suffering

Global Groaning

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25.

Since the fall of man, all the creatures of the earth have been living on a sin cursed world. And since the flood, they have all been living in dread of man, who began to take them as food. (Genesis 9:2-3). But when Christ returns, there will be new heavens and a new earth, and we will be revealed as the children of God. And the animals will no longer fear us, nor one another.

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
“The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
“They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 9:6-9).

It is inevitable that God is going to restore the earth and all nature to His glorious specifications. This is something mankind cannot do. But we can make sure that we are on it, ruling and reigning as the children of God. But first we must be reconciled to God. The animals don’t have to do this. Sin did not enter the world through them. They came along for the ride. But we must repent and believe in the one God sent to save us: Jesus Christ.

Leave It All On The Field

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:17-35.

Paul withheld nothing from the disciples he made for Christ. Twice he mentions ministering to them with tears. He also says he is innocent of their blood because he withheld nothing they needed to know. Why their blood? Because the counsel of God is a matter of life and death. And he does not withhold the dire warnings; that false teachers will come to slay the flock. By the way, some are already in the room. It’s important to be vigilant against the schemes of the devil. Advancing the kingdom is warfare, not a Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Most of my life’s regrets are not things I have said and done. They are things I have NOT said and NOT done. There are countless times I have kept silent because I didn’t want to start something unpleasant. Or maybe I just told myself I was putting it off until later, until it was too late. Now i realize that if Jesus’s promise that I would be hated for His name’s sake is to come true, I might have to insert His name more often than I have. I might have to act in His name, as He has commanded. In short, if I’m not using the name of Jesus to cause trouble, I might be doing it wrong.

Just look at the life of Paul: tears, suffering, prison, beatings, plots on his life, warnings against apostasy. Do you know anyone like this today? I don’t. And I’ve been around awhile. Something is missing in the church in America. And it’s not just healing and miracles.

An Opportunity to Suffer

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed. Acts 16:25-40.

It is interesting that Paul did not invoke his rights as a Roman citizen until AFTER he was arrested, beaten, and put in chains overnight. It could be that he wanted the opportunity to preach to the inmates at the jail. And he may have gotten to them while he and Silas prayed and sang hymns and gave glory to God. After all, the other inmates did not escape when they had the chance.

Paul was probably also wanting to enhance the reputation of the Gospel. By being willing to suffer for the word of God, Paul takes the moral high ground with the authorities. They owe him an apology, and they owe it to him not to harass him in the future. And, just as the jailer was moved to believe, the city officials may also be open to the Gospel in the future.

Let us also invoke our rights only when it serves to advance the kingdom, and let us suffer when it does the same. May we all be counted worthy to suffer for doing good.