Tag Archives: suffering

Love The Brotherhood

We are living in days when the price tag on being a Christian—a true Christian—is becoming increasingly apparent.  That’s already true in many countries where to be a Christian costs you your life, or prison, or severe persecution even at the hands of those you love most.

We haven’t seen much of that here in western lands so far, but the forces of darkness here are becoming increasingly hostile these days.  If you stand for truth and righteousness you are going to pay for it—even here in the so-called free world.

A while ago when reading through 1 Peter I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  This letter is well known for its emphasis on trial and suffering.  But I noticed that interlaced through the letter there is a call—that we love one another.

And so I think, brothers and sisters, that as we see things growing more difficult we are going to see something else growing—something very beautiful–the fervent love of Christ among the brethren in a world that hates God and His Christ.

It’s because of this hatred that Peter urges us:

Love the brotherhood (1 Pt. 2.17).

And also:

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (tenderhearted), courteous (of a friendly mind) (1 Pt. 3.8).

Peter says finally, but apparently the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet.  He goes on to talk about suffering for doing what is right, saying that if we are determined to follow Christ in this world and truly cease from sin, we are going to suffer for it.  And then he brings up this matter of love again.

And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4.8).

I noticed in my Greek Interlinear bible that the article is there; it reads, “have the fervent love among yourselves.”  Peter has a specific love in mind.  I think it can only be the very love of Christ he has in mind, the fervent love of Christ who in His love for us was stretched out on a cross for us.

The Greek word for fervent actually means stretched out, meaning intensely strained, as if on the rack.  And Peter urges us that this same intense fervent love be among us.

In fact at the beginning of his letter he has already called for this.  “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…”  Let’s look at this more closely.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,
Being born again… (1 Pt. 1.22,23).

So, love is the evidence of the new birth.  How is it, then, that even among those who lay claim to the new birth there has been so much… let’s just call it opposite-of-love?  But Peter says it’s a purified soul that shows unfeigned fervent love.  It’s possible to be born again and still carnal.  The born again person must grow and be purified of all carnality.  And so when we are not walking in love, it’s because of the impurities in our heart—selfish ambition, self love, the lusts of other things….

But God has something that is able to deal with all that carnality—the fiery trial that Peter has been talking about all through his letter.  Here’s the much-quoted passage.  And notice the word Peter uses to begin it.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.13,14).

We are loved, brothers and sisters.  Let us love one another, then, with stretched-out love.

No Leftovers

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When outlining to the Israelites God’s provision for their deliverance from Egypt, Moses told them they were to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the side posts and lintel of the doors of their houses.  This would be their protection when the Destroyer went through the land of Egypt slaying every firstborn of man and beast.

This event is the basis upon which Christians claim their salvation by the blood of Christ, whom the apostle Paul calls “our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7).  In the New Testament, much emphasis is placed on the blood of Christ by which we are saved, and rightly so.

John calls us to give all glory “to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

Peter reminds us that we were not redeemed with corruptible things like gold or silver from our futile way of life, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pt. 1:19).

Paul also emphasizes the redemption that is ours through Christ, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” Eph. 1:7).  Paul surely has the Passover in mind when he teaches that, “much more then, being justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom.5:9).

But important as this is, let us remember that in addition to this application of the blood to the doorposts of their houses, Moses gave two other injunctions which the people were to keep. (See Exodus Ch. 12).

They were to keep a feast of unleavened bread seven days.

And the same night in which they applied the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts with hyssop, they were to remain in their houses and eat that same lamb.

What is more, they were told there were to be no leftovers.  If any of the lamb remained till the next morning, they were to burn it.

All these aspects of the Passover are significant; not one can be neglected.  I say significant—meaning they were signs pointing to a greater reality.  The blood we have already touched on.  The unleavened bread speaks of a walk “in sincerity and truth,” as Paul explains (1 Cor. 5:8).  We must be genuine; we must walk the talk, or we do despite to the blood of Christ and the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29).

And we must partake of this Lamb.  Applying the blood does not stand alone and will not produce a working salvation in the person who is not also taking up the cross and sharing this Lamb’s sufferings.  Those who think they have been saved by the blood of the Lamb, but who then give themselves to life in this world and evade His sufferings… they are deceiving themselves.

The Passover lamb was to be roasted in fire and thus eaten; it could not be eaten raw, or boiled in water.  It had to be touched by fire, “his head with his legs, and with the purtenance (the innards) thereof” (Ex. 12:9).  That is to say, both inside and out, this lamb had to go into the fire.  And the Israelites were to partake of this lamb.

So with us.  This must become our own diet, too.  The fires of the Cross must become our own Christian experience—inside and out.

And we must see this for what it is—the highest of privileges.

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake (Phil. 1:29).

The word given here has the thought of a gracious privilege.  We aren’t seeing right when we view the cross in our lives as an unwanted burden, and take it up reluctantly, with heavy heart.  We must, as it were, cultivate a taste for Lamb.

We must partake of the Lamb.  And we must do so today… or should I say tonight—that is, during this time of darkness our world is now enshrouded in.  Christians the world over are suffering with the Lamb of God in this night… and are longing for morning.

That morning is nigh at hand.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.

What about you and me?  For, when that day dawns… when morning comes, resurrection morning… it will be too late to share in Christ’s sufferings anymore.  Too late.

And those who have not suffered with the Lamb of God will have wasted their lives in this world.

The Price Of The Presence Of Christ

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I can sum up in one sentence a book I’ve been reading on early Christian history.  The early Christians lived in a world that hated God and loved blood.  The populace of Rome and other cities of the Empire came out to the arenas for their blood sports as passionately—and as routinely—as North Americans to a football or hockey game, cheering and jeering and betting on the outcomes.  Professional gladiators fought to the death; Christians and criminals died horrible deaths.  It was entertainment to a society that had become completely depraved.  They loved blood.  And ultimately God gave them blood to drink—their own at the hands of the barbarian hordes.

This is the kind of world the early Christians were up against and in which many of them became martyrs.  The story of their sacrifice is deeply moving.  But that was just the beginning.  Apparently the number of Christian martyrs all through history amounts to about 70 million.  Half of that total—something like 45 million—took place in the 20th century.  The world has not changed all that much, has it.  We’re in the early years of the 21 century now, and stories of Christian persecution are frequent news.

Notice what I just said: stories of Christian persecution are frequent news.  Here in North America we don’t experience this first hand.  We enjoy religious freedom; the world about us more or less leaves us alone.  That is, so far.  There’s a foreboding by certain Christians on a website I sometimes visit (SermonIndex) that persecution is at the door in the United States.  This likely means Canada too, I would think.  Considering the past—and what is happening in other nations even today—it’s inevitable that severe persecution will be the portion of western Christians too.

The question is, what will bring this persecution on?  In many countries to identify yourself as a Christian is to imperil your life.  Not here.  Being a Christian does not get you persecuted in Canada or the United States.  So how is it that persecution is likely to come upon us here?  What will change?

I hear someone saying it will happen because our society is more and more ready to openly express its growing hatred for God.  I agree.  But what will cause that latent hatred to be manifested openly?

Psalm 2 comes to mind.

Why do the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.

Is not this increasingly the mindset of our western societies?  Enough of the confining cords and restraints of righteousness!  God is not going to tell us what to do.  We want loose!

But that means dealing with and silencing those who reprove them.  That means gathering together “against the Lord and against His Christ”—His Anointed One.  Yes, and, as the Christians in the book of Acts who quoted these words discovered, that means gathering together against the “anointed ones” as well—the Christians (Acts 4.26).

Jesus said:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you (Jn. 15.18).

I’ve read these words often.  One day the light came on as I read them.  The whole context of this verse is… Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the coming of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth.  It was a “coming” that was in a very real sense the coming of Christ Himself to them.  For, He has just said to them, “I will not leave you comfortless (orphans); I will come to you” (Jn. 14.18).  And He is talking of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the full reality of the coming of the Holy Spirit to you and me is that Christ Himself has come, and is seen in our lives.  This is not going to be taken kindly by a world that hates God.  And so John says in one of his letters, “Marvel not if the world hate you” (1 Jn. 3.13).  Why are we not to marvel?  It’s because we live in a world that hates God… and suddenly, because of the Holy Spirit in you and me, they see God manifested in you and me.

This is the significance of Jesus’ words.  “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”  He goes on:

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15.18,19).

In other words, the world doesn’t hate its own.  If we are like the world, we are in no danger of persecution.  But those who are not of the world, those Christ has chosen out of the world and in whom His Spirit has come to dwell… the world that hates God will hate these anointed ones.

And what do we mean by the world?  When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples He was including many who boasted they loved Jehovah.  Yet their religion was just a cloak.  Very religious they might be, but they actually hated God.  See what He says?

If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father (Jn. 15.22,24).

That’s the significance of the Son of God.  They couldn’t go around professing they loved Jehovah when their God appeared in the person of His Son… and they hated Him.  In like manner, the coming of the Holy Spirit reveals the hearts of all men—those out there in the world… and professing Christians as well.  They won’t be able to continue saying they love Jesus when they hate those who are one with Him because of the Spirit of Jesus in their lives.

Most everyone likes to think of themselves as a nice person; most people would protest indignantly being told they hate God.  But it’s their reaction to the Holy Spirit—their reaction to a vessel in whom God dwells by the Holy Spirit—that tells on them.

Some, upon this revelation of their own hearts, will be convicted and broken.  And deeply repentant.

Others will harden their hearts, and take out their hatred of God and His Christ on those in whom He is shining forth.

There are many genuine Christians who live in countries where they are persecuted merely for being identified with the literal Name of Christ.  What about us here?  But remember, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who is sent in Christ’s Name.  “…The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name” (Jn. 14.26).  It is this that we Christians need in the western world, where ordinary churchgoers are not persecuted but rather ignored.  There are many Christians in the West who are grieved to the quick over the state of their world—and their church.  They are seeking God about it.  They have a great cry on their heart.  I believe God is going to answer that cry with a baptism of His Presence that will mean Christ Himself is seen in them.

That makes me tremble.  Christ Himself?  Oh, how deeply we need this Testimony.  It’s something we seek to give ourselves to day by day… and sow to, and pray for, and long for, and cry for… and expect.

But this is the Presence of One that the world has demonstrated time and again it hates.  This is a visitation with a price tag on it.

Hold Fast Your Title Deed Of Faith

We have been talking about the day of recompense.  The day of vengeance.  But before we go any further we need to remember that this is God’s right alone.  We are not to take vengeance into our own hands.  We must leave it all to God.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Rom. 12.19).

And He will.  The day comes when God recompenses all men according to their works.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with the him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Woe unto the wicked!  It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him (Isa. 3.10,11).

In other words, God repays them in kind—repays them out of their own pocket, actually.  For some this means trouble, and wrath.

But for the faithful Christian it means the recompense of salvation.

So above all things, beloved  Christian, in the fiery trial hold tightly the certificate of your faith.

Faith is the substance—the title deed—of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11.1).

As long as we have this title deed in our hand we are the possessors of a very great salvation—a salvation so great that even the angels desire to look into it.  This is why the testing of our faith is so important.  It is tragic when in the fiery trial someone draws back or turns aside.  What loss… when God meant the whole thing to be for our great gain.  Whatever the Devil or wicked men have in mind, God’s intent is to purify our faith in the fire—not that we draw back unto perdition, but that we believe unto the saving of our souls (Heb. 10.39).

Our salvation is sure—as long as we maintain faith and hope.  Our salvation is in the sphere of faith and hope—and we are to arm ourselves accordingly lest this hope be robbed from us.  For the day comes when we obtain this great salvation.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us, that whether we wake (Gk. watch) or sleep we should live together with Him (1 Thes. 5.8-10).

Notice this, it’s very beautiful.  If you and I are faithful on our watch, and then when the watch is over, fall asleep (in death)… our salvation is just as sure as for the one who is still awake and watching when Jesus comes with His salvation.  We don’t miss out on anything.  We shall live together with Him.

So let us be faithful on our watch!

And let us always remember how important our faith is, and the trial of that faith.  The trial of our faith is “more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire” (1 Pt. 1.7).  As we are faithful in that trial, and endure, it will be found “unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing (in the revelation) of Jesus Christ.”  My.  That is something.  Help us dear Lord not to be short sighted when we are in the midst of the trial of our faith!

Yes, we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—we are saved.  But our salvation is in the sphere of faith.  We are saved by grace—through faith.  That faith is the title deed to what we hope for.  And so we guard it, protect it, nurture it in one another against the day when that salvation is revealed.  We are saved—but we anticipate the day when this salvation is revealed.  We in this day are “kept by the power of faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pt. 1.5).  It is a “great salvation,” and we dare not neglect it (Heb. 2.3)—so great a salvation that “the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow…” (1 Pt. 1.10,11).

This theme is much on Peter’s mind as he writes his first epistle—that this day is the day of suffering, the day of the trial of our faith—which is followed by the day of glory.  (We don’t wonder that Peter would write so much along this line; he went through a very severe trial of faith himself.)  He exhorts us:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.12,13).

And still further he says:

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed… (1 Pt. 5.1).

There is a salvation ready to be revealed to us—in the day of Christ’s glory when we are glorified with Him.  If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified together with Him.  And the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us.  Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… as we come out of it all with tried, and tested, but unshaken faith.

The Christian’s portion in this world, this present evil age, is trouble—humiliation, suffering, alienation, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution… hatred from a world that hates God and His Christ.

But what is coming?  Another day.  The day of judgment.  The day of recompense.  The day of vengeance.  For some, this means wrath.  But for some it means salvation, as we are faithful to take up our Cross in this age, and wait for His Son from Heaven, who has delivered us from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1.9,10).

We can sum it all up by saying that we who are saved anticipate salvation in the day of wrath which is at the door.  Our judgment will be salvation—not wrath.  And so we are not afraid of what is coming.  We anticipate it!  We anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ—our Salvation Himself.  Those in all ages who have suffered for His Name have cried out, “O Lord Jesus, how long, how long, till we shout the glad song:  Christ returneth, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!…”

He comes—His recompense with Him, and His work before Him—to the joy and rejoicing of our hearts.

God Will Get Even

Notice from last time that Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with the hope that the righteous God would recompense trouble to those that troubled them, “and to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.5-8).

Notice this also.  Paul does not say merely “them that know not God,” but “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  He equates the two—knowing God, and the Gospel.  None of us start out with the knowledge of God.  It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that any man comes to know God.  And He will deal justly with those who had opportunity to know Him through the Gospel, and rejected it.  He will also deal justly with those who received His Gospel.

…Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.3-8).

It’s important to understand that word recompense.  Many there are who accuse God of being vindictive and just plain mean—coming in flaming fire to wreak vengeance on all those nice people that know not God and obey not the Gospel.  What they fail to realize is that God is merely recompensing them that which is their own.  They heaped trouble on His own, who did not deserve it.  Now their trouble comes back to them.  For God is just.  He renders to every man according to his own works (Rom. 2.6).  The Christians in  Thessalonica patiently endured the trouble that was being heaped on them, not rendering evil for evil, but trusting in their God.  And so now God recompenses them rest in the day of wrath.  He gives them what is their own.

And He repays in their own currency those who troubled the church.  He troubles them.

In other words—and this is a wonderful mystery—as they heaped trouble on the Christians they were actually building and stoking their own fire.

For God is the God of recompense.  The merciful obtain mercy.  Those who deal in wrath get wrath returned to them in the day of the righteous judgments of God.

God says He is coming in vengeance.  Here’s another word that gets the Christian’s God a lot of bad press.  But once again it is a matter of the just God merely giving others their own.

And so, yes, the day of vengeance is much to be dreaded by the wicked—for He gives them the fruit of their own wickedness.  But it is a day to be much longed for by those who accepted God’s kind offer of salvation in the day when He stretched forth His arms to receive any who would come to Him—the acceptable year of the Lord, as He calls it (Isa. 61.2).  There is a time when God proffers salvation with open arms to all men no matter how wicked they are.  “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found,” He cries, “call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our  God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55.6,7).

It’s the acceptable year of the LORD; His arms are wide open to all; there is no excuse for any man to continue in his wickedness.

“I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored (helped) thee: behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6.2).

But if the wicked are not willing to receive what is God’s… what can He do but give them what is their own?

And those who turned from their wickedness and received God’s gracious offer of salvation… and subsequently endured “manifold temptations,” afflictions, persecutions… shall not God get even with them also?

For the time comes when that day of salvation, that acceptable year of the Lord, draws to a close, and the day of vengeance dawns.

Those who laughed… they cry now. (Lk. 6.25).

And those who wept now laugh (Lk. 6.21).

He comforts those who mourned.  He gives them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa. 61.2,3).

He comes with vengeance… and saves us!  The salvation He opened to us in the day of salvation, and which we embraced by faith and hoped in… and walked in patience, and trust, enduring hard things… now He delivers that salvation in full.

“Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense…”  Sounds so frightening.  But keep reading.  “…He will come and save you” (Isa. 35.4).

His vengeance means He pays out in full the salvation His people believed Him for in the day when what they got for their faith in Him was nothing but trouble, affliction, suffering, ridicule, persecution.

Let us nurture this hope, then, fellow Christian.  It is not a strange thing when the fiery trial comes our way.  In the midst of the fire let us hold tight our certificate of faith—the title deed of what we hope for (Heb. 11.1).  That faith may be tried severely.  But it will mean great joy for us in the day when God gets even with all men.

The Day Of Seven Troubles

George Fox exhorted the early Friends to be valiant for the truth in this day of trial and persecution.  For if we are Christians, this is our portion in this day, as many in other lands have already discovered.  We Christians here in western lands need to arm ourselves with the same mind—and thus be prepared for the hardships and sufferings that are our portion in this evil day.

Here’s another thing Fox encouraged the early Friends with in one of his letters.

And the Lord hath promised to deliver His people in the six troubles, yea, in the seventh, the perfection of troubles… (Letter 377, To Friends that are Prisoners in York)

Fox had in mind Eliphaz’ words to Job.

He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee (Job 5.19).

Eliphaz was insinuating that the reason Job was in “seven troubles” was because there was something in his life that disqualified him from God’s deliverance—some hidden sin he was not being honest about.  The truth of the matter is that God was trying a vessel He loved very deeply, and when He had finished His work He brought him forth as gold.

This is what He was doing with those early Quakers as well.  This is what He is doing with Christians in Eritrea and Pakistan and Iran, and other places in the earth where persecution is severe in our day.  It’s what He has in mind for you and me also in the day of seven troubles that is dawning.

He promises deliverance, salvation.  But when the promised deliverance is delayed?  We must go through our troubles valiantly—trusting Him, believing He is a God of integrity, and will be true to His word.  We must be patient, trusting.  We must nourish faith and hope.  And love.  God’s people in many different ages have suffered much—with the promise of a coming deliverance and salvation nourishing them in their sufferings.  God would be true to His word—they knew this.  So they endured their sufferings patiently.

Here are Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in a time of great persecution.

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet (or, fitting), because your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure…

Notice the atmosphere the Thessalonian church lived in—their growing faith toward God, and their love toward one another in the sufferings they were going through.  Like the early Quakers—the Friends, as they called themselves.  They were ready to lay down their lives for their friends.  They would often go to the prison and offer to take the place of a brother or a sister they knew was inside—a sacrifice that could well mean death for them.

Paul continues:

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.3-8).

There’s a lot packed in here; let’s see if we can unfold it a little.  Paul is saying that the endurance and faith of the Thessalonians in sufferings they did not deserve was a token, a proof, evidence, that God had judged rightly; He had made the right decision—giving such as these the Kingdom of God.  Their patience and faith in their troubles, their refusal to retaliate, demonstrated that they were worthy of the kingdom of God they were suffering for.  It showed that they had indeed become the kind of people God intended to give His kingdom to.

And God would continue to judge righteously.  The day would come when He would recompense trouble to those who had troubled them, “and to you who are troubled, rest with us…”

When does this rest come?  “…When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

God had not forgotten His salvation in the day the Thessalonians were in such hardship.  God’s promise to His people is salvation.  His salvation is certain.  His day of recompense will surely come.

Scripture is clear.  “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…”  This is from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes. 5.9).

But this also is clear.  In the same letter Paul wrote: “…That no man should be moved by these afflictions (Gk. tribulations): for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1 Thes. 3.3).

We are not appointed to wrath.

But we are appointed to troubles, beloved.  So, let us arm our minds accordingly.  When we find ourselves in the midst of trial and trouble it does not mean God has reneged on His promise of salvation.

It means that His salvation will break upon us with greater honour and glory when it breaks.

Meanwhile, since we have to go through trouble, He who has overcome the world and is Lord over trouble promises that He will go through it with us.

I will be with him in trouble… (Ps. 91.15).

You mean, Jesus Himself with us in trouble?  Really, what more could one ask?

The Ever Increasing Feast

There is a feast that forever mends in length – it grows greater, richer, fuller.  The longer it goes, the greater it grows.  The more this feast is partaken of, the more there is to partake of.

What a wonder.  How can this be?  How can there be more in the dish after I have taken from it?  Yet it is so.  Jesus began to feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes.  Yet after they had all eaten and were full, there was more left over than when they began.
“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14.20).
How did this come about?  It happened because the five loaves and two fishes were broken in His hands.

“…And (He) took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake…”

Wonderful mystery.  Christ’s hands break the loaves, and suddenly a great increase takes place.

This reminds us of His words to His disciples at the feast of the Passover before He suffered.  Here is Paul’s account of it.

“…The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread;
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11.24).

What an amazing thing.  His body was broken on the Cross.  Yet this breaking was the very thing that caused that Body to increase!
…And it increases to this day – the many-membered body of Christ – and it grows greater in spite of all that comes against it.  In fact all attempts to break it – difficult circumstances, afflictions, persecutions – only cause it to grow and multiply.

How can this be?  It is the wondrous power of resurrection life at work.  Jesus said on the eve of the Cross, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12.24).

Let us remember this in the midst of our own trials and sufferings — our own breakings.  Let us be assured of the wondrous power of God in the mystery of the Cross of Christ.  The Cross of Christ is that wondrous way by which God, in His great wisdom, brought to naught the power of death.

For, what is falling into the ground and dying to a seed?

If that living Seed is in you and me, nothing that comes against us can hurt us.  In fact, all that comes against us only causes that Seed to grow, and multiply.
And… what is breaking to a loaf of bread?

When we keep our hearts aright — when we stay in the loving hands of our Lord — nothing can rob us of our place at this ever-increasing Table… where we are both guest, and, in His hands, the bread He breaks for others.

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