I know the theme of suffering is not popular in Western Christianity, but it is a part of our calling as the disciples of Jesus. Many will even rebuke any and all forms of suffering. One preacher went as far as to foolishly proclaim that the church today is now far more advanced than the early Church was in its embryonic state, and we don't have to suffer like they did. How some preachers manage to remain in their pulpits while spewing out such ignorant and misleading statements I'll never know. Oh yes, I do know—naïve and gullible people continue to grant them the authority to stay.
Jesus was our example and He suffered many things for the sake of doing His Father's will and bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10, 5:8-9). In the same way, we are called to jointly participate in the same hatred, ridicule, rejection and persecution He suffered, so that we might also bring many to Him. We are called to suffer with Him (Rom. 8:17).
"For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).
We will be hated and persecuted as Jesus was, if we live as He taught us to live.
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, the world therefore hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My words, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).
Jesus bore in His own body our sins, sicknesses and diseases so we need not suffer that way, but we are called to suffer in other ways aforementioned. But I'm afraid much of the American church is unprepared to suffer. We need a suffering theology that will equip and prepare us to face a hardship that I believe will intensify in this last hour before Jesus returns—all for the sake of others and the gospel.
In 1963 the late Kenneth E. Hagin prophesied these words by the Spirit of God:
"For there came a dark hand up out of the ocean from the east, even from the Atlantic Ocean. It came up out of the sea as a hand and as it rose up into the air it became a dark cloud and it filled the whole atmosphere. Yea, and it swept in like a storm at sea. And I said, 'Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Oh Lord! What's the meaning of this?' And He spake unto me and said, 'Son, that is the darkness of atheistic communism that is sweeping across the nation—even in the minds of men in high places and politicians with great power. And this nation shall not grow more strong and you shall not have more liberty than you have now, but liberties that you've known and you've seen shall be seized and taken from you.'
"And I looked again, and I could see upon the mountain a blotch, as though a bottle of ink had been spilled and spread out over several states in the south and east. And then I looked and I could see spots splotched all over the map and I said, 'Lord, what meaneth this?' And He said, 'Communistic inspired hatred among races shall cause greater turmoil than your nation has seen heretofore. Yea, it is not the will of God but men's hearts are perverse and they walk without the love of God and seek to have their own way. And so it shall be worse than you have seen.'"
In the second part of this vision Hagin saw a large ball of fire coming down from heaven and splitting up into many sparks and tongues of fire spreading throughout the nation. This signifies that judgement and revival will manifest simultaneously in America.
Listen to what Communist leader Khrushchev said almost 60 years ago:
"Your children's children will live under communism. You Americans are so gullible. No, you won't accept communism outright; but we'll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find that you already have communism. We won't have to fight you; we'll so weaken your economy, until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands." - Nikita Khrushchev, 1959
If even a portion of these statements come to pass in our lifetime you can be sure there will be another level of suffering for believers in our beloved nation. But we are not conditioned to suffer. Quite the contrary. The American church has been conditioned to avoid suffering at all costs. Yet all the great souls that have been called and planted by the Lord have experienced suffering, especially in antichrist nations. It was the pain of suffering that conferred great character and strength to their faith.
Not only are we not conditioned to suffer, but there seems to be little place given to chastisement, brokenness, a contrite heart, poverty of soul and godly sorrow in the church and in our society today. Instead, our culture breeds pride, arrogance and a sense of entitlement. We love control and we tend to glory in our fleshly achievements and successes, and this attitude has infiltrated much of the church.
It seems that in today's "let's get motivated to succeed" crazed culture within the church, too few have taken the time to discover the truth, the purpose and the significant role that suffering plays when it comes to our solid spiritual growth and development in Christ.
I've been around persecuted Christians and have received much from their spirit. When you are around someone who suffers, there is an aroma of Christ that pervades the very atmosphere. Listen to the words of Watchmen Nee describe the breaking of the alabaster box by the woman who anointed Jesus for burial (John 12:1-8):
"The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered—been limited, gone through things for the Lord, been imprisoned, and satisfied with the Lord and nothing else—immediately you sense the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed. Something has been broken. And there is a resulting odor of sweetness."
More than anything in this hour, the church, most notably the American church, needs to humble herself and allow a new brokenness to prevail in her character, and stand ready and prepared to suffer, if need be, for the gospel and the sake of others.
"Now thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ and through us reveals the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God a sweet fragrance of Christ among those who are saved and among those who perish. To the one we are the fragrance of death, which brings death, and to the other the fragrance of life, which brings life ... " (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
Bert Farias' books are forerunners to personal holiness, the move of God and the return of the Lord. They also combat the departure from the faith and turning away from the truth we are seeing in our day. Cleansing the Temple is his most recent release. You can follow him personally on Facebook, his Facebook ministry page, or Twitter.
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