The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: suffering

Lent Devotional: Revelation 6:9-11

Revelation 6:9-11 (click here)
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

Reflection
When saints are martyred…where is God?

Is he absent? Is he far? Is he not in control? Questions flood our mind. Martyrdom is not something of the ancient past. The reality of its existence was shoved in the world’s face as 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were brutally killed by ISIS.

The horrific reality is that such extreme persecution is much more prevalent than we would like to admit. Most of it is simply not filmed and distributed through the internet. Persecution, and yes, martyrdom are very real and present realities. This has always been the reality of the Church. We are a people who are “being killed all the day long…we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Yet, I thought that if God was on our side, who could be against us? Where is God when Christians are being killed?

He is present. He is sovereign. He is victorious.

The simple truths seem impossible…but “impossible” happens to be our God’s specialty.

Jesus promised us that there would be persecution and death. Luke 21:16-18, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Yet in the very next verse he makes this outrageous claim, “But not a hair of your head will perish.”

How can we be put to death, but not a hair of our head perish? Jesus is asserting his sovereignty over everything that happens to his followers and that he can make promises that are more powerful than death itself. There is no ultimate perishing for his followers.

This is what we see to be true in Revelation 6. Everyone who has experienced martyrdom cries out to God to fulfill all his promises, to vindicate them, to deal with evil and make all things new. They know God can do this because he is sovereign. They cry out, “O Sovereign Lord!”

They are told the promise will be fulfilled, but not until the number of martyrs is complete. God has sovereignly set a limit on the persecution of his church. He is totally in control and will not let our persecution last forever. That is a promise!

We are “being killed all the day long,” but we will not always be “regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Those words come from the end of Romans 8 which goes on to promise that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It is this same chapter that claims, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

All of this victorious language in the face of persecution is rooted in an eternal perspective. Who can be against us and ultimately win? No one! Even if they put us to death, ultimately, not a hair on our head will perish…for God himself has rescued us from death through Christ! He will raise us all to eternal life with him!

God sovereignly allows the persecution of his saints in the present for through persecution we come to know him and make him known (more on how suffering accomplishes this here), but we have a promise that all persecution will end.

We will ultimately be called “more than conquerors” and those who have “overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.” Even if it costs us our life’s breath, let us cling to Christ amidst any and all persecution…for Jesus won’t let physical death rob you of one hair on your future resurrected, glorified body.

That’s a promise from the sovereign King who is always present and in control.

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Peter 2:18-23

1 Peter 2:18-23 (click here)
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. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:19-23)

Reflection
Suffering unjustly is a gracious thing. Just let that sink in. This is so backwards to how we think. Could we see the world in a more opposite way from which God sees it? How could suffering unjustly possibly be a gracious thing?

There are many ways to answer this question, but we’ll focus simply on two. First, when we suffer unjustly we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.

We actually come to know Christ more through our suffering. We know more of what he experienced on our behalf. We are able to identify with him, and know more of his heart as we literally experience it.

Further, we must depend more upon Christ when we suffer unjustly! We must depend upon his grace and his power. He is the only one that knows how to experience this kind of suffering and yet not sin. Thus, it is literally a gracious thing in that we need his grace to empower us to walk this road! None of the things we normally depend upon in this life will sustain us amidst unjust suffering…we must turn to Christ and Christ alone and depend upon him as never before.

Suffering is a path that leads us deeper into the gracious-loving-sustaining-power of Jesus.

Second, when we suffer unjustly we are storing up eternal treasure. In this text, Peter tells us that suffering for sin is of no “credit” to us…so when we suffer unjustly, it must be to our “credit.” We must be gaining something…something must be working toward our “credit.” What are we gaining?

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17

All our suffering is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. In other words, when you suffer…not only are you growing in your experience of the glory of Jesus right now, but your capacity to enjoy his glory forever is growing!

The great American pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards described our experience of God in heaven being like throwing various sized vessels (think buckets) into the ocean. We can rightly say that every bucket is equally full, but some still contain more water than others. Edwards point is that every person in heaven will be fully satisfied in God, but some people will have a greater capacity to enjoy him. That capacity will continue to grow for every one of us throughout eternity.

Suffering is one of the things that prepares our hearts for a greater capacity of knowing and enjoying Jesus. It is a gracious thing for God to expand our capacity to enjoy him forever!

Suffering is not a fun thing. It is not enjoyable. It is not to be sought after. But… suffering is still a gracious thing in the sight of God, for it increases our sight of him… could there be a greater grace?

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

Lent Devotional: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (click here)
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Reflection
Was Paul’s thorn from God or from Satan?

The answer is… YES!

Paul calls this thorn (whatever it is) a messenger from Satan to harass him! Clearly, this thorn is from Satan and is intended to destroy Paul’s faith and defame God.

Yet…Paul also says that this thorn was given to him in order to keep him from becoming conceited. Now whose purpose is that? It’s God’s purpose! God has sovereignly brought this thorn into Paul’s life for his good and perfect purposes! Clearly, this thorn is from God and is intended to sustain Paul’s faith by grace and glorify God!

Paul prays for the thorn to be removed, but the reply is that God’s grace will be sufficient to sustain him amidst having this thorn. God’s power will be more fully displayed in the life of Paul as he presses on with this thorn and continues to love, worship, and serve the Lord. God tells Paul that in his weaknesses is precisely where divine power in all it’s perfection may be most clearly seen!

So Paul embraces his weaknesses! He embraces his sufferings! Why? So that he can experience more and more of the power of Jesus at work in him, sustaining him. And, so he can show the world more and more of the truth of Jesus and his power!

Through his suffering, Paul is coming to know more of Christ and making more of Christ known!

No matter how much Satan means this thorn for evil…God means it for good! Satan may have wicked, evil purposes in this thorn, but God has righteous, good, loving purposes. This is the truth in any suffering we experience.

When you go through suffering… is it from Satan or from the Lord? Yes. There is a sense in which you can look at your suffering and say, “This is evil and wicked. Satan is working in this to destroy my faith and defame God.” Yet, there is also a sense in which you can look at your suffering and say, “The Lord is sovereignly working here for my good and his glory. He has not abandoned me and he will not let Satan win through this suffering. God will sustain me…I will know more of him and his goodness as a result and the world will see more of him and his glory.”

Through our suffering, we come to know more of Christ and make more of Christ known to the world!

No suffering wins! Christ wins! Grace wins! God will be glorified and our hearts will be satisfied in him!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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