Champions of the Ages
‘For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about be revealed to us and in us.’ Romans 8:18 AMP.
Have you ever considered the reason why people – I mean everyone including you and I – often go through trying times in our lives? And the reason why God ‘seems’ to allow it? If you’re a Bible student, the answer is not far fetched – it is right there in your Bible. However, here’s a simple answer to a complicated issue: Creation is corrupted, and – much like a virus works in a computer system – everyone and everything in it is somehow affected by this corruption.
On the flip side, have you also wondered about what life in heaven looks like? We read of saints and angels appearing to many people in the Bible, and bringing with them the peace, power, and atmosphere of heaven to those whom they are sent. For instance, in heaven there are no experiences of accidents, natural disasters, broken families or sickness and diseases because it forever remains in the perfect condition in which God created it with the things and creatures in it.
So everytime you hear of any thing that looks like suffering, hardship, violence, diseases, or deaths, understand that they happen [only] on the earth and, again, this is because of the corruption in creation which came in through sin and rebellion against God.
Getting the best out of your trials
‘Is anyone among you suffering? He must pray. Is anyone joyful? He is to sing praises [to God]. James 5:13 AMP.
The trials and sufferings of life will come to everyone at certain points of their lives, there is no escaping of this temporary reality. It does not matter your social status, your educational background, your skin color or all those superficial things we like to pride ourselves in. Both young and old, male and female, will experience unwanted circumstances. As a matter of fact, life’s challenging circumstances do not differentiate between Christians and unbelievers.
However, we as God’s special people, have an advantage over the unbelievers. This is God’s gracious provision which He made so we could serve Him without the fear of uncertainties. However, God does not only want us to get out of sufferings, but also wants us to get the best out of them. For in them, we will be able to experience His power and wisdom.
Now, there is one way to get the best out of your seasons of trials, and that is the way of continuous prayer while being full of thanksgiving (See Colossians 4:2). However, there’s a need for you to be patient and consistent in the place of prayer. Through prayer, you communicate your heart desires to God and ask Him for guidance or counsel, and depending on the type of situation you’re going through, in a matter of time your answers will come pouring down from heaven! (See Luke 18:1-7).
Pathway to glory
‘But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that when His glory [filled with His radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may rejoice with great joy.’ 1 Peter 4:13 AMP.
While I am not trying to be an advocate for suffering, I must also point out to you that suffering has its benefits too. There are many times God uses His power to deliver us from a situation, and there are other times His wisdom allows us to go through suffering so we could come out better, wiser, and stronger! There is no need to be afraid of suffering, there are many things you wouldn’t know about the things or the divine nature of God until you get to experience His divine power and His manifold wisdom in delivering you from a situation or in granting a particular heart desire.
As citizens of God’s kingdom, our perspectives ought to be radically different from that of the general public. While the world might see a faithful Christian’s suffering as the implication of being disadvantaged and less privileged, we as God’s people should see it as the process of being trained, equipped for the glory of God. Do you know one of the slogans of the early church? Here it is: We must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God! (See Acts 14:22).
In the Old Testament, the priests were regulated by laws that forced them to discipline themselves and deny themselves of many pleasurable things – and at times they wore no shoes – but they alone are permitted to carry the Ark of the Covenant, which was the embodiment of God’s glory!
Christ allows us to experience sufferings [although] for a brief moment of time for three primary reasons:
1. To help us get closer to Him, experience His power and strengthen our faith in Him (See Job 42:2 Psalm 119:71).
2. To help us understand what others are going through and enable us to help them out as God gives us the grace (See Hebrews 4:15).
3. To prepare us for His glory, He allows different kinds of afflictions to prune us, purify our hearts and focus our perspective. We are trained and enabled to partake of His glory by the things we have suffered for/with Christ (See 2 Timothy 2:12).
Imitating the King of Glory
‘Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; Ephesians 5:1 AMP.
It is Christ’s delight that we pattern our lives after Him, and live as He teaches us to live by His word. For the Christian, there is no greater role model than Christ the King of all glory and power – who Himself suffered persecution and tribulation in the days of His ministry in the cities and villages of Israel. By suffering, I do not mean permitting the devil to afflict you with sickness, disease, or any of his other evils. Rather, I mean letting Christ be glorified in your life even in the face of persecution – whether from loved ones or from strangers.
The gospels present to us Jesus as our perfect example of suffering for the sake of glory. Jesus never begged for money, He was never sick or diseased, He was never at the mercy of people – strangers and friends alike; but He was resisted by the religious leaders of His day, He was lied against, He was beaten for no just reason, He was imprisoned, and finally crucified for no just reason. His sufferings didn’t come from His moral faults or weaknesses – because He had none! Neither did they come from His spiritual weakness – because He was anointed with so much power He was casting out demons and raising the dead. Rather, they came as a result of the devil trying to hinder or resist His work of redemption.
Jesus’ post-resurrection encounter with the two disciples who were travelling to Emmaus also points to the fact that in God’s kingdom, suffering (by God’s will) is actually a doorway to glory. ‘O foolish men, and slow of heart to trust and believe in everything that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and [only then to] enter His glory?’ – Luke 24:25,26 AMP.
It’s a championship!
‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!’ 1 Corinthians 9:24 AMP
Are you being resisted by the enemy? Are you being persecuted for the sake of Christ? Are you being put under pressure by someone or an organization because of your faith in Jesus? If you are, then this one is for you: Don’t you give up, and don’t you give in. Keep your faith in Christ and the confession of His name on your lips. Understand that the reason why the devil is causing persecution [from behind the scenes] is simply to rob you of the glorious reward Christ gives to His faithful children.
In one of his many attempts to resist the spread of the gospel of Christ, the devil had the apostles imprisoned, beaten and threatened (See Acts 5:12-49). But they responded to the enemy by rejoicing and praising the Lord, knowing that their suffering for Christ was not in vain.
‘So they left the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy [dignified by indignity] to suffer shame for [the sake of] His name.’ – Acts 5:41 AMP.
No matter what the enemy does, don’t allow him to rob you of the grand prize that awaits you at the end of your race. Stand up to the devil and show him no matter the persecution or pressure, you love Jesus still and that is not going to change at all! The early disciples suffered for their faith and they were delighted about it, knowing that the glory of God awaits them as a reward. Want to be one of the champions of Eternity? Hold fast till the end of your race and strive to win theprize. Remember, it’s a heavenly championship and it holds eternal rewards!