Getting Ready To Suffer
March 26, 2012
By John Barnett
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We can see on the horizon this evening, the world Jesus described as Earth at the End of Days.
As we open to Luke 21, remember, Christ's sermon called the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was His description of what the world would be like during the Tribulation’s horrors. But He framed His horrific description of the End of Days by these incredible words in one of these three parallel accounts, the one recorded in Luke 21:28:
“When you see these things (listen) BEGIN to happen, look up…”.
Tonight, all 10 of the major trends Jesus described are visible, they have begun, and as obedient believers we must increasingly be ready. We need more than ever to “look up” to Christ for daily grace, to go through the lead up to the Final Holocaust heading this way. That means, as we saw last time, that believers will experience greater and greater persecutions.
So, the persecutions we see all around the world are just a preview of the horrors to come. Jesus called them…
The Beginning of Tribulation
Turn back to Matthew 24 again as Jesus describes a snapshot of Earth at His Second Coming. Here are those characteristics of “the end of days” that Jesus described:
1. Jesus described: Global False Teaching (vv. 4–5).
2. Jesus described: Global Warfare (v. 6).
3. Jesus described: Global Famines, Epidemics and earthquakes (v. 7-8).
4. Jesus described: Global Persecutions (v. 9). Christians have always been hated by the world, but here we have an acceleration of persecutions and murders. All nations will be involved. This certainly was not true in the history of the early church.
5. Jesus described: Global Chaos (vv.10–13).
6. Jesus described: Global Evangelism (v. 14).
But whether or not those end of days events are as close as they appear to be; and whether or not we are seeing the beginning of the birth pangs of the Tribulation storm coming fast our way, making the seas of our present life rough, we do have the reminder from Paul in II Timothy 3:1-17. Bad times are ahead, end of days or not, for us who are alive today, just for being a believer.
As we turn to these key chapter of II Timothy 3, always remember that we are “in this world”, but never fit in because we are no longer “of this world”. Please stand as we rad God's Word:
1 "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
So, Jesus through His Word that is sufficient to prepare, defend, and protect us so that we can be useful to Him at all times, has warned us all in advance that…
A Global Holocaust Is Coming
Do you remember that all of the promises and prophecies Jesus gives in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21—are enlarged upon in great detail? When Jesus revealed Himself to the Apostle John on Patmos, He gave 14 chapters of future descriptions. If Matthew 24 sounds ominous; but it is only a brief introduction, the full report is overwhelming.
Walk with me through the pages of Revelation 6-19. Briefly, starting in Revelation 6:8, may I describe the living hell you can avoid if you are a part of the Rapture? Here are only a few of the dreadful disasters that take place during the Tribulation:
1. GLOBAL GRAVEYARD: Jesus described a time coming when one out of every four people will die (see Rev. 6:8), some through the ravages of war, others by starvation, and amazingly many others by the ‘beasts of the earth’. So, whether by death that come instantly and thus less dreaded or a slow and painful death that is lingering an agonizing 25% of all people will die.
As of this week, the world's population was 6,764,700,000 (or as Wired Magazine succinctly stated it recently, “close to 6.7 Giga-Bods”); and growing at 7.4 million per month. That means that if the Tribulation started this week (though it can’t without the Church being pulled out)—at least 1,691,000,000 will die.
That amounts to just less than 6 times the current population of the United States. With a billion new souls added every 11 years, you can see that this picture Christ gave us is getting more astounding every day.
2. GLOBAL WARFARE (Rev. 6:8; 14:20): Jesus described a time coming when there will be a world war involving the armies of much of the world; and that war is so bloody that He describes the blood of those killed in battle as flowing for two hundred miles, splashing up to the bridle of a horse in the valley of Jezreel. This will be the Battle of Armageddon.
3. GLOBAL STARVATION (Rev. 6:8; 18:8): Jesus described a time coming when there will be worldwide famine unlike anything the world has ever seen.
4. GLOBAL BROWNING (Rev. 8:7): Jesus described a time coming when one third of all vegetation will be burned up. All grass, every tree, and much of everything green will be destroyed.
5. GLOBAL NUCLEAR WINTER (Rev. 8:12): Jesus described a time coming when the sun and the moon will be darkened as nature goes into revolt.
6. GLOBAL HORROR SHOW (Rev. 9:3-6): Jesus described a time coming when the gates of hell will open and hordes of demonic locusts, the size of horses, will come upon the earth. Those locusts will be allowed to sting men like scorpions and the pain will last for five months. The Bible says men will beg God to let them die but they will not die.
7. GLOBAL NIGHTMARE (see Rev. 6-19): All told, during the Great Tribulation, as many as half of all the people on the earth will be killed. That is why God uses Paul to describe the Rapture as a ‘blessed hope’, because the Tribulation after the Rapture is so horrible!
So all of that translates again into a period, on the horizon that defies our attempt to describe it beyond what God's Word has already stated. Remember, Jesus said that we are all going to suffer persecution for all the years before this event. But those who live just before these dark days, need to especially get ready. How do we prepare for persecution, suffering, and dark days that precede the End of Days? By holding on tightly to:
A Biblical Perspective:
Persecution, Suffering, and Believers
First, God's Word tells us that persecution is inevitable for us as believers :
• 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. NKJV
• 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. NKJV
Second, we are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ :
• 1 Peter 2:20-23 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; NKJV
• 1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. NKJV
Third, God's Word promises wonderful treasures for those who face persecution:
• Death brings the ultimate blessing of actually being with Jesus: Philippians 1:21, 23 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. NKJV
• God will finally bring justice to all unjustly harmed when Jesus returns: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, NKJV
• Persecution and affliction matures us spiritually. James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. NKJV
• Persecution brings us Heavenly rewards. James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. NKJV
Fourth, God always is using persecution for His purposes:
• Persecution often helps us spread the gospel to other places. Acts 8:1, 4 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. NKJV
• Persecution helps to reveal Christ in us. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. NKJV
• Persecution helps to encourage others to be bold in their testimony. Philippians 1:12-14 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. NKJV
• The persecution of Christ's saints always glorifies Him. I Peter 1:7 These [all kinds of trials] have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)
How God wants to use Affliction in our lives Today
Whether or not we ever face an Islamic Jihadist deadly stare, we will face cancer, heart disease, job loss, and social strife. So God wants us to use the same principles that will keep us then, to keep us NOW! In short, we need to get a grip on a Biblical Theology of Suffering. One place to find that theology of suffering is in the longest chapter of the Bible: Psalm 119.
The writer I believe God used for this longest Psalm was Ezra, and in seven verses he captures a complete set of principles God operates with when regulating the flow of hard times through our lives. If you turn there and jot these 7 down, it will help you prepare for hard times today and for all of your tomorrows, whatever may come.
AFFLICTION is used by God because it --
- PUSHES US INTO GOD’S WORD: Psalm 119:50
- PULLS US BACK ONTO THE PATH: Psalm 119:67
- CHISELS GOD’S PLAN INTO OUR LIFE: Psalm 119:71
- TEACHES US THAT GOD IS FAITHFUL: Psalm 119:75
- KEEPS US FOCUSED ON OUR TEACHER: Psalm 119:92
- FORCES US TO TEST HIS PROMISES: Psalm 119:107
- BRINGS GOD TO OUR DOORSTEP: Psalm 119:153
Here are the godly benefits of suffering and enduring persecution and affliction by God’s grace. Affliction can be used by God when it--
1. PUSHES US INTO GOD’S WORD: Only God's Word can really help us in afflictions – cards, visits, gifts, activities all can only offer temporary relief through distraction or amusement.
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction (6040 emotional), for YOUR WORD (Reading Divine Word to find and follow God's Will for my life 565) has given me life.
• Life often dulls or deadens us to spiritual things, so when God sends afflictions our way God's Word quickens us or “has given life”.
2. PULLS US BACK ONTO THE PATH: A consistent life is built by afflictions. God uses afflictions to pull us back and keep us on His path for our lives. Often we only call when we need something – so He gives us reason to call.
Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted (6031 physical) I went astray, But now I keep YOUR WORD (Reading Divine Word to find and follow God's Will for my life 565).
• Affliction can stop us from straying away from God, so “now I keep”.
• Have you ever been driving late at night and slowly drifted to the side of the road? Remember when you hit those rumble strips and the way you jerked the wheel -- so that you got back on the road quickly? Afflictions are the rumble strips God uses to make us jerk our wheel of life to get us back on the road and to keep us from heading into the ditch!
3. CHISELS GOD’S PLAN INTO OUR LIFE: There are truths and lessons we only can learn in the furnace of trouble. And remember in the fiery furnace of Daniel 3, only the things that kept them from walking properly were burned away! So affliction scrapes away what is not part of God’s plans for our lives – people, possessions, positions, and securities…
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted (6031 physical), That I may learn YOUR STATUTES (Following the Divine Plans to build Life the way God intends it to be).
• Afflictions can remind us in a life long way of God’s Hand, His plans for us. Some of our greatest moments we will always remember were forged in the furnaces of affliction.
4. TEACHES US THAT GOD IS FAITHFUL: God’s unchanging faithfulness is learned best in affliction. Afflictions remind us that everything the Lord does is good, right, and the best thing there could be for us.
Psalm 119:75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments (Building Life upon God’s Unchanging Decisions) are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted (6031 physical) me.
• Afflictions are very personal “me”.
5. KEEPS US FOCUSED ON OUR TEACHER: The onset of troubles marks the beginning of a personal tutorial with our Divine Teacher. Affliction is an opportunity to “delight” ( ) in Him or for us to “perish ( ) in our troubles.
Psalm 119:92 Unless YOUR LAW (Receiving Divine Instruction from the Divine Teacher that is perfect). had been my delight; I would then have perished in my affliction (6040 emotional).
• Affliction “perishes” us or squishes our lives under its weight.
6. FORCES US TO TEST HIS PROMISES: Affliction usually increases, as we get older. But God's Word will always renew, refresh, and revive.
Psalm 119:107 I am afflicted (6031 physical) very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to YOUR WORD (Hearing the Divine Voice walking us through life 1697).
• Often we know so much more than we experience. Affliction is a reality check.
• Afflictions seem to grow through life to be more and more.
• After disasters people often listen better.
• Psalm 71 & 92
• The word for “very much” is the same Hebrew word used of the waters of the Flood covering the earth (Genesis 7,18-19) and of the plagues covering Egypt (Exodus 9.3 on cattle; Exodus 9.18 the hail; Exodus 10.14 the locusts).
• The word for “revive” is actually save my life and is the same Hebrew word as used for the rescue of Rahab from Jericho as the walls crumbled and everyone else was destroyed and she and her family alone were rescued (Joshua 2.13; 6.17, 25).
• Afflictions allow us to experientially test God’s promises.
7. BRINGS GOD TO OUR DOORSTEP: When Ezra said deliver me – he was asking the Lord to come to him with what he needed. Isn’t that what a deliveryman does? He brings exactly what we need? And that is the final blessing of affliction. Affliction comes with a promise from God for a special delivery. He comes right to us – with everything we need.
Psalm 119:153 Consider my affliction (6040 emotional), and deliver me, For I do not forget YOUR LAW (Receiving Divine Instruction from the Divine Teacher that is perfect).
• Afflictions continue, “consider” as You watch me.