Did you know that you might die soon?
How does that thought make you feel?
Maybe within a year you will be dead.
Did you know that you will suffer in this life? You might even suffer greatly.
What thoughts does that evoke in you?
For some of you, you are getting excited just hearing those questions and thinking those thoughts. A smile is coming to your lips and a twinkle is coming to your eyes.
Others of you can’t imagine why suffering and dying are exciting prospects. I’ll try to explain it:
First of all, this world is not our home. Dying to a Christian is a necessary step towards going home, and though it might be a hard step, it is not comparable to how glorious our home will be.
Secondly, God says that those He loves he chastises (Heb. 12:6). Some of you love God’s chastisement because in it, you feel God’s love.
Thirdly, some of us hope to live a martyr’s life and to die a martyr’s death. That by our living or by our dying we might win souls to Christ and quicken those around us to living glorious and warlike lives for Jesus. Says the servant of the Lord, “Oh that God would use me for the building and the strengthening of His Church.”
Christ suffered death on a cross. Before that death he was mocked, beaten, reviled and tortured by even those He had come to save. People now can have salvation from sins and power for life by looking to that cross.
Moreover, Christ’s servants can show that cross to the world in their sufferings. Men might mock, beat, revile, torture, and kill us. But that is what God uses to proclaim His passion to the world, and it is that prospect that makes us excited: not because we love the suffering itself, but because we yearn to show the world Jesus. We are not only willing, but joyful, to be killed all the day long for Christ’s sake.
Do you want to live a passionate life for Jesus? Doing so takes passion. Allow me to explain what the word “passion” means. Acts 1:3, in the ESV reads “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs.” The verse says that He suffered.
Now that word suffering in the Greek reads Pathane a form of Pathos, which is a word we use today. The Latin translates the Greek Pathane into Passionem, the root of which is Passio, and it is from the Latin, Passio, from which we get our word passion, which is exactly how the King James renders this verse. “He shewed himself alive after his passion.”
Did you see it? Passion is a synonym for suffering. To live a passionate life for Jesus means to live a suffering life for Jesus. The two are utterly unseparable. As Christ’s Passion was his suffering, so too our passion is our suffering.
I do not know the exact history, but it seems that our spiritual forefathers knew the joy of passion, of suffering, so well that they were able to transform the word itself into a positive word. Oh that we could be the ones to do that in our generation. Let us take such joy in the prospect of suffering for Jesus that hundreds of years from now, our descendents think of the word ‘suffering’ as such a positive word that they use it to describe the joys and triumphs of life.
Now, to those that aren’t excited by suffering, who can’t grapple with the notion of it being a positive thing. I fear that you might have a cold, hard heart. Let me say it a different way: you lack passion. I have no desire to deride you or judge you for this. How can I judge you? I am like you! Without God’s power in my life to live this very day in joy, I would suffer the same condition.
Instead, I bring up this hardness because I would like to help you. Today, God offers to you the power to soften your heart and to be used in His service. Wont you consider His offer? You might have called yourself a Christian all your life, but today, for whatever reason, you do not know the abundant joy of His service. Want it! Crave it!
I do not know to which of you I am speaking, but you know who you are. More importantly God knows who you are. Again, to you, I do not have a message of shame and reproach; but one of hope and encouragement. Today, God can soften your heart! I don’t care if you’ve called yourself a Christian all your life. I don’t care if you are a pastor’s kid or a minister in the Lord’s Church. If you don’t have a joy and an excitement in the things I am saying then God has an offer for you today. “Today”, the apostle says “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion of Israel.”
For the rest of you, those who are excited about serving the Lord by living or by dying. Look around you. God’s Church is full of people who are like you. People who are willing to walk around the world barefoot if that is what the Lord called them to do. Feel the comradery in that. Feel the fellowship. Look around at your fellow soldiers. More mighty and victorious than any army that ever walked the face of the earth are we in Christ. Stop, and let that thought sink into your bones for a moment. There is no force on earth that can stop the armies of the Lord. The suffering saints will be triumphant.