The Sufferer’s Prayer & the Cross of Discipleship

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the thirty-seventh verse of the twenty-first chapter and continues through to the twenty-third verse of the twenty-second chapter. “And Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I spake unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying” (Acts 21:37-40).

 

            “Men, brethren and fathers, hear ye my defense 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 o 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 thee, 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 t hat slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:1-21).

 

            “And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air” (Acts 22:22-23).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continued narrative of the apostle Paul arriving at Jerusalem—and not only arriving at Jerusalem but there in Jerusalem being overtaken and overcome by an angry mob which would rise up against him. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words presented in this passage of Scripture for the events we see here call and draw our attention to that which would come upon the apostle Paul in the city of Jerusalem and ultimately set him on a course leading to the city of Rome. You will recall in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book that when speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian church the apostle Paul declared unto them at the beach in Miletus that he was going bound unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew that he was going bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem but did not know what would await him there in the midst of the city. The only thing the apostle Paul knew for sure was that he was going bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem and that the Spirit bore witness and testified unto him that in every city whereunto he traveled bonds and afflictions would both abide and await him. Undoubtedly the apostle Paul recognized and understood that journeying unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed bring about a tremendous amount of affliction within his life. Scripture is not entirely clear as to whether or not the apostle Paul truly had an understanding of that which would come upon him in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. I would dare say the apostle Paul knew that there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem he knew he would experience some for of suffering and affliction but whether or not he knew the extent of that suffering and affliction is something to be seen within this particular chapter.

 

            I have to admit the more I read the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book—and not just the words which are found in the twentieth chapter but also the twenty-first chapter—the more I am captivated with and by this journey the apostle Paul would indeed make unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul would indeed journey unto the city of Jerusalem at other times during his apostolic and missionary journeys and life, however, this journey unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed be one which was entirely and altogether different. The apostle Paul knew that when speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian church his journey unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed lead him to a place where he would see their face no more. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the apostle Paul recognized that he would never see the faces of the elders of the Ephesian church again and I would dare say this was largely due to the fact that he knew and recognized he was going bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul experienced a tremendous amount of suffering and afflictions in the previous cities whereunto he came and traveled to and he would have no reason to believe the city of Jerusalem would be any different. What’s more is that it would be in the midst of the city of Jerusalem where the persecution against the church would first begin. Not only would it be in Jerusalem where the persecution against the church would begin but the apostle Paul who at that time was known as Saul of Tarsus and had not yet been converted to Christ would be the tip of the spear that was pointed directly against the church and spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found here in the twenty-first chapter I can’t help but be reminded of the tremendous amount of resistance, opposition, affliction and suffering the apostle Paul would experienced as a direct result of the preaching of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. In fact I am convinced that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book there is a great need to turn and direct our attention to the various different accounts concerning the life of Saul of Tarsus after he came to believe on and know Jesus of Nazareth. It would be revealed unto Ananias and unto Saul himself that he must suffer great things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for from the outset of the relationship the apostle Paul would have with the Lord Jesus Christ he knew that he would and must suffer many things for the sake of his name. The apostle Paul knew from the moment he followed the Lord Jesus Christ that he must needs suffer many things for the sake of his name. Oh I am convinced that we must needs acknowledge and understand this for through the account of the apostle Paul we see something which we more often than not don’t see in the lives of many who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus—namely, their understanding of how walking with and following Him might very well mean a tremendous amount of affliction and suffering they would have to experience and walk through.

 

            Before I present you with the various accounts of the affliction, the suffering, the trials and the tribulations the apostle Paul experienced throughout his brand new life of walking with and following Jesus I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the three accounts found within this New Testament book concerning his conversion experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. In the ninth, twenty-second and twenty-sixth chapter of this New Testament book we find three different accounts of Saul of Tarsus encountering a great light while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. Each of these passages brings us face to face with the narrative of the apostle Paul experiencing the risen, ascended and exalted Jesus of Nazareth who would declare that it was truly He who the apostle Paul was persecuting. The apostle Paul would indeed rise from the road where he had fallen blind and unable to see for three days as he would spend three days without food or drink and would pray before and unto the Lord who had appeared unto him. The apostle Paul would see a vision of a man by the name of Ananias coming to him, laying hands on him and praying for him that he might receive his sight and that he might receive the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs understand for it was revealed unto both Ananias and Saul himself that he would suffer great and many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you truly want to understand that which we find in the twenty-first chapter there is a great need to begin your journey in the ninth chapter of this book and then consider the apostle Paul recounting this experience before the Jews in Jerusalem as well as before Festus and Agrippa in Caesarea. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these chapters 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 shined 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. 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 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 form 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 the 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 though 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” (Acts 9:1-20).

 

            It is in this particular passage found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find and encounter the initial account of the conversion of Saul—not only beginning on the road to Damascus but also in the city of Damascus itself. It is in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s conversion which would begin on the road to Damascus when the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the midst of a great light. As you continue reading the words presented in this passage of Scripture you will find the conversion would indeed continue there in the midst of the city of Damascus as it would culminate in Ananias laying hands on him and praying for him that he might receive his sight and receive the Holy Ghost. The apostle Paul would experience as it were scales from his eyes, would receive the Holy Ghost and would immediately be baptized. What’s more is the apostle Paul would immediately begin preaching in the synagogues of the Jews that Jesus is indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the conversion of this Saul of Tarsus and how he would become the apostle Paul who would indeed preach and proclaim the gospel of Jesus unto the Gentiles throughout Asia. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book concerning the account of the apostle Paul recounting his conversion experience before the Jews in Jerusalem as well as before the religious and political leaders. Consider the following words if you will beginning with the first verse of this particular chapter found in the New Testament book of Acts:

 

            “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense 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.k 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 l;I got, 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 thee, 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 int 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 beloved 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 in the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find and encounter the first account of the apostle Paul recounting his conversion experience with the risen and exalted Christ while journeying on the road to Damascus. It would be there in the midst of the city of Damascus where the apostle Paul would truly experience the culmination of what began while traveling on the road to Damascus. It would be there on the road to Damascus the apostle Paul would be cast from his horse to the ground, would see a great light brighter than the sun in its strength and would hear the voice of the Lord Jesus. It would also be there on the road to Damascus the apostle Paul would hear the voice of the Lord Jesus declaring unto him that it was indeed He whom he was persecuting. There on the road to Damascus Saul would learn directly from the mouth of the Lord Jesus that it wasn’t flesh and blood who he was ultimately persecuting but it was Jesus Himself whom he was persecuting. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and how when Ananias would come unto him having been sent by the Lord he would not only instruct Saul to receive his sight but he would also instruct Saul to receive the Holy Spirit. Ananias would lay hands on Saul and would pray for him that he might receive his sight, that he might receive the Holy Spirit and that he might be baptized and begin calling on the name of the Lord. There in Damascus Saul would receive his sight, would receive the Holy Ghost, would be baptized, would begin calling on the name of the Lord and would straightway begin preaching the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-sixth chapter of this same New Testament book concerning the account of the apostle Paul standing trial before Festus and Agrippa there in Caesarea:

 

            “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched for 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. knew 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 incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily though 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 brighteness 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” (Acts 22:1-20).

 

            Please pay attention to the words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture for each of them bring us face to face with the account of the apostle Paul experiencing the risen, exalted and ascended Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and in the city of Damascus itself. It would be there in the midst of the city of Damascus the apostle Paul would receive his sight, would receive the Holy Spirit and would be baptized in water as he began calling upon the name of the Lord. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the narrative of Saul’s conversion on the road to as well as in the city of Damascus. What’s more is that within these passages of Scripture we also encounter the absolutely incredible truth that from the outset of his conversion he would know and understand the things he must needs suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. It would be revealed unto Saul that he would be sent unto the Gentiles, that he would indeed be a witness of the things he had seen unto the Gentiles, that he would preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus but also that he would suffer many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul recognizing and understanding from the very outset of his salvation experience that he must needs suffer many things and that his walk with Christ would not be without nor would it be absent suffering and affliction. WE have a great need to recognize and pay attention to this for it highlights and underscores how many of us believe on and call upon the name of the Lord understanding and expecting the fact that we might (perhaps even must needs) suffer many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            The more I sit here and write these words the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding that which we must needs understand and even expect when making the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. There are very few who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus with the understanding—and not merely the understanding but the expectation—that they will suffer many things for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are very few men and women in our churches who made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ knowing and expecting suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulations to befall and come upon them. I would love to know how many men and women among us within our churches truly have the expectation and understanding of the suffering, the affliction, the trials and the tribulations they would indeed experience as a direct result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. What makes this even more is that Jesus Himself prepared His disciples for this suffering and affliction which they would experience as a result of walking with and following Him. When Jesus sent His disciples and followers out He prepared them to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. What’s more is the Lord Jesus also prepared them to be put out of the synagogues and even to be killed by those who thought they were doing a service unto the living God. This is something which warrants strong consideration for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth that when we make the decision to walk with the Lord Jesus we must do it with tempered and measured expectations and and understating of what it truly means to walk with and follow Him. It is with this being said I invite you to consider certain passages which are found in the New Testament gospels written by the apostles Matthew and John. It is in these passages we find the Lord Jesus preparing and making ready His disciples for the suffering, the affliction, the trials, the troubles and the tribulation they would indeed experience:

 

            “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 reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

 

            “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 their 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 the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple 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 light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill 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).

 

            “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 reward 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 16:24-28).

 

            “These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not great than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and. Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:17-27).

 

            “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killers you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these thing have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  Neverhtless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1-11).

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they help bring us face to face with the understanding the apostle Paul had for the suffering he would indeed experience as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the more the apostle Paul walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ the more the afflictions, the more the suffering, the more the tribulations, the more the trials and the more the opposition would seem to increase. It seems the more you read the New Testament book of Acts and the more you read of the apostle Paul growing and developing into that for which he had been called the more you will read of the suffering and affliction increasing within his life. In fact the apostle Paul would declare that they must through many trials, troubles and afflictions enter into the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul recognized that his decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ would not be absent and without any suffering and affliction. It was revealed unto him right form the start what great and what many things he must needs suffer as a result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul did not make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus with any pretenses or false pretexts for he recognized and understood that he would suffer a great many things as a result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is I would dare say the more the apostle Paul walked with and followed the Lord Jesus the greater the chances were for suffering and affliction. Consider the fact that as early as the city of Damascus where he first began preaching the word of Jesus there were those who sought to kill him.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and I can’t help but think about all the suffering, all the affliction, all the opposition, all the resistance, all the trials and all the tribulations he experienced as a result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus. With this being said we must needs recognize that this suffering and affliction would not only come from his own countrymen the Jews but it would eventually come from the Gentiles themselves. It would be in the city of Philippi the apostle Paul and Silas would not only be wrongly and falsely accused but they would also be beaten publicly before being cast into prison. Of course we know the living God supernaturally delivered them from their prison during the midnight hours in response to their singing praises and praying unto the living God. Scripture reveals how there was a great earthquake which caused the whole prison to shake—and not only caused the whole prison to shake but also caused the prison doors of every prison cell to be opened and the chains and shackles on every prisoner to fall off. As a direct result of this the apostle Paul and Silas would be brought forth, cleaned up, fed and even have the chance to preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus unto the jailor and his entire household. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the suffering and affliction the apostle Paul would also experience in the midst of Ephesus. It would be there in Ephesus Demetrius who was a silversmith making silver shrines unto Diana and the other craftsmen would incite the city in an uproar and angry mob against the apostle Paul and his companions. While much of the opposition the apostle Paul and his companions would indeed experience would come from his own countrymen—the Jews—there would be instances where the affliction, the suffering and the persecution would come from Gentiles.

 

            Having said this I invite you to consider certain of the text found within the writings of the apostle Paul—in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as within the epistle written unto the Philippian saints. The apostle Paul was such who did not count his life as dear unto him and gladly suffered reproach for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul did not value nor hold to his life as being so dear that he would do anything and everything he could to avoid suffering, to avoid affliction, to avoid trials and to avoid tribulation. This is a far cry from many among us during the days in which we are living for there are those among us in our churches who will not only do anything and everything they can to avoid suffering and affliction but they will also be offended when persecution, suffering and affliction arises for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs understand for in the parable of the sower and the seed in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as in the Olivet Discourse which is found in the twenty-fourth chapter the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the need to guard against being offended in the midst of suffering, affliction, tribulation, troubles and trials. I am absolutely convinced there are countless men and women among us within our churches who would not only be greatly offended if and/or when affliction, suffering and persecution rises up against the church within this nation but would also be like many of the Jews who turned back and walked no more with Jesus as was written in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostles Matthew and John beginning with the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. I would also invite you to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Philippian saints:

 

            “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anyone with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitful ness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

 

            “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors 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. Then shall they deliver 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 shall hate 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 24:4-14).

 

            Consider now the following words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which are found in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi:

 

            “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chast virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtility, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chief east apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed and offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in. Me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:1-15).

 

            “I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speake a s concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. 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 m ensure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying 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 lest down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).

 

            “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, 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 perfec tin 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 am I 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 chief east apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the sings of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in sighs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, excep tit be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-13).

 

            “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them by dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship o this sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize. Of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).

 

            When I consider the words which are found in these passages of Scripture I can’t help but be absolutely gripped with the language used by the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul was one who didn’t count his life as dear unto himself and viewed his life as an offering with which to be poured out before the Lord. The apostle Paul knew very early on that his walk with the Lord would not be one of continued peace, rest and quietness but that he would experience and walk through trials, troubles, and tribulations. The apostle Paul knew and understood that he would walk with the Lord Jesus and that he would suffer many things for the sake of the name of the one whom he walked with and worshipped. This is something worth noting for there are countless men and women in many of our churches today who have this warped idea of what it means to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. There are men and women in many of our churches who will walk with and follow the Lord Jesus so long as it is comfortable and so long as it is convenient for them. Such individuals have absolutely no context or framework for suffering, for affliction, for trials, for persecution and the like within their lives. What’s more is such individuals devote themselves to trying to avoid such realities at all costs. These individuals will do anything and everything to ensure they maintain a quiet and comfortable life—something which the Lord Jesus emphatically spoke of as gaining the whole world. Remember the parable Jesus told about the man who was increased in goods and wealth and possessions and decided to tear down his barn to build one bigger and better with which to hold all of his wealth that he might eat, drink and be merry? Remember the words Jesus told about those who truly understand what it means and what it looks like count and consider the cost before setting out on an endeavor within their lives? Jesus spoke of a man seeking to build a tower and the need to consider the cost as well as a king going forth and making war who would also consider the cost. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs recognize and understand within our lives is whether or not we have indeed been those who have considered and counted the cost—those who are truly willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

 

            With this being said I am also convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and understand that there has been much talk about what has become known as “the sinner’s prayer.” Countless preachers and ministers throughout the years have led people in what they have referred to as “the sinner’s prayer” and have made the declaration that if they prayed that prayer they would be converted from death to life and from darkness to light. It was the apostle Paul who declared that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with our heart that God raised Him from the dead then we are saved. The apostle Paul would also quote and reference the words of the prophet Joel when he declared that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved—something which Ananias had spoken unto him all those years earlier. The reason I bring this up is because there have been many ministers who have promoted what has been known as “the sinner’s prayer” and have led men and women to believe that if they pray such a prayer they are saved. What makes this somewhat challenging, however, is when you consider the fact that there is very little spoken of concerning what men and women might very well face and experience as a direct result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus. There is very little language that is spoken about the suffering, the affliction, the persecution, the trials, the troubles and the tribulation they can and will expect as a direct result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I sit here today thinking about this particular truth and how necessary and vital it is to not spend all our time focusing on what we would call “the sinner’s prayer” but would also take the time to lead men and women in what I would “the sufferer’s prayer.” Tell me—when was the last time you heard a preacher or minister lead someone in a prayer of willingness to suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? When was the last time you heard a preacher or minister lead men and women into a prayer of commitment and endurance in the midst of affliction and persecution? I have spent my entire life in the church, grew up in a pastor’s home, attended and graduated from a bible college and have spent time in various other churches during that time and after. In all my time within the various churches I have been in I have never heard a single minister lead a man or a woman into a prayer of commitment in the midst of suffering. I have never heard a single minister lead a man or a woman into a prayer of commitment in the face of persecution and affliction. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book of Acts for within it you will find the apostle Paul being “warned” and “cautioned” concerning going unto Jerusalem. The four virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist would prophesy unto Paul concerning his journey unto Jerusalem and Agabus who was a prophet come forth from Judaea would prophesy concerning Paul being bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and ultimately delivered up and handed over into the hands of men. Even when those who heard the words which were spoken unto the apostle Paul wept over such statements the apostle Paul spoke unto them of their breaking his heart because of their weeping. The apostle Paul declared unto them that he was ready to be poured out as a drink offering before and unto the living and eternal God and that he did not count his life as near and dear unto himself.

 

            This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for there are and there have been countless men and women who have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet they have never taken the time to pray what I would call and have called “the sufferer’s prayer.” Please note that I am in no way suggesting this “sufferer’s prayer’ is some formula or prescription for actually suffering for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ but rather that there are very few who would be willing to pray it. There are many men and women who are willing to pray “the sinner’s prayer” that they might escape the damnation of hell and experience the joys of heaven, however, there are very few who would make such a decision and also be willing to partake in the fellowship of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that it was when writing unto the Philippian congregation the apostle Paul would speak of “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” for his words expressed in this epistle demonstrate his willingness to do more than simply speak about the sufferings of Christ but actually speak of them in terms of a fellowship. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is when you consider the fact that when we speak of the suffering(s) we face in this life such sufferings it is indeed a fellowship which we partake in together with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it brings us face to face with the absolutely astonishing truth surrounding our willingness to suffer together with the Lord Jesus Christ. There are men and women who are willing to walk with and even follow Him while it is convenient and perhaps if they walk in and experience blessings from Him, however, the minute walking with and following him requires suffering, affliction and persecution they are not only offended but they also turn back and make the decision to walk no more with Jesus. This is something we need to recognize and understand for it brings us face to face with the incredible amount of suffering the apostle Paul experienced while walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that if we are to truly understand this journey to Jerusalem and how this trip to Jerusalem would indeed result in greater opposition, affliction and suffering in the life of the apostle Paul we must needs recognize that his life in Christ was one that was marked with suffering, affliction and persecution. In virtually every city and place whithersoever the apostle Paul went he would indeed experience resistance and opposition—mainly from the Jews but also from Gentiles in certain cities such as Ephesus and Philippi. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to this for it’s almost as if the apostle Paul was conditioned and groomed for suffering, affliction and persecution. The apostle Paul began walking with the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that he must needs suffer a great many things for the sake of His name and the more he walked with him the more He would be conditioned for suffering. This is actually something which warrants strong consideration for there are very few among us today who not only walk with Jesus expecting suffering, affliction and persecution but have also been and are also being conditioned to such realities within their lives. I am absolutely convinced the more suffering, the more affliction and the more persecution the apostle Paul experienced the more he would be conditioned and groomed to endure it. The apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering, affliction, to persecution, to trials, to troubles and to tribulation and I would dare argue and contend he grew to expect it. What’s more is I would dare say the apostle Paul learned and grew to even love and appreciate the suffering he experienced and endured in this life and viewed it as a chance to not only honor but also associate with his Lord and Savior. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for there is something worth noting about those among us who know absolutely nothing about suffering and affliction and those who have spent their walk with Christ being groomed and essentially molded by it. I am reminded of a scene from the movie The Dark Knight Rises when the villain Bane spoke of the darkness as being something he was molded by it—something which I am convinced can indeed be spoken of concerning suffering.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that there are very few among us who are truly willing to walk in the suffering(s) of Christ. They are most certainly willing to walk with Him as Saviour but when it comes to walking with Him as Lord and endure suffering, affliction and persecution they find themselves being unable and unwilling to cope and handle it. I have written about something I have called “the sufferer’s prayer” and I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for men and women in our churches to affirm and confirm their willingness to associate with their Lord in whatever suffering(s) may come their way. There are men and women who must needs recognize that walking with Christ may in fact mean walking in suffering and walking in affliction—regardless of whether or not you want to accept it. There is a great need for men and women among us to understand that walking with and following the Lord may very well—and more often than not and in most cases—mean walking through suffering, affliction, suffering, trials, tribulation and persecution. Consider the fact that when the apostle Paul returned unto Antioch and rehearsed all they had experienced throughout their journeyed he would confirm the souls of the disciples, exhorted them to continue in the faith and declared unto them that we must through many trials and much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Recall that it was Jesus Himself who declared that in the world we would have tribulation but we were to be of good cheer for He had overcome the world. This is something we have a great need to recognize as we attempt to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus for we must needs be those who carefully consider and count the cost of what it truly means to follow Him. Most people are perfectly okay with the cross so long as it was the instrument upon which Jesus Himself died but the minute they realize the cross is as much a symbol of discipleship as it is of salvation they have a difficult time. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as the people of God to be such who recognize and understand that we have indeed been called to be those who are able to weather any storm that comes our way and endure any suffering which we do in fact endure and experience in this life.

 

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