“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Romans 1:1-7)“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
Once again as ever, I thank the Lord for restoring me to this work and for His protection and never failing compassion: In the world we live in today, where the notion of suffering for the Gospel has been made to look like a show of naivety; the notion of suffering in the course of doing the work of God become a very touchy issue which when not taken before the Lord in prayer could lead to shipwreck.
As we move more into the perilous times prophesied by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; a time when it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate the true brethren from the false ones; a time when as Jesus put it:
“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:12-13).
It is fast becoming a time when with everyday reality:
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold“ (Matthew 24:12) .
It is a time when like Jeremiah we could even find ourselves saying:
“And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men“. (Lamentations 3:17-33).
Now, In our last post we started our look at the two sections of the acts by our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that (as we will look at in the near future) led to His being exalted by God The Father and given a name that is above all names; these two sections of the acts as explained by watchman Nee being His emptying Himself. The second section is on His humbling Himself. We saw how the Lord lowered Himself twice, first in emptying Himself in His deity, and then in humbling Himself in His humanity: That His being the Lord was something given to Him by God The Father; being made the Lord is something that happened after He emptied Himself in His deity. We saw that the deity of our Lord Jesus is something that is based on what He is. Being God is His original position; but His attainment of the position of Lord is based on what He has done.
We will now in this post continue our look at the first in our classifications of who Jesus Christ is with regards to His Nature, His Pre-Existence and how He fits into the eternal purpose of the Master Planner. We will be having a look at the question IS JESUS EQUAL WITH GOD? We will now look at how the Father rewarded his Son for His obedience even unto death; obedience unto death that was the end result of His emptying Himself in His deity, and then in humbling Himself in His humanity:
But before we continue with this, I would like to have a look at this example of our Lord and Saviour’s suffering as a consequence of His emptying Himself in His deity, and then in humbling Himself in His humanity: and see The Difference Between Actual Suffering & Having A Mind To Suffer.
The Difference Between Actual Suffering & Having A Mind To Suffer.
In going through this post, I would like us to ponder on these verses of the scriptures:
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
“For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself: And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:26-27).
“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (Heb. 13:12-15).
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1Pet 2:21-25).
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1Pet. 3:18).
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead” (1Pet. 4:1-5).
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you“ (1Pe:5:10).
I will now like us to ponder on these discourse written by Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee endured much suffering for the sake of the New Testament ministry. Due to his absoluteness in following the Lord and his faithfulness in fulfilling the Lord’s commission, he underwent frequent mistreatment as well as lifelong hardships. Because he unwaveringly fought the battle for the Lord’s move, he was under constant attack from God’s enemy. At the same time, he was also under God’s sovereign hand. He recognized the sovereign arrangements of God in his environment not merely as a divinely apportioned “thorn in the flesh,” but more importantly, as a means by which God was able to deal with him. Due to both the enemy’s attacks and God’s faithful environmental dealings, Watchman Nee lived a life of suffering. The majority of his sufferings came from five sources: poverty, ill health, various denominations, dissenting brothers and sisters in the local churches, and imprisonment.
HAVING A MIND TO SUFFER – Watchman Nee
All who serve God need to possess an additional characteristic – that of having a mind to suffer (see 1 Pet. 4:1). This too is most essential. But before we address this specific question, let us first deal generally with the attitude of a Christian toward suffering.
The teaching of Scripture is quite plain: God has no desire to see His people suffer. There is a certain philosophical concept abroad which posits the notions that the human body is intrinsically evil – and that therefore we humans must suffer and not enjoy blessing. People with such a concept view any kind of enjoyment as something wrong.
As servants of the Lord, however, we go forth to represent Him. We ought to be clear that the above concept is not a Christian one. The Bible definitely shows us that God has never purposed to have His children suffer. On the contrary, it plainly tells us that the Lord has not withheld any good thing from us: “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1; see also, 1 Tim. 6:17). The words “I shall not want” here, do not mean that I shall have no need. They simply mean that with Jehovah as my Shepherd, I shall not be in need of any kind. For example, if you have just had a solid meal, and someone offers you a bowl of congee (watery rice), you will doubtless say, “I am full, I do not need it.” In a similar vein, what the psalmist is saying here is that, having the Lord as my Shepherd, I shall be in lack of nothing. In other words, God does not desire that we be in lack; on the contrary, He wants us to be full; and so, “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psa. 84:11).
Beginning at the very outset of the Old Testament record, the Bible consistently reveals to us how God takes care of His people, minimizes their problems and mitigates their sufferings so as to separate them from the heathen nations. Take as just one example the circumstances among the Hebrews in the land of Egypt. The land of Goshen where they lived was different from the rest of Egypt. God’s blessing was always present in Goshen. Hence we believers must not bring this kind of suffering philosophy into our Christian faith. Let us not confuse Christianity by mixing non-Christian notions into it. This is something we need to watch.
On the other hand, this is not to suggest that God will not test His children nor discipline them: He does indeed test them and chasten them. Yet we need to distinguish this from the philosophical concept of suffering just mentioned. In ordinary times God usually dispenses grace, taking care of, supporting and supplying His own children with whatever they need. But in times of necessity He will also test and chasten His own. Yet even here, this is not to say that He will try them every day.
He only chastens when chastening is necessary. He never chastens on a daily basis or at every moment: He only does so sometimes, not all the time. Our God is habitually mindful of us to provide for our every need. Nevertheless, if we persist in our obstinacy in a given area of life, He will have to allow the trial and discipline to continue – although according to His usual way He loves to deal kindly with us and is unwilling to make us suffer. It is the will of our Father God to give all good things to His children. We may therefore receive and enjoy all which the Lord has given to us.
What, then, is the meaning of the suffering for the saint which we find in the Bible? In the Scriptures we find that to suffer is a path which we deliberately choose to take before the Lord. This is to say that the Lord has indeed provided us with days of abundant grace; but today, for the sake of being God’s servants and serving Him, we instead choose this way of suffering. In short, this path is a selected way. It is not unlike what the three mighty men of David did who could have easily followed their leader and lived on peacefully, but once learning of David’s longing to taste water from the well by the gate of his home village of Bethlehem, they jeopardized their lives by breaking through the host of the Philistine army to draw water out of that very well (see 2 Sam. 23:14-17). Hence to suffer is something chosen by us; it is not ordained. We choose before God to suffer. We are willing to do so for the sake of serving the Lord. According to God’s providence, we may not have to suffer many pains; yet because we desire to serve Him, we gladly choose a path which differs from the common one. And this is what is meant by having a mind to suffer. To arm ourselves with such a mind is a basic characteristic of any person who would wish to serve God. Without this willingness, we will not be able to serve well in anything. Lacking this, our service will be very superficial.
Yet, let it be clearly know here that being willing to suffer is not the same thing as suffering itself. It simply means that before God I have a desire of being willing to endure hardship, difficulty or trial for the Lord. I am prepared to do so and will gladly do so for Him. And this is having the mind to suffer. Whoever has this mind may not in fact suffer, yet in his mind and heart he has committed himself to do so gladly for the Lord.
Suppose, for example, that today, God supplies you with food and clothing and better lodging with better furniture. It is not wrong for you to enjoy these things. You may accept from the Lord whatever He has provided; nonetheless, you still possess a heart willing to suffer for Him. Though you do not experience any physical hardship at the moment, nevertheless your mind is still willing to experience that for the Lord. Hence the issue lies not in outward happenings but in your heart desire. When you are in a most favourable situation, do you still possess the mind to suffer? The Lord may not arrange to have us endure hardship every day, but all who work the work of God must not lack the mind to endure such a thing each day. Suffering may not be a daily experience, yet having a mind to suffer must be present daily.
The problem we face is that many brothers and sisters, as well as members of their families, shrink back at the slightest provocation. They do not possess the mind to suffer. When the Lord arranges to let us have a favourable environment, without any lack in material things, and with a relatively healthy body, we can serve Him daily and well. But once we encounter a little trial and meet up with the slightest trivial problem, our whole being collapses. This betrays the fact that we do not have the heart to suffer. How can we possibly stand any test if we do not have such a heart?
Having the mind to suffer speaks of my readiness before God to suffer. I am willing to go through trial, and I choose the path of hardship. It is up to the Lord whether or not to put suffering in my path, but on my part I am always prepared to suffer. Thus when His providential changes comes and trials fall upon me, I will not be surprised but rather feel that this is what I should go through in the first place. In the event I can only accept God’s favourable arrangement and am unable to endure any trial, then as soon as the circumstances shift in the latter direction, I am broken and my work for the Lord ceases. Now this is a clear indication that I do not have the mind to suffer.
Do please understand that work cannot wait for you. Whether you have food or not, you nonetheless must work. Whether you are clothed or not, you must nevertheless continue serving the Lord. When you are well you work; when you feel uncomfortable you still work. You serve whether in health or in sickness. But this shall you find out if you are armed with the mind to suffer or not. Yet this is an awesome weapon, before which Satan is unquestionably bound. Otherwise, once trial and trouble come, your work instantly ceases.
Some brothers and sisters have suffered, and yet they do not see the preciousness of suffering before God. And as a consequence they are not in the least thankful to the Lord. On the contrary, they may at times even murmur and complain. They become apprehensive if such a day does not speedily pass. They may have prayers, but they never give praise. Whatever has come upon them under the discipline of the Holy Spirit they will not gladly accept. They expect such a time to quickly fade away. This kind of attitude plainly manifests their lack of having a heart to suffer.
Allow me to say that if you do not possess the mind to suffer during peaceful days which the Lord has given you, you will only be able to proceed when the way is smooth, because as soon as the road turns muddy, you will stop serving. This ought not to be so. Let me reiterate what was said earlier, that having the mind to suffer is not suffering itself. You may in truth possess such a mind and yet the Lord may not see fit to give you suffering. Even so, if and when you are in fact touched with hardship or trial, you will not shrink back, because within you dwells a heart to suffer.
We need to note, however, that not all who suffer have the mind to do so. Many are going through difficulty and trial, and yet they may not possess the mind to suffer. So that among those who suffer, there are those with the mind to do so and others without the mind so to do. Quite a number of brothers and sisters cry almost daily for deliverance from the things they must endure. They are daily in distress, hoping day and night that such a time will soon pass away. Such people have no mind to suffer in the midst of hardship.
Therefore, let all who are under trials – whether physical, financial or otherwise – remember this: that what counts before the Lord is not whether you suffer, but whether you have the mind to suffer. Make no mistake in thinking that because you suffer greatly, you are therefore enduring hardship and trouble for the Lord. Without a doubt your circumstance is painful, but it needs to be asked how much of a mind to suffer for the Lord do you really have? Do you choose this path of suffering before the Lord? or are you complaining, annoyed, self-pitying and self-seeking when you do suffer? Let it be plainly understood that people can undergo much heart pain or actual physical trial and yet simultaneously have no mind to do so. Possessing a mind to suffer is a much deeper issue than undergoing the suffering itself. To have the mind to suffer may not issue forth in one suffering outwardly; but by the same token, for a person to suffer outwardly may not mean he has the mind to suffer.
We can also put it this way, that the materially poor may not be spiritually poor, for many who go through much material hardship and trial are rich in the spirit in that they do have a mind to suffer; yet there are many brothers and sisters who, though they might equally be going through difficulty and material hardship, do not have a mind to suffer. And should the Lord allow these latter to choose, they would rather not suffer, neither for a month, nor for a day – nay, not even for a moment. They do not possess a heart to suffer.
A person who lacks this character attitude shall find his labour in the Lord limited. For when the outside demand exceeds his ability, he will immediately withdraw. He is unable to sacrifice all. What he treasures he keeps for himself. He can only be engaged in the smoothest service during the most convenient days. He needs the Lord to remove all the obstacles for him so that he may work peacefully. Yet how surprising it is that a person who serves the Lord should make such a demand.
So let us clearly understand what is mean by having the mind to suffer. A brother who is living peacefully may have more of such a mind than he who is actually suffering. In human eyes, of these two brethren, the one under trial is undoubtedly the one who is suffering. Yet in God’s eyes, the brother in peace who definitely has the mind to suffer would be more precious to the Lord. This is because what the Lord values the most in His children is not the suffering itself but their having a heart to suffer. Yet because the Lord has no intention of making us suffer, let us not therefore think that our suffering itself has any merit.
May we ever keep in mind that the one thing God requires of us to respond well to is to be willing to have the mind to suffer. We must be armed with this very weapon. Without this as a weapon, we cannot fight the battle for the Lord. We will instead retreat at the least hint of hardship. We will not be able to endure the least pain or pay the smallest price. We will immediately shrink back. In view of this, the question to be put to you is not how much you suffer but how much you are willing to suffer. Naturally we would expect a brother who encounters much pain to have received more grace from God. Even so, we may not be able to find help from that brother simply because we later discover that within him there is no heart to suffer. How totally unwilling he is in this area. He has in truth gone through much trial and tribulation, but he has not learned any lesson before God because his heart is full of rebellion. We are therefore shown the difference here between the mind to suffer and suffering itself. We cannot in any way substitute the latter for the former.
We will continue with this discourse in our next post. Meanwhile:
O Lord, we thank You for the examples that you have set before us; we ask that the Holy Spirit may apply these words to the practical situations of our lives and show us how to follow in Your footsteps so that our Christian lives can be effective as we are continually enabled by the Holy Spirit to make the deliberate choice before You, to cultivate a mind to suffer and to realise how sure it is that our Father in You Christ Jesus will enable us to live it out.
Meanwhile, seek to be set free from God’s wrath today and seek the righteousness that really counts:
You might say – “Why do I have to know and experience this Jesus you are going on about?” Here is why, when and how you can get to know Him.
Admit your spiritual need.
We all are sinners: nobody likes that title “SINNER”, but the bible says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.
What is the result of sin?
In Romans 6:23 we read “The wages of sin is death…” in other words, every sin is another step towards death. One thing that we need to remember is that God never sends anyone to hell; one can send himself there by rejecting the truth.
Since we can never measure up to God’s standards by our own strength; God has reached out to mankind.
In Romans 5:8 we read, “God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. It is Jesus, after all, who is the source of life’s greatest high.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17).
What must a person do to accept this gift?
Simply receive it! Matthew 11:28 states –“come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me” Jesus stands at the door of your heart and knocks, seeking entrance into your life to give you peace, change you for the best. John 1:12 says: “For as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God”.
If you haven’t already received Christ as your Saviour, don’t put it off another day! Take time right now to reflect on the state of your life, how does Romans 3:23 apply to you? Ask God to empower you to see the true state of your heart – “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) then when enabled, invite Jesus into your life. Confess your sins. Receive His forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. You could pray something like this:
Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner in need of a Saviour. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. Thank You for giving me eternal life. Help me to live my life in a way that pleases You, for whatever time You give me here on earth. I look forward to living forever in Heaven with You. Amen.