Faithlife Sermons

Suffering

Letters To the Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Count the Cost

Few people count the cost of following Jesus. They embrace the grace, mercy, forgiveness and love of Christ, but do not consider the cost to follow him. Jesus makes it plain what the cost to follow Him is
25 Now [a]large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not [b]hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends [c]a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Jesus had a mega church, because He was giving the people what they wanted. He was feeding them, healing them, teaching them, and showing them great miracles. The people were enjoying the blessings of following Jesus. There are tremendous blessings in following Jesus that go way beyond what the people were receiving and much deeper than what they were experiencing.
Jesus turned to them and told them to consider the cost of following Him. The cost is tremendous. so let’s look at what Jesus said.
You must love me more than you love your family. For them this meant that for them to proclaim Jesus as their Savior it may mean that they would be disowned by their family because they reject Judaism. For us today this can also be true. But what I have observed more today is not as dramatic as what they faced then. What I see today are people that prioritize family activity over worship. A classic example of this is when they come to church as long as they don’t have something to do with the family. Another example is when a person does not respond to a call of ministry because they don’t have time due to wanting to do something else with the family. This is not to say that there are times when you need to be with your family rather than at church, but these are few and far between.
You must love me more than your own life. For many of the people following Jesus this would be a reality. All of the apostles except John gave their life for following Christ. This is the same for us. Though it seems unlikely that this would happen in the US, it is happening all over the world. Many Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus. We must understand that the requirement for this is the same for us. We must be willing to lay our lives down for the cause of Christ.
You must love me more than your stuff. Jesus was telling the people back them that their choice to follow Him would require the provision of the home and of the temple. They must be prepared to sacrifice everything they own to follow Him. We too must be willing to give up all our worldly goods in order to follow Him. Give example of how I left a lucrative finance career to follow God’s calling. It isn’t easy but it is much more rewarding.

Expect Suffering

Suffering is rarely talked about in the American church. I find this ironic because suffering is all through the New Testament. I did a sermon one time where I went through every book of the New Testament and started reading verse after verse about suffering to show it’s not just in one book. It’s not just one verse. It’s all over the place. It’s one of the clearest doctrines in the New Testament. Over and over it says that as followers of Christ we’re going to suffer for Him; we’re going to be hated; we’re going to be rejected. I preach messages on suffering and people think it’s some kind of strange or new teaching, which is crazy given how prominent it is in the Bible. But we just don’t talk about it.
The fact that this is such a major theme throughout the New Testament yet such a lost concept within our churches is a huge problem. The more I study the Gospels, the more I am convinced that those of us who live in the United States have a warped view of what it means to be a “Christian.” It is for that reason our churches are in the state they are in. A warped view of Christianity can result only in a warped church. But what if we started over? What if we bulldozed what we currently call “church” and started over with actual Christians?
Chan, Francis. Letters to the Church (p. 132). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
Suffering is unpleasant and we do not like to go through it. I believe the American church has convinced itself that if we follow Christ, He will protect us from suffering. This goes contrary to what the Bible teaches.
“If the world hates you, know that it has 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, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world 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.”
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.”
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
Chan, Francis. Letters to the Church (p. 144). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Endure Suffering Through Pursuing Christ and Loving Others

Pursuing Christ

We are not to seek out suffering for the suffering sake. We are to follow Christ expecting that doing so will bring suffering.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul understood that everywhere he would go he would face suffering. This did not deter him because of his deep seeded love for Jesus. He considered suffering for Jesus sake an Honor. Suffering for Christ sake is foreign to most American church goers. When we suffer for Christ we typically withdraw from him and take shelter in a more convenient situation. For example, when people focus in what they will have to sacrifice to follow Christ in obedience, but choose not to because it is too difficult or out of their comfort zone.

Loving Others

We must be willing to sacrifice for others. When we do this, suffering is involved. We must be willing to love people enough to help them follow Christ. Even when when it cost you something. It will be hard, but the suffering will yield tremendous rewards
I have friends who have adopted children because they wanted children. I have other friends who have adopted children because they loved children. There’s a big difference. I have friends who love so well they have adopted children with special needs or troubled children out of the foster system. These loving decisions often wreak havoc in a family. As I ask the couples why they do this, the answer usually sounds like this: “We don’t think about how much we will suffer if we take her in; we think about how much she will suffer if we don’t.” When we love others, we are being the hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus loved the marginalized, rejected, and forgotten. And at the end of His life, His hands and feet were nailed to a cross. Real love demands something of us, and it will lead us into suffering.
Chan, Francis. Letters to the Church (pp. 143-144). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
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