Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twelve and thirteen of this New Testament book. “It is not expedient for me doubltess to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong. I am become a fool in glorying: ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest of the apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostles were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, in wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-13).
“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? Walked we not in the same steps” (2 Corinthians 12:14-18).
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? We speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).
“This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witness shall every word be established. I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own salves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. For we do nothing against the truth but for the truth. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction” (2 Corinthians 13:1-10).
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Gree one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:11-14).
“The second epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas”
When you come to the final two chapters of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation you will find in the twelfth chapter the apostle Paul not only speaking of revelation but also speaking about revelation in the context of what might very well be perceived as affliction and/or suffering. The twelfth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul comes directly on the heels of that which was written in the previous chapter when the apostle Paul spoke of the tremendous trials, troubles, and tribulations he faced. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is that everything the apostle Paul mentioned in the latter portion of the eleventh chapter took place AFTER his conversion on the road to Damascus. As you read the words which are written in the latter portion of the eleventh chapter of this particular epistle you will find and discover that all the afflictions and suffering the apostle Paul faced and endured within his life took place after his experience and encounter with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. What this means and ultimately suggests is that the life which the apostle Paul had prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus was such which we might very well say was entirely and altogether absent any type of affliction. The more you think about the life of the apostle Paul and his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus after Ananias obediently came unto him, laid his hands on him and prayed that he might receive his sight the more you will encounter and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the apostle beginning to experience everything mentioned in the eleventh chapter AFTER his conversion on the road to Damascus.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but think about the fact that the very life of the apostle Paul is a powerful demonstration that making the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ does not automatically guarantee that we will live lives completely free and clear from affliction, suffering, trials, troubles and troubles. For the apostle Paul everything he wrote of and mentioned in the eleventh chapter didn’t take place in his life until after his experience with the Lord Jesus Christ, after he had spent time without his sight in the city of Damascus, after Ananias came unto him and laid his hands on him that he might receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit and after he began preaching that Jesus is both Christ and the Lord. What’s more is that when you come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that this same one who wreaked havoc in the city of Jerusalem against the church entering into houses and homes haling men and women out as he committed them into prison would now be one who himself would face persecution, opposition, resistance and affliction. As early the ninth chapter you will find that this same one who obtained letters from the chief priests and religious leaders in Jerusalem to pursue these followers of the Nazarene as far as Damascus and bring them back bound that they might be committed unto prison or even put to death. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that this one who had so vehemently and passionately persecuted the church of the Lord Jesus would himself experience a life in Christ that was anything but comfortable and convenient.
As you read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts—and not only the words which are found in this chapter but also the words which are found in the latter chapters of the same New Testament book—you will find the apostle Paul learning and discovering just how much he must suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord Jesus spoke unto Ananias and instructed him to go unto a house on the street called Straight where he would find a man named Saul who was praying and had seen a vision of him coming and laying hands on him the Lord would also declare unto him the great things Saul must suffer in this life for His name’s sake. What makes the conversion of Saul so incredibly unique and challenging when you take the time to think about it is before Ananias would ever find him at that house on the street called Straight it was revealed and spoken unto Ananias concerning Saul what great things he must suffer in this life for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This one who had so vehemently and passionately persecuted the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and came to discover that the one he was ultimately persecuting was the Lord Jesus Christ would learn just what great things he must needs suffer in this life for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—and not only for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ but also for the sake of the gospel. It was indeed true the apostle Paul would be an ambassador for Christ unto the Gentiles, however, directly and intrinsically linked to that assignment would be a tremendous amount of suffering and affliction he would experience in this life. In fact it is with that being said I would like to invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the ninth chapter:
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shine round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:1-9).
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into he house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:10-22).
“And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnbas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him, which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:23-31).
It is quite clear from the words presented in this passage of Scripture that the apostle Paul experienced true and genuine conversion on the road to Damascus—and not only at Damascus but also at that house of Judas at the street called Straight. Upon reading the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find Saul encountering the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of brilliant and blinding light which shone round about him. It would be in the midst and as a direct result of this the apostle Paul who was at that time known as Saul would arise from the place where he was on the ground unable to see. For a period of days Saul was blind and unable to see as he remained and abode at the house of one called Judas at the street called Straight. During those times the apostle Paul not only prayed and fasted and as a direct result of his praying and fasting he would see in a vision a man by the name of Ananias coming and laying hands on him that he might receive his sight. Perhaps one of the greatest questions that must be asked—and not only asked but also answered—is whether or not it was revealed unto Saul during those days of blindness, prayer and fasting the tremendous things he must needs suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did the Lord Jesus during that time reveal unto Saul that he would be his witness and vessel unto kings, unto the Gentiles, and unto the children of Israel? Moreover was it revealed unto Saul during those days that he would suffer many great things—and not only suffer many great things but even suffer many great things at the hands of the Jews which were his own countrymen? In order to help us understand this all the more it is now necessary to turn and direct our attention to the words which the apostle Paul himself had spoken before those rulers and leaders in Jerusalem and Caesarea after he had been bound and held as he was tried to see if he had indeed committed any wrong. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture:
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen then, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22;1-21).
Here now is the account of the apostle Paul standing before Agrippa who had come unto Caesarea after the apostle Paul had been brought there from the city of Jerusalem:
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: I think myself happy king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredibly with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:1-23).
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for what we find within them is the apostle Paul learning—perhaps not immediately but gradually over time—what great things he must suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. It would be when the Lord Jesus spoke unto Ananias by a vision there in the city of Damascus it was revealed unto him how this man named Saul who had previously wreaked havoc against the church in the city of Jerusalem would now himself suffer many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is one thing I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with when reading the narrative of the conversion of Saul it’s that not only would he become an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles preaching unto them the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but he would also suffer many things along the way. With this being said I would dare say the apostle Paul was not truly aware when he began walking with and following the Lord Jesus and when he began preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus the great things he must needs suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all reality I would dare say this reality was one that was undoubtedly progressive and gradual within his life and one that would be revealed over time. What’s more is that I would dare say that the more the apostle Paul walked with and followed the Lord Jesus the more he would suffer and the greater those things would be which he would face and endure as a direct result of teaching and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in these passages of Scripture I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth that not only did the apostle Paul begin suffering after his conversion unto the Lord Jesus Christ but that suffering, that affliction, that persecution and those trials, troubles and tribulation would come after he began preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there are those who might make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and yet choose not to confess Him before men. What’s more is there would be those who might make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus in this life and yet would never open their mouths to preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. If there is one thing we find concerning the apostle Paul it’s that true persecution and suffering within his life would come as a direct result of his preaching that Jesus was indeed both Christ and the Lord and that He had risen from the dead. It would be in Damascus where he would receive his sight, where he would be filled with the Holy Ghost, where he would be baptized, and where he would preach the gospel of the Lord of Jesus Christ that he would begin to experience a tremendous amount of persecution from the Jews. So great was the persecution of the Jews toward the apostle Paul that they actually sought to kill him and lie in wait to do so. Eventually, however, their lying in wait was made known unto Saul and he would be let down from the wall in a basket through a window from the wall that he might escape the murderous intentions of the Jews—his own countrymen.
There is something truly remarkable and astounding about this particular truth for there are those who would like to think that making the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus somehow means their lives will be comfortable, convenient and full of quietness and rest. There are those who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this life based on the false premise and notion that doing so will somehow guarantee they can and will experience their best life now. What’s more is there are others who make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ because they somehow think and believe that He will grant unto them a life free and absent of any suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulations. I can’t help but think about how many men and women present among us might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and repented of their sin before and in the sight of the living God. There are many who have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and have made the decision to commit their lives unto the Lord Jesus Christ and yet there is something missing from their commitment and devotion. I am absolutely convinced that while “the sinner’s prayer” is essentially a man-made invention which has been in place for years as an offering unto those who would make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus it is only part of the true and ultimate picture of what is truly needed within the hearts and lives of those who would truly walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have previously written how in direct relation and connection with “the sinner’s prayer” there must also be a second prayer that is prayed together with it. There is indeed “the sinner’s prayer” and a prayer which men and women pray—most of the time in repetition after a minister, preacher, evangelist or pastor—and yet there is absolutely no mention of suffering. There are countless men and women who have prayed this “sinner’s prayer” and yet when they have heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ they heard absolutely nothing about suffering, affliction, trials, troubles, tribulation and/or persecution. There are countless men and women among us within our churches who have prayed this “sinner’s prayer” and yet there is something that is and has been drastically missing from their lives. What I mean by this is that there is a second prayer of commitment and devotion which must needs be prayed by any who would chose to commit their lives to walking with and following the Lord Jesus. I am absolutely and completely convinced there are those among us who might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet there was absolutely no mention of what I would call “the sufferer’s prayer.” This “sufferer’s prayer” is not necessarily repentance of ones sins and transgressions in the sight of the living God, nor even necessarily commitment to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ but rather is a commitment to suffer with the Lord Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment and think about how many men and women who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ also make the decision to walk with Him in suffering, in affliction and in persecution.
The more I sit here and think about this particular reality the more I am convinced there are countless men and women among us who have sorely and completely missed the point as it pertains to being disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are countless men and women who might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet I can’t help but wonder how many men and women would immediately after praying that prayer would recant if they were then asked to prayer “the sufferer’s prayer.” Please note and understand that I don’t believe there is a specific prayer that either could or should be considered “the sufferer’s prayer,” however I am convinced that there is something to be said about those who are willing to pray a prayer of willingness to suffer with the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t help but think about how many men and women who have prayed what we have called “the sinner’s prayer” would reconsider and perhaps even recant if immediately after that they were asked and invited to pray “the sufferer’s prayer.” What if in the midst of our altar calls when we invited men and women to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ we also invited them to suffer with Him? How do you think and feel men and women in our churches today would react and respond if right after they made the decision to raise their hand and/or come forward to the front of the church and pray “the sinner’s prayer” they were invited to pray “the sufferer’s prayer”—a prayer which expressed their willingness to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ in suffering, in affliction, in persecution, in trials, in troubles, in tribulation and the like?
I write these words and am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding “the sinner’s prayer” and how not only is and has it been a man-made invention but it has also sorely missed the mark when it comes to men and women truly making a firm commitment to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. There are many men and women who want Jesus of Nazareth as their Saviour and as the Lamb who Himself suffered and offered His life as a sacrifice and offering upon the cross for the remission of sins that we might be reconciled unto the living God, however, there are very few who truly want this same Jesus to be Lord. There are many men and women who want the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world and yet they have absolutely no desire for the Lion of the tribe of Judah who rules and reigns over the nations of the earth. In all reality I would dare say that “the sufferer’s prayer” is such that deliberately and intentionally places men and women who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus in a place where they are willing to walk with Him—even if it means persecution, even if it means suffering, even if it means affliction, and even if it means all their comforts and conveniences are removed. I have to admit there is a tremendous part of me that can’t help but wonder how many men and women—if immediately after they were invited to pray “the sinner’s prayer” they were invited to pray “the sufferer’s prayer” would take a step back and perhaps even feel as though they didn’t sign up for that. Pause for a moment and think about what it would be like in our churches and services if directly linked and connected to “the sinner’s prayer” was “the sufferer’s prayer”—a prayer which expressed a willingness within the heart and soul of a man to suffer with the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is something truly challenging about this particular thought when you truly take the time to think about it for while there might very well be men and women who are willing to walk with the Lord Jesus as their Saviour and as the Lamb of God which was slain before the foundations of the world there are very few who are willing to walk with Him in the midst of suffering, in the midst of affliction, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of trials, troubles, and tribulation. I can’t help but think about how many men and women in our church services would react if immediately after they prayed “the sinner’s prayer”—whether at their seats or at the front of the church at the altar—the preacher expressed unto them that their decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ could and might very well mean they live a life filled with suffering, filled with affliction, filled with persecution, and the like. Would there be many men and women who would almost immediately after praying “the sinner’s prayer” would be offended with the Lord Jesus Christ and even with God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because they learn that walking with and following Him might very well mean they experience and endure persecution, suffering and affliction. Would there be many men and women who might have previously made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus who would immediately recant if after they prayed “the sinner’s prayer” the preacher continued speaking to them and inviting them to pray a second prayer. What if in the next church service you attended and were a part of the preacher and minister invited men and women to pray this “sinner’s prayer” and then immediately after that invited men and women to pray “the sufferer’s prayer”—a prayer of commitment and devotion to walking with the Lord Jesus Christ through suffering, through persecution and through affliction.
I cannot escape the tremendous truth that is found in this particular passage of Scripture and how it brings us face to face with the awesome truth surrounding men and women who would indeed make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus without and apart from suffering. The minute, however, suffering and affliction and persecution are introduced into the picture such individuals not only become offended with the Lord Jesus whom they had previously committed themselves to but they also turn their backs on Him and choose to walk no more with Him. Imagine what it would be like in many of our church services and how many “sinner’s prayers” which were prayed would become null and void the minute such individuals are invited to pray “the sufferer’s prayer.” I have to admit that as one who grew up in the church in a pastor’s home, as one who attended four years of Bible college and ministered in a number of churches I have never seen a single minister invite men and women to pray “the sinner’s prayer” and then immediately after that declare unto them how that was only part of the picture. With this being said I would dare say that inviting men and women to pray the sinner’s prayer without also at the same time inviting them to pray the sufferer’s prayer is a great lesson in missing the point. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder how many times Jesus heard such men and women pray “the sinner’s prayer” and yet knew within His heart that the minute they experienced persecution, suffering, and affliction they would turn their backs on Him and would walk no more with Him. In fact, this is precisely what is meant by the seed which fell on stony ground. You will recall that when Jesus provided His disciples with the interpretation of this particular part of the parable He spoke of this representing those who heard and received the word with joy and endured for a season. When, however, persecution, suffering and affliction arose for and on account of the word itself they were offended and perhaps even turned their backs on the Lord Jesus.
I fully realize and understand that for you who might be reading these words they might seem completely and utterly harsh and in all reality you are probably right. The words which are presented here might very well be harsh and somewhat hard to handle and bear, however, I am absolutely convinced they must be carefully examined and recognized by those who would seek to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. There might very well have been a number of men and women who prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and there might even have been some degree and measure of rejoicing at those who have done so as inevitably preachers and ministers invite men and women to clap and rejoice at those who have prayed this prayer. The truth of the matter, however, is I can’t help but wonder how many men and women have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet because they had absolutely no understanding of “the sufferer’s prayer” they have become and will become offended when trials, when troubles and when tribulation arises for the sake of the word. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women among us who have heard and received the word with joy and have even prayed what we have called “the sinner’s prayer” and yet they have not been prepared for what walking with and following the Lord Jesus might mean for them. When the Lord Jesus spoke unto Ananias and instructed him to go unto the street called Straight and inquire in the house of one Judas for a man named Saul he was informed by the Lord Jesus what great things this man named Saul must needs suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely and entirely unclear whether or not it was revealed unto Saul from the start the great things he must needs suffer, however, the more we read the book of Acts as well as his epistles the more we are brought face to face with the litany of things he suffered. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this epistle alone concerning the sufferings, the afflictions, the persecution, the trials, the troubles and the tribulation he experienced in this life:
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the mans of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
“…Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations,t here was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. >And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: For my strength is mad perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong. I am become a fool in glorying; yet have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, in wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-13).
Please don’t miss the importance of what is found within these passages for what is contained therein is a powerful picture of the sufferings which the Lord Jesus revealed unto Ananias the apostle Paul would suffer for the sake of His name. The list which we find in the eleventh chapter is quite an extensive list of those things which the apostle Paul suffered and experienced in this life and yet there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if that list is not exhaustive in nature. I am sure there were things the apostle Paul omitted from that list and things which he experienced and endured in the flesh after his conversion to the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls land draws our attention to the truth that the apostle Paul didn’t experience these things until AFTER he had experience conversion on the road to Damascus and after Ananias laid his hands on him in the house of Judas at the street called Straight. I firmly believe that had Saul continued on his treacherous and ravenous path as a Pharisee who persecuted the church he himself would not have experienced any persecution, affliction or suffering. If there is one thing the life of the apostle Paul reveals it’s how there are times when committing ones life unto the Lord Jesus Christ more often than not means suffering, affliction, opposition, persecution, trials, troubles and tribulation. There are times within the lives of countless men and women when the minute they make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ things seem to take a drastic turn—such as they had not expected nor anticipated.
With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth that I am by no means declaring that walking with and following the Lord Jesus can and will be all suffering, all persecution, and all affliction. When I write these words I am in no way speaking unto you who might be reading them that walking with and following the Lord Jesus automatically means your life can and will be filled with trials, troubles and tribulations. What I can and will say, however, is there are countless men and women who are entirely and altogether unaware of the fact that making the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus does in fact mean that you will face trials, troubles and tribulations. It was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared that we must through many trials enter into the kingdom of heaven and it was Jesus who declared that in this world we would have many troubles and yet we were not to fear for He had overcome the world. Not only this but the apostle Peter in the first epistle written unto the saints which were scattered not only wrote concerning suffering in this life but he also wrote and spoke about the same afflictions being accomplished in our brethren which are present throughout the world. Furthermore the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were scattered instructing them to not be surprised, shocked or taken back by suffering in this life as though some strange thing were happening unto them. In all reality I would dare say that after the day of Pentecost there was not only a boldness that filled the hearts of the apostles and the early church but there was also a firm commitment and devotion to Jesus—not only as Savior but also as Lord. The apostles as well as many in the early church were entirely and altogether willing to endure suffering and hardship as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus and even give their lives if necessary. Having read those words I find it necessary to now draw and call your attention to the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered abroad throughout the known world at that time:
“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 revealeld, 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 murderer, 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).
“…Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 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 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 5:5-11).
The words which the apostle Peter wrote in this first epistle unto the saints which were scattered are so incredibly important for not only did he write unto saints which were scattered but he also wrote unto saints which were suffering. When writing unto this particular audience the apostle Peter sought to bring them to the place where they recognized that more often than not suffering is not an exception to one’s walk and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ but in some cases is actually the rule. There are those who think and feel as though suffering is something which those who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ cannot and should not experience within their lives. There are those who think and feel as though men and women who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus are somehow and should for whatever reason be exempt from suffering, affliction and persecution. I am absolutely and completely convinced that such ways of thinking are entirely and altogether false and misleading. Those who choose to live their lives walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ and somehow expect themselves to be exempt and immune from suffering are those who might very well find themselves being the very ones Jesus spoke of when in the parable he described the seed which fell on stony ground. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for Jesus did in fact describe those who heard and even received the word with joy and even endured for a while until persecution, suffering and affliction arose on account of the word which they had received. Perhaps one of the questions we must needs ask ourselves is what we do and how we respond when the word seems to demand suffering and affliction within our lives—and not even demand suffering and affliction but also produce it within our lives. When Jesus delivered this parable He described suffering and persecution arising on account of and for the sake of the word which was received with joy and yet we must needs ask ourselves what we think and how we respond when the word we received with joy seems to require and produce suffering within our lives.
I sit here today thinking about this reality of “the sinner’s prayer” and “the sufferer’s prayer” and I am brought face to face with the awesome truth surrounding men and women who not only hear the word of truth but also receive that word and make the conscious and deliberate decision to commit their lives to suffering and affliction. There are those who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ who somehow expect their lives should be absent suffering and affliction and if and/or when the time comes—not only are they unprepared for it but they also allow themselves to grow and become offended as a direct result of it. I would dare say there are countless men and women among us in many of our churches in the Western world who would be entirely and altogether unprepared if and when suffering, affliction and persecution arose on account of the word. Consider how over the past year and a half we have seen tremendous division in this country along political lines as those who voted for the previous President—not only once but also a second time—are considered to be outcasts and those who deserve to be marginalized and ostracized among us. What’s more is how must hatred and animosity was directed against those who supported President Trump in both of the elections and even continue to support him after he is out of office. There are countless liberals and those who are present in this country who have absolutely no love or support for those who supported him and quite honestly cannot understand how anyone could support him. This has led to and produced a great division and schism within this country along political lines as those who have supported and continue to support President Trump are not necessarily persecuted per se but are nonetheless ridiculed and criticized for doing so.
With this being said and in light of this division across political lines we must also recognize and understand that there is and there has been an even greater division that has been present in this nation—specifically from the beginning of this year. Although this second division was present and began manifesting itself last year it has really taken off this year—particularly and especially in light of mandates and passport systems. Of course what I am speaking of is the COVID-19 vaccine—whether it’s the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There are a number of men and women within this nation who have chosen to the vaccine and inject themselves with this so-called substance that significantly reduces and mitigates the risks of COVID-19. Having understood this you would have to be completely and utterly detached from social media, from media and from big tech to not see and witness the tremendous and additional division that surrounds those who have not gotten and will not get the vaccine. In fact there was a popular reporter and news personality on CNN who actually declared on live television that those who have chosen not to get the vaccine should be publicly shamed by those who have received it. Not only this but even our own President of this country has given speeches where he has denounced and decried those who have not chosen to get the vaccine. Imagine not only being a Trump supporter but also one who has chosen not to get the vaccine which is available within this nation of ours. Consider the tremendous animosity and hatred that is present within the hearts of those who not only have chosen to get the vaccine but have also had no love or support for President Trump. Consider how over the past year and a half the two biggest dividing lines in this nation have been politics and vaccination—this despite the fact that we will continue to be divided across lines of gender, sexual orientation, race and even one’s stance on abortion.
The reason I mention this is because I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the fact that as surely as I believe the vaccine is a trial run and preparation for the mark of the beast which the prophetic book of the Revelation speaks of so also do I believe that the division, the animosity, the hatred and the venom that has been directed towards those who have supported and continue to support President Trump and those who have chosen not to get the vaccine is a trial run for persecution against Christians. I cannot help but get the strong sense that what we are witnessing and beholding is a trial run for the mark of the beast as well as trial run for persecution against Christians within this nation. Right now there is a certain freedom that is enjoyed and experienced by Christians within this nation as we have been able to gather and worship together freely without any true threats from the government or any other agency among us. What if, however, this all changed overnight and those who named the name of the Lord Jesus Christ were considered domestic terrorists and perhaps even enemies of the state? Right now those who have supported Trump and those who have not gotten the vaccine have been—to some degree—considered as domestic threats. While no one has considered individuals who have not gotten the vaccine as being domestic terrorists there have been countless men and women who have claimed such individuals are domestic threats to those around them in this nation. Whether or not this particular story is true or not is to be determined but there was actually a woman who was fully vaccinated and not only caught COVID but died from it and the family members of this individual actually blamed the unvaccinated for their death. Pause for a moment and consider the sheer lunacy and deception of such a truth and reality within this nation and how someone who voluntarily injected themselves with something that was supposed to protect them from COVID-19 not only ended up catching it but also dying from it. In this particular case—if you were truly honest with yourself and with the Holy Spirit who would you say is to blame for this person’s death?
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the reality of suffering, affliction and persecution for we who name the name of Jesus Christ dare not and ought not think for one minute we are the exception to such realities within our lives. How would making a decision to walk with and follow someone who not only suffered in the flesh at the hands of religious leaders but also Gentiles somehow exempt us from suffering in the flesh within our own lives? How would making a decision to walking with and following the Lord Jesus—someone who continually experienced persecution at the hands of the Jews and the religious leaders of His generation—somehow think that we are exempt and immune from experiencing such a reality reality our own lives? What’s more is how could we even remotely think that walking with and following Jesus—the One who allowed Himself to have His hands and feet nailed to the cross at Golgotha and taste death in the flesh—somehow excuses and exempts us from potentially experiencing persecution and even persecution unto the death? I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great and powerful need within our hearts and souls to be those who do not seek to escape and avoid suffering, persecution and affliction but those who welcome and even embrace it. We must needs understand that there can and there will be days in the future when persecution can and will rise up against the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but the prophetic book of Daniel as well as the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ presents us with the fact that in the Last Days it will be given unto the beast who is the Antichrist to make war with and against the saints—and not only make war with them but also prevail against them. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that suffering is never going to be something those who walk with and follow Christ are and will be immune and exempt from and we have great need to prepare and make ourselves ready with all patience, strength, endurance, confidence, trust and faith in the power of God and in the person and presence of the Holy Spirit.