Series: Walking the Talk
Message – Sharing in the Sufferings of Others
Suffering & Resurrecting with Jesus
Today we are picking back up our subject where we left it two weeks back.
We were talking about the connection, and the necessity, of suffering as we take on the image of Christ. As we grow into maturity in Him we WILL undergo opposition. The enemy will not surrender heart real estate without a fight!
2Tim. 3:12 tells us, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
1 Peter 1:6-9, tells us that trials and temptations are NECESSARY in order to test our trust. Our adversary has a right to bring the genuineness of our claimed trust under scrutiny. So he attempts to tempt us towards control – like Eve, he tries to pull us away from our confidence in Christ and place it in our flesh – whether through pleasures (as if Christ is not enough) or through self-preservation (as if Christ was incapable or unwilling).
But God, as Creator, Father and Arbiter will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to trust but will fortify our trust so that we can bear up under it. Both 1 Peter 1 & James 1 ENCOURAGE us that these sufferings and trials are NOT without reward IF our faith stands the test.
Which is why Romans 8 tells us that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the GLORY which will be revealed IN US!
After affirming all these truths two weeks ago, we went on to Hebrews 10:32, where the writer was encouraging these Christians to not let go of their confidence in Jesus.
If you remember, these precious Jewish Christians were being tempted to depart from Christ and return to the law for their righteousness. These are Christian siblings who suffered MUCH when they first came to Christ and the writer of Hebrews would not have that suffering be in vain!
Let’s pick back up in verse 32 of Heb. 10,
“(32) Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. (33) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. (34) For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession.”
Go ahead and turn with me to John 15:20-21; 6:1-4.
These early Jewish saints endured persecution in every arena of life. In them were fulfilled some of the words Jesus spoke as is recorded in this passage.
“(20) Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. (21) But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me.”
“(1) “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. (2) They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. (3) They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or Me. (4) But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you may remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.”
So, here we are in the letter to the Hebrews where the writer is encouraging them to remain faithful under the same persecutions Jesus had foreseen,
“(35) So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (36) For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. (37) For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. (38) But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (39) But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.” OR as the NKJV says it, “those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
Now as I have already told you, suffering comes in MANY forms.
So far we have seen examples of suffering in terms of…
- Physical persecution.
- In overcoming the flesh by asserting Jesus’ Lordship in denying temptation.
Today we are looking at a third category. It is our obligation of love to our Lord Jesus – by entering into the sufferings of our brothers.
Two of the ways this is done, is through prayer and through financial support.
Here are a few scriptures which teach the need for such things as outward proof of genuine Christian character.
Heb. 13:1-3, HCSB “(1) Let brotherly love continue. (2) Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. (3) Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.”
Heb. 6:10-12, HCSB “(10) For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints–and you continue to serve them. (11) Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, (12) so that you won’t become lazy, but instead be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith with perseverance.”
Now, before I read our final scriptures, with which you should be quite familiar, let me remind you that today is our 1st quarter giving.
As you know I have traditionally always made this a joint decision of the whole church, but this quarter I’m feeling lead to direct the funds myself – though I am certainly open to hearing back from any of you after the service if you have any reservations or additional thoughts.
The things we are giving into this quarter are…
- Malnourished babies – We will feed a Nigerian baby every day throughout this next quarter. Like this little girl named Nafissa which means “precious.” Who at 2 years of age was so malnourished that she only weighed 11 lbs. Both she and her parents are gaining in health and have heard the gospel which is able to heal their spirits and souls.
- DISCIPLESHIP, EDUCATION AND TRAINING – Teaching people to read and write and acquiring a trade or skill is invaluable for children and adults struggling to break the cycle of poverty caused by a lack of resources, access, and opportunity. Through the Discipleship, Education and Training program people are being taught not only literacy and trades, but also the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and how to grow and be steadfast in their faith.
- US Disaster Relief – Dispatching Disaster Relief Units and mobilizing and equipping thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
- Baby Chickens – For impoverished families, a brood of chicks can become a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness, as their eggs provide nutritious food as well as income. For $14, we can supply a dozen chicks, help a family set up a coop, or offer basic veterinary care. We should be able to supply several of these.
- Refugee & Displacement Relief – Providing emergency food and clean water for people in South Sudan who have been internally displaced by an ongoing conflict within the country. Emergency aid to refugees who have fled violence in the Nuba Mountains and other parts of Sudan. This effort includes the drilling of wells, distributing food to fight hunger and malnutrition, medical care for the sick and suffering, as well as training in farming, fishing and working through the local church to build up communities through education and biblical literacy. This also helps people who are like Amer – a Iraqui Christian man driven from his home and business by ISIS. In fact he will serve as our example today as we close.
Now turn to…
1Cor. 16:1-3, HCSB “(1) Now about the collection for the saints: you should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. (2) On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save to the extent that he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come. (3) And when I arrive, I will send those whom you recommend by letter to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem.”
2Cor. 8 “(1) We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia: (2) during a severe trial of affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.”
LISTEN to those words. They seem contradictory, but so MANY of the deeper things of the spirit seem contradictory. He said, DURING a severe trial of affliction, their abundance of JOY AND their DEEP poverty – They overflowed in generosity to this effort – this collection.
“(3) I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, (4) they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, (5) and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God’s will. (6) So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun, so he should also complete this grace to you.”
Just like some of the songs we sang in praise this morning. “I Give you My heart.” These people – BEFORE giving out of their need – they gave themselves wholly to God (burnt offering) and then to Paul and his companions – holding nothing back!
As we just read and will see in the coming verses… the grace what was upon Titus had influenced these people greatly, so that Paul sent him to the Corinthians with this thinking….If the grace of God on Titus was able to influence such generosity out of those who are themselves in need, how much more those who have an abundance like the Corinthians.
“(7) Now as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us–excel also in this grace. (8) I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love.”
As I’ve told you in the past, if Paul were to use this approach in the average church today he’d be thrown out on his ear for using pressure tactics! Paul is quite clearly telling them that even though he is not commanding them (which he WAS able to do with apostolic authority) he instead said he was testing them, by comparing HOW THEY in their abundance give, when compared with the giving of the Macedonians who gave much out of their poverty. He calls this a test of how genuine their love is!
If you think about it – this is both a fair and a godly thing to do! The Macedonia’s were NOT under obligation to give when they themselves were in need. The reason for their gift is given later in Romans, where Paul explains it as a gift from Gentiles to Jews because AS gentiles we are in their debt. With the Corinthians however, if they failed to give, it would slam the gavel down in judgment against them.
If you remember the passage in 1 Jn. 3:17, which is often misunderstood because tenses are not often included in a translation. But 1 Jn. 3:16-17 actually reads this way, Wuest “as for us, we have a moral obligation on behalf of our brethren to lay down our souls. But whoever has as a constant possession the necessities of life, and deliberately keeps on contemplating his brother constantly having need, and snaps shut his heart from him, how is it possible that the love of God is abiding in him?”
You see the Corinthians had an abundance and they had known of the poverty and afflictions of the Jews in Jerusalem for over a year! So these verses would fit them if they failed to give, and Paul knows it which is why he says it is a test to see if their claimed love was real or not. What was the question in 1 Jn. “If you in your abundance can contemplate your brother in constant need and not give to him, how is it possible that God’s LOVE abides in your heart?”
So Paul continues in verse 9…
“(9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. (10) Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. (11) But now finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have. (12) For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (13) It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality– (14) at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may also become available for your need, that there may be equality. (15) As it has been written: The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little. (16) Thanks be to God who put the same diligence for you into the heart of Titus. (17) For he accepted our urging and, being very diligent, went out to you by his own choice. (18) With him we have sent the brother who is praised throughout the churches for his gospel ministry. (19) And not only that, but he was also appointed by the churches to accompany us with this gift that is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself and to show our eagerness to help. (20) We are taking this precaution so no one can find fault with us concerning this large sum administered by us. (21) For we are making provision for what is honorable, not only before the Lord but also before men. (22) We have also sent with them our brother whom we have often tested, in many circumstances, and found diligent–and now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. (23) As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker serving you; as for our brothers, they are the messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. (24) Therefore, before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our boasting about you.”
2Cor. 9 “(1) Now concerning the ministry to the saints, it is unnecessary for me to write to you. (2) For I know your eagerness, and I brag about you to the Macedonians: “Achaia has been prepared since last year,” and your zeal has stirred up most of them. (3) But I sent the brothers so our boasting about you in the matter would not prove empty, and so you would be prepared just as I said. (4) For if any Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared, we, not to mention you, would be embarrassed in that situation. (5) Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not an extortion. (6) Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. (7) Each person should do as he has decided in his heart–not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. (9) As it is written: He has scattered; He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. (10) Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, (11) as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. (12) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. (13) Through the proof of this service, they will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others. (14) And in their prayers for you they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God on you. (15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”
Then just before Paul delivered the monies to the suffering saints in Jerusalem, he wrote to the believers in Rome and said,
Rom. 15:24b-33, HCSB “(24b) …I do hope to see you when I pass through, and to be sent on my way there by you, once I have first enjoyed your company for a while. (25) Now, however, I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints; (26) for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (27) Yes, they were pleased, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual benefits, then they are obligated to minister to Jews in material needs. (28) So when I have finished this and safely delivered the funds to them, I will go by way of you to Spain. (29) But I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. (30) Now I implore you, brothers, through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to agonize together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf: (31) that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (32) and that, by God’s will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed together with you. (33) The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.”
So, in closing and before we pray over the gift WE have prepared and set aside for our 1st quarter, let me read to you the testimony of Amer who is an example of suffering with Joy and as one we will share in the sufferings of through our giving.
This Story/Testimony was lifted from Samaritan’s Purse.
It would be easy for Amer to be bitter. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Sria (ISIS) forced the 53-year-old man to flee from his home in Mosul, where his family had lived for generations. He now lives in a cold, drafty United Nations camp for internally displaced peoples in Northern Iraq.
Instead, he radiates joy despite the deplorable conditions.
“I am not sad,” Amer said. “I am happy because our Jesus told us in the New Testament to leave everything and come to Him and He will help us.”
Samaritan’s Purse is providing some of that help. More than $100,000 worth of food has been distributed in the unfinished mall that is now home for Amer and 400 other families. Samaritan’s Purse has also provided winter jackets, part of the 80 tons of relief supplies sent in mid-October to the more than 800,000 displaced by ISIS since June.
That is when ISIS arrived in Amer’s hometown. The terrorists were cordial at first, until the Muslim leaders announced during noon prayers one Friday that everyone was to tell their Christian neighbors that they must leave the city within 24 hours.
Amer received the news from friends who had lived next to his family for almost 40 years.
Seeing an ISIS fighter on the street, Amer asked, “Who are you? What do you want from us?” The man challenged Amer to become a Muslim so he would not have to leave his home, his business, and his car behind.
“You win my car,” Amer said. “I have a company for cutting stones and marble. You win it. But you also lose because I love my Jesus.”
He went on to tell the man that Jesus taught his followers not to store up treasure on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
“Therefore, I am not sad,” Amer said. “You are the loser. I am happy. I forgive you.”
“What did you say?” asked the ISIS fighter.
“Yes, I forgive you because our Jesus told us to forgive our enemies. He told us in the New Testament to love our enemies. I love you. I forgive you. Take everything. I will die for my Jesus.”
“What are you saying?” asked the fighter. “Who is your Jesus?”
“You want to see him?” asked Amer. “Look on my face and you will see my Jesus.”
Angry, the ISIS fighter demanded that Amer leave. He said, “If I see you Saturday at noon, I will take your head.”
“Ok, I’ll leave,” Amer said. “Congratulations on my house. Congratulations on my company.”
Aware that ISIS was robbing Christians of all their money as they went through their checkpoint, Amer’s neighbors helped him escape. They drove him to the checkpoint, one dressed in his white clothes and hat as though he was heading to the mosque for prayers.
Seeing Amer in the backseat, the guard said, “How are you Mr. Haji?” Thinking he was a Muslim, the terrorist let Amer through without incident.
Leaving his neighbor, Amer continued on to the Kurdish army checkpoint. Safely on the other side of it, he prayed fervently, “Thank you, God! I will follow you forever!”
Amer made his way to Erbil where more than 200,000 displaced people have settled. He moved from house to house until he settled in the refugee camp in the unfinished mall.
Amer puts his suffering into perspective by comparing it to the cross.
“This is the Christian religion,” he said. “Not houses, good cars, or money. When we feel hungry, tired, or cold, living in this room like a refrigerator, our Jesus felt like this.”
Exuding the joy of the Lord, Amer is a living example of Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:11-12).
“Tell the people in America: I love you. I love you. I love you,” Amer said. “I pray for you. You are always a friend of our people in Iraq. I am not sad. I am happy.”
Amer is LIVING two other songs we sang this morning – “Just give me Jesus! There’s nothing I desire, that can’t be found in You – Your everything that I’ve ever needed!”
AND “No turning back, I’ve made up my mind. I’m giving all of my life this time. Your love makes it worth it all!”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.
If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.