authentic and genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, or are we simply making “Christians”—those who might hear the word of the kingdom, and might even receive it with joy and gladness, and yet when persecution arises because of the word they are offended? Are we truly making the type of disciples and followers which we see within the Scripture—and not merely the twelve disciples, but also the early Church, the early Church fathers, and those whom we find within Scripture? When you look at many of our churches within this nation—how many of those who profess to be Christians are actually disciples and followers of Jesus according to Scripture? How many of those who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are actually willing to suffer and die with Christ? We know the apostle Peter made the declaration unto Jesus that he was willing to go to prison with and for the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he was even willing to die for and with Him, however, Jesus would declare unto him that before the rooster crowed twice he would deny him three times. I can’t help but think about how many men and women might make the same boast and the same declaration which the apostle Peter made during that time he walked with Jesus the Christ, and yet such claims are not only misguided, but are also entirely and altogether untrue? I find it absolutely tremendous to think about and consider the fact that although our churches might be filled with men and women who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—how many of them are actually willing to die with Christ? Although many of our churches are full to the brim and full to capacity—how many men and women who are sitting in the pews are actually willing to suffer with Christ? Oh I would love to know how many disciples and followers Jesus truly has within many of our churches today, and how many men and women are simply members rather than disciples. What’s more, is I can’t help but wonder how many “decisionees” we have among within our churches—those who might have responded to an altar call when the preacher gave the invitation to “accept Jesus into their heart,” and yet all they did was make a decision rather than a commitment.

            WE WERE CALLED TO MAKE COMMITMENTS—NOT DECISIONS! I have grown up in the church my entire life, I have lived in a pastor’s home, I have attended and graduated from Bible college, and I even spent some time pastoring a church, and in the almost thirty-eight years I have been alive I have found myself encountering and coming face to face with the fact that we have called and invited men and women to make decisions while leaving them largely in a place where they haven’t made a commitment. We have given countless “altar calls” and have given countless invitations to “come to the altar” and to “accept Jesus in your heart,” however, I can’t help but wonder how many times we have given the invitation to actually walk with and follow Jesus. I find myself coming face to face with the fact that we have spent more time making those who have made a decision rather than those who have made a commitment. We have spent more time making those who are members of our churches rather than actual disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is we have put men and women through various “training” programs within our churches, and we have required men and women to be members of our churches before they are able to serve among the brethren, and yet such individuals might be nothing more than those who have made a decision rather than a commitment. The more I think about this the more I find myself coming to the place where I am convinced that while there might be many “members” in many of our churches, there are very few men and women who are actual disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are very few men and women who are actually willing to suffer together with Christ, and who are actually willing to walk through and experience persecution. Oh there have been countless “sinner’s prayers” and countless men and women who have prayed this prayer of repentance, and yet such individuals are not given a clear understanding of what it truly means to be a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh we place a great deal of emphasis on “the sinner’s prayer,” and yet I can’t help but think about and consider what would happen if perhaps in addition to “the sinner’s prayer,” we also led men and women in “the sufferer’s prayer.”

            THE SINNER’S PRAYER & THE SUFFERER’S PRAYER! We have spent a considerable amount of time leading men and women into “the sinner’s prayer”—that prayer which men and women pray to repent of their sins, to accept Jesus into their heart, and to be changed men and people. While this is perhaps good in theory, I am convinced that it sorely misses the point. Oh there might be men and women who have prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” and yet such  men and women would not even think of, nor even dare to pray “the sufferer’s prayer.” Oh there are men and women among us within many of our churches who might have prayed this “sinner’s prayer” and they might have responded to an altar call that was given, however, such individuals are entirely unwilling, unable and unprepared to walk through and experience any form or type of suffering. In all reality, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a great need within many of our churches to—in addition to leading men and women into a “sinner’s prayer—leading men and women in a “sufferer’s prayer.” Please note that what I mean by “the sufferer’s prayer” is that prayer that is an emphatic and powerful declaration and expression of a willingness to suffer with Christ. If “the sinner’s prayer” is a prayer to “accept Jesus into one’s heart” then I am convinced that “the sufferer’s prayer” is a prayer that expresses a willingness to suffering with Jesus. Tell me dear reader—what good is it if you are willing to “accept Jesus into your heart” and yet you are unwilling to actually suffer with Him? What good is “accepting Jesus into your heart” if you have absolutely no desire and/or interest in walking with Him through suffering, through affliction, through trails, through trouble, through persecution, and the like. We have placed a great deal of emphasis on “the sinner’s prayer” and we have praised all those who have prayed such a prayer and who have made such a “decision,” and yet I can’t help but wonder how many men and women who have prayed this prayer have actually made a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

            In the tenth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome we find him emphatically writing concerning the confession of our mouth that Jesus is Lord. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this particular reality, for while there are many men and women who confess and profess Jesus as “Savior,” there are very few who actually profess Jesus as Lord. This is crucial for our understanding of what is found within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for I would dare say that it is only when we make and are willing to make Jesus Christ our Lord that we are able to walk with Him in suffering. I would dare say that to the degree and measure we make Jesus Christ our Lord is the degree and measure we are willing to suffer with and for Him. The apostle Paul—when writing unto the saints which were in Philippi—wrote concerning the fellowship of His sufferings and of being made conformable unto Him in death, and we must needs pay close and careful attention to this. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely critical this is to our understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ spoke unto the disciples and those who would make the decision to walk with and follow Him, for it’s almost as if from the very start and beginning Jesus sought to prepare and make ready His disciples for suffering and for persecution. More often than we not we would like to think that Jesus somehow didn’t prepare His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him to experience and walk through suffering, however, the truth of the matter is that you can’t even get very far in the Sermon on the Mount itself before encountering and finding Jesus speaking of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those who suffer in this life. What’s more, is that this concept of persecution is actually found within what we would refer to and know as “the Beatitudes.” Within the very Beatitudes themselves we find Jesus initially speaking unto and teaching His disciples and followers that they would experience suffering, they would experience persecution, and they would be reviled and spoken of falsely for His name’s sake. This is truly something worth thinking about and considering, for it calls and draws our attention to just how incredibly important this concept of being prepared to suffer with and for Jesus truly is.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth that from the time Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to the time Jesus delivered the Olivet Discourse He prepared and made ready His disciples to experience suffering and persecution in this life. Even when calling the twelve disciples unto Himself and sending them out two by two Jesus declared how He was sending them out as sheep among wolves and how they needed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Not only this, but in the tenth chapter of the gospel narrative we find Jesus first mentioning unto His disciples how they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake. This is truly something we must needs acknowledge within our hearts and our lives, for not only did Jesus prepare us to suffer and to walk through and experience persecution, but Jesus also prepared us to be hated. It is when you come to the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will be brought face to face with the truth that twice Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples to be hated of all men for His name’s sake. There can and there must be absolutely no mistake about it when reading the gospel narratives, for Jesus took the time to prepare His disciples and followers for suffering and persecution, and even in the Olivet Discourse we find Jesus emphatically declaring that He spoke those words unto His disciples that they might not be caught off guard and might not be caught unaware.

            UNAWARE AND CAUGHT OFF GUARD DISCIPLES! UNAWARE AND CAUGHT OFF GUARD FOLLOWERS OF JESUS! If you read the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus speaking unto the disciples and declaring unto them, “Behold, I have told you before.” Essentially that which we find within these verses is Jesus once more preparing His disciples for suffering, and once more preparing them for persecution. It’s almost as if Jesus was declaring unto the disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him that they would not and could not be His disciples if they were not willing to take up and carry their cross. Jesus declared that whoever denied Him before men He would deny before His Father, and Jesus would declare that those who loved father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or anything or anyone else in this life were not worthy of Him. This language is truly powerful and necessary for us to understand and consider, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that we as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have indeed been called in this life to face and experience suffering and persecution. There would be those who would like to avoid suffering, and those who would like to avoid persecution, and yet Jesus would also say that those who sought to save their lives would lose them, and those who lost their lives for His sake would find them. The words and language we find in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are truly remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it, for Jesus would not only prepare His disciples for difficult and trying times, but Jesus would ultimately prepare and make His disciples ready for intense suffering and persecution. You cannot read the gospel narratives and not encounter the absolutely undeniable truth that Jesus sought to prepare and make ready His disciples for suffering and persecution in this life. What’s more, is that it’s almost as if Jesus was instructing and commanding His disciples to expect and anticipated it, which is language which the apostle Peter would use when writing the first epistle written unto the scattered and suffering saints which were present in Asia. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter, as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle:

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings: that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murder, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

            “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions that are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen , settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11).

            BELOVED, THINK IT NOT STRANGE CONCERNING THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH IS TO TRY YOU, AS THOUGH SOME STRANGE THING HAPPENED UNTO YOU! Pause and consider just how tremendous and how incredible those words truly are when you take the time to think about them. With these words the apostle Peter urges and encourages those to whom he wrote this epistle to not think it strange, nor even be surprised by and concerning the fiery trial which is to try them. In all reality—if there is one thing countless men and women who profess themselves to be disciples and followers of Jesus within this nation have to admit, it’s how surprised and utterly shocked they would be if persecution and suffering ever came upon them for their faith. SURPRISED AND SHOCKED CHRISTIANS! IT is absolutely undeniable that this nation has experienced the blessing and privilege of worshipping openly and freely without having to worry about suffering and/or persecution, however, the question needs to be asked how many men and women would be shocked and surprised if and when it comes. What’s more, is would they be shocked and surprised more because they weren’t prepared when they made their decision to walk with and follow Jesus, or because of the freedoms and liberties they enjoyed living within this nation and country? I have to admit that I firmly believe there are countless men and women within this nation and country who are going to be incredibly shocked and surprised when they experience and encounter suffering and persecution for the first time when it comes to the shores of this country. There is not a doubt in my mind that a number of men and women within this nation can and will be shocked and surprised when fiery trials start manifesting themselves within their lives, and will indeed consider it as though some strange thing is happening to them. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the greatest truths we find within the Olivet discourse is that Jesus once more prepared His disciples—not only for suffering and persecution, but also for difficult and trying times. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for it is absolutely unmistakable that Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the days and times in which they were about to enter into and walk through.

            ARE YOU READY? ARE YOU PREPARED? UNPREPARED AND SHOCKED CHRISTIANS! I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I find myself thinking about how many men and women among us within our churches can and will be entirely and altogether unprepared when fiery trials, when tribulation, when suffering, and when persecution actually does begin to arise within this nation. There are men and women among us who may have attended church services regularly, and may have even been involved in various elements of ministry within the house of God, and yet when suffering and persecution arises within this nation they will either be shocked and surprised, will be offended, or both. Jesus clearly speaks of those in the last days who will face tremendous persecution and suffering, and there will be many who will be offended with and by that time when it arrives. We can and must make absolutely certain we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found within this portion of Scripture, for the words which are found here bring us face to face with the tremendous amount of preparation we as the saints of God must needs have in the days we are presently facing. Oh with that being said—would it shock and surprise you if I told you that we should not be surprised by anything we are witnessing in the world today? Would you find it incredibly odd if I told you that we should not be alarmed, nor should we be surprised by famines, earthquakes, and pestilences which come upon this nation, or even the world as a whole? What’s more, is would you be alarmed and shocked if I told you that we ought not even be alarmed at widespread and rampant deception that is present—not only within the church, but also outside the church? There are countless men and women who are somehow shocked and surprised by what is present within our culture, within our society, and within our nation, and yet the truth of the matter is such matters should not at all surprise, alarm or shock us, for Jesus has indeed and has in fact told us ahead of time.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I am absolutely and completely convinced that not only is there a great need for men and women among us in the body of Christ to be prepared to face suffering and persecution, but there also needs to be men and women who are not surprised when persecution, when suffering, when affliction, and when opposition arises. While there is a great and pressing need within our hearts and lives to anticipate and expect suffering and affliction and opposition to arise, there are countless men and women who are somehow caught off guard by such realities and manifestations—and not only caught off guard, but also offended by such manifestations. Jesus made it very clear that brother would betray brother unto the death, and that persecution would indeed arise because of the word and because of His name, and we must needs realize and understand this. What’s more, is that we must be those who anticipate—perhaps even expect to face suffering and persecution within this life and within our culture, within our society, and within our nation. We ought not be those who are somehow caught off guard when persecution and suffering arises in the earth, nor should we be those who are caught off guard and surprised when wars and rumors of wars are reported within the media of this generation. Famines, pestilences, earthquakes and the like ought not to be those things which we are somehow alarmed and surprised by as though they are something strange taking place within our culture and society, for Jesus did indeed and did in fact warn, caution and prepare us for what lies before and ahead of us. Jesus diligently sought to prepare and make ready His disciples for the days and times in which they would walk in—particularly and especially knowing that He was going to depart from this earth and return unto His Father who was in heaven. Jesus knew and understood the days which were going to take place for the disciples and for His followers—not only concerning the judgment, the devastation and the destruction that would take place within the city of Jerusalem, but also the deception that would run rampant, as well as the persecution, the suffering, and the affliction His disciples and followers would indeed face. Jesus was very much aware of everything that would happen after He departed from this earth, and sought to prepare His disciples to be hated, to be persecuted, to experience and walk through suffering, to be delivered up unto kings and governors, and even to be killed.

            I sit here today and I can’t heop but think about how many men and women among us in many of our churches who aren’t at all ready and/or even prepared for that which is going to take place in the coming days—and not only in the coming days, but also in the days in which we are presently walking. Jesus has given us clear warning, clear caution, and clear signs concerning the last days and concerning the times in which we are presently walking and will walk, and we must needs be absolutely certain that we heed the words which He spoke and taught. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs read and understand these words as a powerful means of preparation for us concerning the days in which we are living, for that which we have faced, and that which we will yet to face has been and was spoken of by Jesus. Jesus recognized and understood that after He departed His disciples and followers would face and experience tremendous suffering and persecution—similar in nature to when the apostle Paul left Ephesus and prophesied unto them how after His departure savage wolves would enter in among them who would not spare the flock. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close and careful attention to this particular reality and truth, for what we find within this particular passage of Scripture is not only Jesus preparing and making ready His disciples for the days and times in which they would walk, but also preparing and making ready us who are His disciples within this generation. With these words and in this chapter we find Jesus not only speaking of the Last Days, and not only speaking concerning that which would indeed and would in fact come as a direct result of the Last Days, but He also instructed us what to expect and how to live during those days.

I conclude this writing with a strong and powerful declaration that we as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ ought to be those who are not surprised by anything we experience within the days in which we are living, nor in the days in which we are about to enter. I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that while there is and there has been a great emphasis on “the sinner’s prayer,” there must be added emphasis on “the sufferer’s prayer”—that prayer in which we not only acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, but are also willing to join the fellowship of His sufferings and are willing to suffer with Him. We as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ must needs deny ourselves and take up our crosses each day while we present our bodies as living sacrifices which are holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God. We have great need during and within the culture and society in which we are living to be those who are not surprised, nor are shocked with the trials, the troubles and the tribulation we face and experience within this life. We as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must be men and women of patient endurance who fully recognize and realize that we must through many trials, troubles and tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven. We must be those who recognize and understand the times in which we are living and like the sons of Issachar understand what ought to be done. Oh that there would be a generation of disciples and followers of Jesus during these times who recognize and understand that Jesus has not only given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, but has also prepared us for that which we can and will face, and that which we are presently facing during these days and times. Oh that we would be men and women who would wonderfully and powerfully be those who are willing to suffer with Christ, and who are ready, willing and able to be those who are able to walk through the fire and walk through the flood regardless of what we might suffer and what we experience. Oh that we would be those who not only confess and profess Jesus as Savior, but are also able to profess Jesus as Lord—and not only profess Him as Lord, but are truly willing to live their lives acknowledging and demonstrating the fact that Jesus is Lord over all, in all and through all within our lives.

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