Today’s selected reading is found in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the fifth verse of the second chapter and continues through to the eighteenth verse of the third chapter. “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieve me, but in part: that I may overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the son of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
”Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a doctor was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia. Now thanks be unto God which always cause th us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:12-17).
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killers, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministry ion of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look rot the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be baked away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:1-18)..
When you come to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle uses different language than what was previously used in the first epistle. If you take the time to read the words which are found within this second epistle you will notice the apostle Paul continues building upon the reality of the spiritual body of Christ, however, the apostle uses language of suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulations which the saints of God in Christ Jesus can and will face within this life. It’s important to recognize and remember the words which our Lord Himself spoke unto His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed by Judas in the garden of Gethsemane. In the final verse of the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find Jesus declaring unto His disciples that “in this world ye shall have tribulation.” Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous significance of what Jesus was speaking and declaring unto His disciples for there would be many who would think that Jesus would declare unto His disciples that their decision to follow Him would somehow exempt and make them immune from tribulation in the world. There have been countless ministers, preachers and teachers who have preached and even “prophesied” that walking with and following the Lord Jesus somehow guarantees a life absent of trials, of tribulations and of troubles. Such teachers and preachers have led men and women to believe that making the decision to walk with and follow Jesus would somehow make them immune and exempt from suffering, affliction and persecution in this life. What makes this truly unique when you take the time to think about it is when you consider that this type of teaching is so contrary to that which Jesus Himself taught and even preached unto His disciples and unto the multitudes.
As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus emphatically declaring unto His disciples that in this world they would have tribulation. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these words and how absolutely incredible they truly are. I fear there are and there have been countless men and women among us within our churches—particularly in the western world—who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus with the expectation that doing so would make them immune from suffering, from affliction and from tribulation in this life. I am absolutely convinced there is a great tragedy surrounding those who would believe these words and would live their lives with the expectation—and even the anticipation—that they can and will somehow live without trials, troubles and tribulation. I fear there are countless men and women who have “made the decision” to walk with and follow Jesus and yet they are in no way prepared nor are made ready for the days which are ahead in this world. Jesus made it very clear that in this world we shall have tribulation—something many within our churches choose to ignore, despise and reject. I am absolutely convinced there are many men and women present within our churches today who not only expect to be immune and exempt from suffering, persecution and affliction but would also be those individuals who when such realities arise within this nation and/or within their lives they are and will be the first to be offended within their hearts and souls. Such individuals experience suffering and persecution within their lives and because they have been so conditioned to expect to somehow be exempt and immune from it they allow themselves to be offended before and in the sight of the living God.
I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to two distinct passages of Scripture found within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. The first is the thirteenth chapter of this gospel where Jesus delivers the parable of the sower who sowed good seed which fell on different types of soil. Jesus would deliver the parable and describe how the same sower would sow the same seed in different places and in each place the sowing of the seed would produce something entirely and altogether different. Jesus would go on to explain the parable and the meaning behind it to the disciples and it is that explanation of the parable that helps us to understand the reality of persecution and affliction in this life and the response many among us within our churches can and will have in this life. As if this weren’t enough I am also convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same New Testament gospel. It is within this New Testament gospel we find the Lord speaking unto the disciples concerning the last days and what they should expect concerning those last days. As they departed from the Temple and looked upon all the buildings and stones of the Temple and the city Jesus would proceed to explain unto the disciples that which would come upon the face of the earth during the last days and what they should expect and anticipate within and during those days. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds. Fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).
“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For v eerily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 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 anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath 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 seeed 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 fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:10-23).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this particular passage within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew for when speaking of the seed which was sown on stony ground Jesus how those who received the seed on the stony ground were such who heard the word and received it with joy. Despite their hearing the word and receiving it with joy, however, they had no root within themselves and because they did not have any root within themselves they found themselves in a dangerous position. Jesus describes of these individuals that when persecution and affliction arose on account of the word they were offended within themselves. Jesus doesn’t describe whether or not they were offended with Him or whether they were offended with God, however, Jesus made it very clear that such individuals found themselves experiencing something they neither had context nor substance for. If there is one thing we must needs notice when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that those who were represented by the seed which fell on stony ground had no substance within themselves—this despite the fact that there were initial signs of growth and bearing fruit within themselves. Perhaps the single greatest truth surrounding these individuals is that they showed signs of growth, they showed signs of maturity and they even showed signs of bearing fruit yet when persecution and affliction rose for the sake of the word of the gospel and the word of the kingdom they were offended. What makes this all the more is I would dare say these individuals were not only offended but also experienced two distinct realities within their lives—the decrease and ultimate dissipation of fruit within their lives and ultimately their being offended and walking away altogether.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider an event which occurred in Capernaum of Galilee after Jesus had fed a multitude of five thousand men not including women and children. In the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you find Jesus feeding a multitude of five thousand men not including women and children with nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish brought and offered by a young lad among them in their midst. As the passage progresses we find the multitude which saw the miracles Jesus did on the other side of the Galilee and which were fed from the loaves of bread and the fish coming to Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee the multitudes would hear Jesus speak to them of that bread which came down from the Father which was in heaven—bread that was similar to what their fathers had experienced in the wilderness. With this being said we must also recognize and understand that Jesus declared Himself to be that bread which came down from heaven—something which the Jews during those days had a difficult time understanding and acknowledging within themselves. Where things really became interesting is when Jesus spoke unto them of eating His flesh and drinking His blood and that unless one was wiling to do both they had no part in Him. What you find within this passage of Scripture is a powerful picture of what I believe happens when men and women become offended with God—either because of the word(s) He speaks unto them or because of affliction, suffering and persecution. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John concerning this experience in Capernaum of Galilee which was on the other side of the Galilee close to the Mediterranean:
“The jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Mumrur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh,a nd drinketh my blood, hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat man, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum” (John 6:41-59).
“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offended you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:60-65).
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:66-71).
The words which we find in this passage of Scripture not only describe how many of the Jews murmured at Jesus because of the words which He spoke unto them but ultimately the apostle John transitions from the jews which murmured against Jesus to “many” of his disciples going back and walking no more with Jesus. What would begin with the Jews murmuring at and against Jesus because of the words which he spoke unto them would ultimately lead to and transition to many of his disciples turning back and walking no more with Jesus. I have to admit I have often and long wondered what this sight looked liked as Jesus watched many of these disciples turn their backs on Him and make the conscious decision to walk no more with Him. What was it like as Jesus and the twelve watched as many of those disciples who not only walked with and followed Him but who had also seen His miracles and partaken of the loaves of bread and the fish turned back and walked no more with Him? What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how many of His disciples actually turned back and walked no more with Him on this particular day. We know that Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand men not including women and children on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and Scripture doesn’t reveal how many of that crowd actually come to Jesus on the other side. What I can’t help but think about is how many of five thousand actually came to Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in Capernaum. Were there four thousand of the five thousand that came to Jesus on the other side? Were there three thousand? Perhaps two thousand? Scripture isn’t clear how many actually came to Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, however, we can know for certain that many of His disciples turned back and walked no more with Him. Oh I am trying to imagine Jesus being left there alone with at least His twelve disciples and perhaps those women who faithfully followed and ministered unto Him of their substance. What was it like as Jesus watched many of His disciples turn back never to walk with Him again knowing they had seen His miracles and had partaken of the loaves of bread and of the fish?
With this imagery in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which our Lord spoke in the city of Jerusalem as He and His disciples were departing from the Temple. Upon departing from the Temple the disciples sought to call Jesus’ attention to the great stones and the great buildings there in the midst of the city. Upon hearing these words Jesus would declare unto them that of a truth the days were coming when not one of those stones would be left upon another for all would be cast down. In hearing these words spoken by Jesus the disciples would ask Jesus when this would be and what would be the sign of the coming of the Son of man. This would lead Jesus to speak directly unto the disciples concerning the Last Days and the events that would lead to the coming of the Son of man. This is something we must needs recognize and consider for when seeking to understand the Last Days we must recognize there will be two main and underlying realities that will be manifested during those days. If you take the time to read the words presented within these passages of Scripture you will find the first reality that will be manifested is that of deception—deception the likes of which the world has never seen nor will ever see again. The second reality which will be manifested is going to be persecution and it is this persecution that will in fact lead to many being offended—and not only many being offended but also the love of many growing cold. This is something we must needs understand—particularly and especially if we’re going to understand the words the apostle Paul wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as the saints of God to consider Jesus’ words spoken unto the disciples recorded for us in the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew for they help us to come face to face with the reality of suffering, affliction, trials, tribulation and even persecution in this life. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel beginning to read with and from the fourth verse:
“And Jesus answered and said unto 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” (Matthew 24:4-8).
“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 24:9-14).
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the eats, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles gather together” (Matthew 24:21-28).
Within this passage of Scripture we not only read of many false Christs and false prophets coming in the last days seeking to deceive many but we also read of nation rising against nation and kingdom rising against kingdom. Jesus spoke of famines, pestilences and earthquakes in divers places before transitioning to what the disciples of His should expect during those days. Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that during those days they would be delivered up to be afflicted and would kill many of them. Not only this but Jesus would go on to declare that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. As a direct result of this many would be offended and would betray one another and shall hate one another. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with what we can and should expect in the last days. Jesus made it perfectly clear that the last days are going to be marked by great deception—and not only great deception but great tribulation. Jesus made it perfectly clear that in the last days there would be many who would be offended because of affliction which arose against them. Jesus spoke in very clear terms and declared that in the last days His disciples and followers would be delivered up to be afflicted and men would even kill them. Not only this but Jesus also declared that those who followed and walked with Him would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Because of affliction and because of the hatred and animosity toward and against them many would be offended and this offense would cause many to betray one another and shall hate one another. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you read how not only will the disciples of Jesus be hated of all nations for His name’s sake and not only will many be offended but many would betray one another and shall hate one another. Thus the last days can and will be marked by the disciples of Jesus being hated of all nations for His name’s sake and men shall indeed hate one another. What gives even more meaning to this is when you consider the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle. Matthew as well as the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John.
Before I return to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount—words which are recorded in the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. I find it necessary to call your attention to the words which are recorded for us in the tenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel when Jesus calls the twelve unto Himself and ordains and appoints them as apostles, ambassadors and partners in the work of the kingdom and the ministry which the Father had sent Him. What’s more is I believe we must also consider the words which are recorded for us in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John where we find the words Jesus would teach and speak unto His disciples on the night in which He would be betrayed before He would suffer in the flesh and ultimately be crucified at the hands of the Romans. Consider if you will the following words found in each of these passages beginning with the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“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 be 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 sperents, 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 disciples 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 cam 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).
“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 greater 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).
With each of these passages of Scripture we encounter the undeniable and inescapable reality that in this world and in this life we can and will experience affliction, suffering, persecution and tribulation. Jesus made it absolutely and perfectly clear unto His disciples that after His departure—not only would the promised Holy Spirit come but with the coming of the Holy Spirit would come an age of persecution, an age of suffering, an age of affliction and an age of tribulation. Jesus made it perfectly clear unto the disciples and those who walked with and followed Him that they should and must indeed expect suffering and affliction in this life. No matter how many times and how many ways you read the four gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus you will find one common theme for his disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him—suffering, affliction and persecution are indeed imminent. With this being said I would dare say one of the greatest tragedies facing many within our churches today—particularly those in the Western churches—are men and women who are somehow surprised and caught off guard by suffering and affliction. There are countless men and women in many of our churches who are entirely and all together ill-equipped and unprepared for the coming days which are ahead because they have believed a lie and delusion that suffering, affliction and persecution are somehow for those who aren’t walking with God and those who aren’t pleasing in His sight. There are countless men and women in many of our churches who are living their lives in a place where they would be entirely and altogether surprised and caught off guard when suffering, affliction and even persecution arises for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. I am convinced this is why Jesus spent such a great amount of time teaching and preparing His disciples for the days which were ahead for although He would send the promise of the Father which was the Holy Spirit the presence of the Spirit would not be without the presence of persecution.
If there is one thing I am absolutely convinced of it’s that with the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit comes the presence of persecution, the presence of affliction, the presence of suffering and the like. Of course we know and understand that affliction, suffering, and even persecution was present in the earth before the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for even Jesus Himself spoke of the prophets being persecuted by the fathers during their generation. The eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews speaks of many who were persecuted, who were afflicted and who endured a great measure of suffering and tribulation. I can’t help but be reminded of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael—the three Hebrews in the land of Babylon—who refused to bow down and worship the golden image the king of Babylon had set up. Refusing to bow down and worship this image made of gold would be at their own peril for anyone who refused to bow down to this image would be cast alive into the fiery furnace. Even when standing before the king and given the opportunity to bow down and worship this golden image they refused to do so knowing that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace. Even if God wasn’t able to deliver them from the fiery furnace they would die being faithful and committed to their God not compromising and bowing down to this golden image. Of course we know they were cast alive and bound into the furnace which was heated seven times hotter and whose flames killed the men who cast them alive into the midst of it. To the king’s amazement he would look into the midst of the furnace and would see four men alive, unbound, unharmed and walking in the midst of it with one of them looking like the Son of man. These three Hebrews would be brought forth from the midst of the furnace unharmed without the smell of smoke upon their physical bodies, without a hair on their bodies being singed and without their clothes at all being burned. The same God who was in the midst of the burning bush that burned but was not consumed would deliver these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace without being consumed or harmed by the fire.
This is something we must needs recognize when reading the words presented in Scripture for the apostle Paul would declare that all who would live godly in this life would suffer persecution and affliction. What’s more is the apostle Paul would further declare that we must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. I am absolutely convinced there are many within the spiritual body of Christ who desperately need to be awakened to what it truly means to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I firmly believe there are countless men and women among us within many of our churches who made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus with the expectation of blessing, prosperity and the like. There are very few among us within our churches who have made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus with the full understanding and expectation and anticipation of suffering and persecution. This was something the apostles, something the apostle Paul and even the early Christians knew and were very much acquainted with. If you had tried telling any of the apostles or any members of the early church that persecution, affliction, suffering, tribulation and the like was not something that would be experienced by the disciples and followers of Christ they would have quickly corrected your way of thinking. From the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts through the final chapter we find the Christians and followers of the way experiencing tremendous persecution—first from those unbelieving, stiff-necked, hard-hearted and envious Jews and then from Rome itself. Those who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus during the days of the early church expected and even anticipated suffering, affliction and persecution and even the apostle Paul would declare that those who would seek to live godly in this life should expect and would in fact experience suffering and persecution in this life. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter. Consider if you will the following words found in these chapters beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Ye 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 5:6-11).
If there is one thing I so love about the words the apostle Peter wrote in this passage of Scripture it’s his admonition unto the saints of God which were scattered and suffering not to think it strange concerning the fiery trial which was to try them. The apostle Peter sought to exhort and admonish them to not be caught off guard or somehow surprised by the suffering, the trial, the tribulation and the affliction they experienced in this life. Moreover the apostle Paul would use the language to speak of such suffering and affliction as though some strange thing happened to them. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to whether or not we as the saints of God and those who are Christ’s disciples are somehow surprised and caught off guard when suffering, when affliction and when persecution arises. I firmly believe there are going to be many men and women within many of our churches in this western world who know absolutely nothing of suffering and absolutely nothing of affliction and tribulation and will not know what came upon them if and/or when it actually rises up in the midst of the earth. I believe there are going to be men and women who made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus under false pretense and false assumptions and who are seeking and serving Him solely for the blessing(s) and prosperity he can provide and offer them. Such men and women can and will be caught off guard when suffering, when affliction and even persecution arises for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Tell me you who are reading these words—when was the last time you experienced suffering and persecution for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus? When was the last time you were forced to choose between confessing Jesus Christ before men or denying Him before men? Have you ever been in a place where you have been forced to decide whether or not you would confess Christ before men—even if it might mean imprisonment or ultimately death—or whether you would deny Him?
When you come to the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian saints you will find beginning with the third verse the apostle Paul blessing God—even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—who was the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this particular truth and the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul would not only speak of God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by and in whose name we are and have been saved but also as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and consider God as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. What’s more is the apostle Paul doesn’t speak of God as the God of comfort but the God of “all” comfort, thus suggesting and revealing that all comfort—or I should say all true comfort—comes directly from the heart and person of the living God. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to describe how the God of all comfort comforts us in all our tribulation. With this being said, however, there is something we must needs recognize when reading the words written by the apostle Paul. It would be very easy for the apostle Paul to speak of God as being the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation and leave it at that. Had the apostle Paul left it at this it would seem and appear the God of all comfort was an individual and personal experience which was for our benefit alone. The apostle Paul could have left it at saying and speaking of the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation and completely left off the part immediately following that. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COMFORT OF GOD!
As I sit here today thinking about the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but be brought face to face with the idea and understanding that with the comfort of God in all our tribulation comes tremendous responsibility. I read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the responsibility and burden that comes with receiving comfort from the God of call comfort. It is true that the God of call comfort does in fact comfort us in all our tribulation, however, the apostle Paul suggests that the purpose of the comfort receive is for the direct benefit of others. You will notice the apostle Paul speaks of the God of all comfort as comforting us in all our tribulation “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.” Notice the use of the word “all” and the use of the word “any” within this passage. The apostle Paul speaks of and suggests that the God of call comfort comforts us in all our tribulation and the purpose of that comfort is that we might be able to comfort those who are in any trouble. These words which the apostle Paul writes in this passage must be carefully understood for within it we find that the God of all comfort doesn’t merely comfort us in some of our tribulation but comforts us in all our tribulation. The use of the word “all” in this passage must be carefully considered for it brings us face to face with the incredible truth that God comforts us in all of our tribulations and all of our troubles that we might be able to comfort those which are in any trouble.
I find the words the apostle Paul used in this passage of Scripture to be absolutely remarkable and astounding when you take the time to think about it for the words he uses suggests that because God comforts us in all our tribulations—regardless of what we face—we in turn are able to comfort our brother or sister in any trouble they face. In all reality I would dare say this passage suggests that we should not only receive the comfort of God in any of our tribulations but we should also be able to comfort our brother or sister in any trouble they face within their own life. It should not matter what trouble our brother and/or our sister faces and experiences within this life for we ought to be able to comfort them with the same comfort wherewith and whereby we were comforted of God. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you are brought face to face with the tremendous reality of the God of call comfort—the God who has comfort for any tribulation, any trouble, any tribulation we face—comforts us in all our tribulation that we in turn might be able to comfort our brethren in any trouble they face. What’s more is the comfort we received is not meant to be hoarded or somehow stored up within our hearts and souls as some type of monument for our own sake that we might brag and boast about it. Oh how many men and women have received comfort from the living God in the midst of their tribulation and they have stored up that comfort as a monument within their lives as something they might be able to look back upon for their own benefit and interest? If we are being truly honest with ourselves the comfort we receive from our God in any and all of our tribulations is meant to be extended unto others. In all reality this goes hand in hand with the words the apostle Paul wrote concerning it being better to give than to receive—something which the Lord Himself emphatically declared.
With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to speak to those who are reading these words and call your attention to the fact that there have been many who have not only become masters of receiving the comfort of. God but also masters of hoarding and storing up that comfort. Much like the rich man who was increased in goods and wealth who sought to tear down his barn and build one that was bigger and better to hold everything he received that he might live a life of ease so also these individuals store and hoard up that which they have received from the living and eternal God. Oh there is something in this world that is a perfect example of what this looks like and it’s actually a place I have been to in this life. In the southern part of the nation of Israel there is the Dead Sea which is known as such—not only because of the high concentration of minerals and salt that is present within it but also because absolutely nothing can live within its waters. Despite the fact that water flows from the Jordan River into the Dead Sea it offers absolutely no life in the midst of those waters. I have personally been in those waters and have floated upon them and have experienced the sensation that no one can sink in those waters because of the high concentration of minerals and salt that is present within it. What is so intriguing about the waters of the Dead Sea is that those waters do nothing but receive but give absolutely nothing in return. The waters of the Dead Sea receive water which flows from Mount Hermon in the north close to the Syrian border, receives water from the Jordan River which is fed by the dew of mount Hermon and the melt water from the snow atop it, and even receives from the Sea of Galilee and yet it gives absolutely nothing in return. The only thing the Dead Sea does is receive, receive and receive and as a direct result it is nothing more than a mass accumulation of water which has no life within it and can offer no life unto others.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints and I am confronted with the tremendous truth that we as the saints of God and those who are called to be the disciples of the Lord Jesus must needs be vessels and conduits through which the comfort of the living God flows. We were never created nor were we ever intended to be those who receive from God without every giving and offering anything to others. There is a great danger and tragedy surrounding those who are expert in “receiving” from the living God and yet offer nothing in return to others. In fact this is perhaps what is so incredibly dangerous about those who chose to live their lives in isolation and cut off from others thinking they can survive with it being just them and the living God. There is a great danger surrounding men and women who feel as though they can receive and continue receiving from the living and eternal God and yet not offer anything in return. IN all reality I am convinced that we were meant to live in a continual state of being filled as well as being emptied on a consistent and daily basis. I firmly believe that we have been called and created to be filled that what we are filled with we might be emptied of for the sake of others. We as the saints of God must needs continually be emptied of ourselves that we might indeed give unto others as we have received. We have never received nor do we ever receive solely that we might hoard and hold on to that which we have received within our lives. We are blessed that we might be a blessing and we were never meant to hoard the blessing(s) which the living God has bestowed upon our hearts and within our lives. There is a great danger surrounding and fasting those who seek to hold on to and hoard the blessing of God within their lives. Those who would seek to hoard the blessing. Of God and that which they have received from Him are those who care absolutely nothing for the body of Christ and the responsibility they have to others whom they have been called to give themselves to.
The more I think about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely incredible reality that we are to be vessels and conduits that both receive from the living God and pour out that which we have received from Him. The words the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture suggests that God comforts us in all our tribulation—not so we can hoard that comfort and hold on to it as a memorial but that we might comfort others which are in any trouble. We receive the comfort of God that we might be able to stand and endure any trouble and tribulation we face, however, we have in fact been called to be those who comfort others in any trouble they face. What’s more is there might even be times when while we are receiving comfort from God in our present tribulation we are asked and called to release that comfort unto others who are experiencing trouble and tribulation within their own life. We would be naïve to think and consider that God somehow waits until we have received all the comfort we need in the tribulation we faced and then and only when we have come out on the other sides of it are we able to comfort others in their trouble with the comfort we have received. The very source of all comfort in this passage of Scripture is the living God, however, we must needs understand that there is the receipt of comfort directly from God but there is also comfort that is received from those who themselves are walking through tribulation. Oh that we would recognize and understand that there are those who need the comfort of God and yet the only way for them to receive that comfort is directly through and from us. Oh would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that you might be the only source of comfort someone else might receive and the comfort you yourself are receiving is not meant for you alone?
In the their chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul speaks of the Corinthian saints as being epistles which are known and read by all men. Along these same lines there have been those who have said that we might be only Bible(s) others read within their lives. There have been those who have emphatically declared that we must preach at all times and if necessary use words. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for we have indeed been called to be vessels through which the comfort of the living God might flow. If there is one thing the words of the apostle Paul reveals in this passage of Scripture it’s that the comfort we receive from the living God is meant to flow through and not flow to us. That which we receive freely from the living God—the grace of God, the mercy of God, the compassion of God, the comfort of God, the love of God—was not meant to be received by us solely but must flow through us. We were designed and created to be vessels through which the love of God, the mercies of God, the grace of God, the compassion of God, the comfort of God flows through unto others. The Sea of Galilee not only receives the waters from the Jordan River which flows into it but it also offers those same waters to the Jordan River which flows from it southward unto the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is a perfect example of that which not only receives but also that which gives and this is a perfect example of what we have in fact been called to. The apostle Paul wrote in this epistle written unto the Corinthian saints that we are comforted in all our tribulations and must therefore comfort others with t he comfort which we have received from the living God. This is something we must needs recognize for the apostle Paul goes on to describe that as the sufferings of Christ abound in us so also does our consolation also abound by Christ for whether we are afflicted it is for the consolation and salvation of others which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings.