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LEARNING HOW TO SUFFER

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Introduction

The famous preacher D.L. Moody told about a Christian woman who was always bright, cheerful, and optimistic, even though she was confined to her room because of illness. She lived in an attic apartment on the fifth floor of an old, rundown building. A friend decided to visit her one day and brought along another woman -- a person of great wealth. Since there was no elevator, the two ladies began the long climb upward. When they reached the second floor, the well-to-do woman commented, "What a dark and filthy place!" Her friend replied, "It's better higher up." When they arrived at the third landing, the remark was made, "Things look even worse here." Again the reply, "It's better higher up." The two women finally reached the attic level, where they found the bedridden saint of God. A smile on her face radiated the joy that filled her heart. Although the room was clean and flowers were on the window sill, the wealthy visitor could not get over the stark surroundings in which this woman lived. She blurted out, "It must be very difficult for you to be here like this!" Without a moment's hesitation the shut-in responded, "It's better higher up." She was not looking at temporal things. With the eye of faith fixed on the eternal, she had found the secret of true satisfaction and contentment.
Our Daily Bread.
This insightful illustration serves to remind us that there is more to life than the accumulation of material wealth, the promise of physical health, and the freedom of suffering.
The text before us this afternoon is tailored to teach us we are in need of knowledge about how to suffer.

Problem

A. Post-Modern Christianity does not know how to suffer
The truth of this statement is validated and verified by the lack of true commitment to Christ. it is evidenced by those who want causal, comfortable, and convenient Christianity. This casual, comfortable, and convenient approach to Christianity affects the lost because it takes away the seriousness of sin; it affects our children and future generations because it leaves them with a false image of what real Christianity is all about.
B. I would submit to you this afternoon that the cause of this problem can be traced directly back to the same entity that rose up to challenge the truth of God’s Word in the Garden of Eden.
In these days of Grace, He has sent false prophets to decree and declare that suffering has no part in God’s plan and purpose for His people. The message of “bear your cross” has been circumvented and replaced with a message of “wear your crown”. We have been inundated with doctrine that teach that God’s children are not supposed to be sick, poor, or anything else that could be defined as suffering.
I would suggest further, that the problem was able to develop in to the one it is today, because of the high rate of biblical illiteracy. Also, the truth of the matter is that people have accepted that message because it is what they want to hear and believe.
C. I wonder if we really understand the seriousness and consequences of this problem today?
if we continue to espouse this foolish notion that suffering has no place in the Christian’s life, we deconstruct the true message of the gospel and undermine the power of the cross.
Doing so makes us enemies of the cross, that is, those who lead others away from the Lord’s requirement for discipleship in Luke 9:23.
Luke 9:23 NASB95
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
The apostle Paul says that the consequences for enemies of the cross: “their end is destruction.” see Phil 3:18-19
Philippians 3:18–19 NASB95
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

With that truth in mind, the Lord has laid it on my heart to reiterate and to remind someone who may be listening in today: “No Cross, No Crown”. At the core of the issue today: Post modern Christianity must “Learn How to Suffer”. I am sure that the sentiment in here today is that you want to learn; and so the question on you mind right now is“tell us, brother preacher, How do we suffer.”

Solution

D. SUFFER KNOWING THAT YOU WERE CHOSEN FOR IT
The text says “for you it has been granted”. The New Living Translation (NLT) says “you have been given the privilege”. The word privilege suggests an opportunity, a fortunate happening; it is something that not everyone is privy to, conscious of, or acquainted with. Paul says to these believers in Philippi that they are among the chosen ones. He says that they have been chosen for two reasons: 1) to believe, and 2) to suffer.
I can hear somebody right now saying to yourself: “I can get with the ideal of being given the privilege to believe in Him, but how can you call suffering a privilege?” (Am I right about it?) Paul uses the Greek word “pascho” for suffering; which, at it’s core, means to “experience something”. In its classical usage it could mean to experience good or bad, but most everywhere it is used in the new testament it refers to pain or unpleasant experiences that must be endured.
The text would have us to see suffering as a privilege that we have been chosen for because the Lord uses those experiences to bring the best out of us. Let me show you: See James 1:2-4, Rom. 5:3-5
James 1:2–4 NASB95
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Romans 5:3–5 NASB95
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
WE HAVE BEEN PICKED OUT TO BE PICKED ON
E. SUFFER KNOWING THAT IT IS “HIS SAKE”
The Word Studies of the New Testament says that we should pay attention to every word in this phrase because “Every word here is significant. Suffering is a gift of grace. “It is given” should be “it was given,” referring to the gift bestowed when they became Christians. Suffering was the marriage-gift when they were espoused to Christ: the bounty when they enlisted in His service. Becoming one with Him they entered into the fellowship of His suffering (ch. 3:10). the gift was not suffering as such. Its meaning and value lay in its being for His sake. The Macedonian churches, and the Philippian church especially, were preeminently suffering churches.
The Faithlife Study Bible says of the verse -
People in the Graeco-Roman world who became Christians would have faced all kinds of persecution. The problem people had with Christians was not so much that they were following Christ, but that they were failing to properly worship the community’s gods—especially the emperor.
Dishonoring the gods was thought to invite disaster upon the community, and those who abandoned pagan and imperial worship practices would have been treated with suspicion. In a strongly Roman city like Philippi (see note on v. 1), the decision to follow Christ could have brought severe social, economic, and legal consequences. Family and friends might cut ties with believers, employers might fire them, and clients might take their business elsewhere. Personal conflicts could easily end up in court, with Christians facing harsh punishment as troublemakers or traitors. The precarious situation likely confronting the church at Philippi shapes much of what Paul says in this letter.
Let me be clear today: It is possible that individual are experiencing suffering because of their “own sakes”. Just in case we have looked over it, the truth of the matter is that sin brings suffering. Never forget that it’s because of sin that suffering came into the world. And as much as this post modern culture would love to eliminate the subject of sin altogether: it is sin that causes much of the suffering that people are enduring.
In First Peter 4:15-16 reminds us that you can suffer for doing right or for doing wrong. I would admonish you today to let your suffering be for His sake; that is, suffer as a Christian.
1 Peter 4:15–16 NASB95
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
F. SUFFER KNOWING THAT IT LEAVES AN EXAMPLE
We further learn from Paul that we do not suffer in isolation. There are those who are watching us as we are going through our struggles. This lets us know that as we learn to suffer, we must suffer knowing that it leaves an example. In the text Paul tells the his readers at verse 30, “We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it (NLT).
The Philippians was well acquainted with the sufferings that the Apostle had endured, starting from his initial encounter with them (Acts 17) until the time of the writing of this letter (in a collection called the “Prison Epistles). Paul’s suffering for Christ was an example to them.
Amazingly, unlike Paul, we want to impress people with how well we have it. So much so that it has become altogether unlovely for people to know that we have any struggle at all. As a matter of fact people are so self conscience of anybody knowing that they are suffering that they hide behind the mask of false bravado, but knowing full well that they ain’t got it like they are pretending to have it. But instead of hiding the it, you ought to let it been known.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 6152 Fearing His Scars

Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For 7 heartbreaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for 17 months was subjected to almost incredible mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the ugly marks made by the chains and iron shackles which had cruelly bound him.

Undaunted, upon his release he asked for permission to enter another province where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless ruler indignantly denied his request, saying, “My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might SAY, but I fear they might be impressed by your SCARS and turn to your religion!”

Conclusion

Christians in this postmodern world must not be fooled into accepting any teaching that is free from the element of suffering. We are reminded in Acts 14:22 that the entering the kingdom of God happens from enduring many tribulations.
Acts 14:22 NASB95
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Each one of us here today, if we were honest would have to confess that we are guilty of falling into that place where the commitment to Christ was only casual, comfortable, and convenient. At that place where the message of the cross was eclipsed by our desire to bypass the pain that goes along with it. But, thanks be to God for his grace and mercy that spared us and allowed us to keep on living. I just rose to tell somebody today: As long as you are living, you should be learning.
I am glad to be able to tell you today that “I’m learning how to live holy; I’m learning how to live right. I’m learning how to suffer; for if I suffer, I’ll gain eternal life. When I see Jesus, all my suffering will be over.

Invitation

MUST JESUS BEAR THE CROSS ALONE
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