Why Believers Are Afflicted

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Ps. 34:19

How can righteous suffer; indeed, why must he be afflicted at all? That should not be since the righteous is supposed to be in God’s favor. But this scripture says otherwise. Indeed, the Bible says that the afflictions of the righteous are many. Why this state of affairs?

In Africa, during harvest time, the farmers thresh their produce, to remove the grain and store it, and to burn the chaff. God afflicts us because He wants to bring out the spiritual treasure that is in us. If you want wine, you have to press the grapes, right? In the same manner, God wants to show off the treasure in us, and there is no other way that He can do this apart from scrubbing us and whittling away at us, that the ‘gold’ in us may shine forth.

We have such treasure in us! But we are hardly aware of it. But we have gold in us.

When we have the fruit of the Spirit in us –

“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Eph. 5:22) –

… that is the treasure that God wants to show off to the world.

I have heard worldly preachers say that God wants to reveal riches like Bentleys, Rolls Royces and million-dollar mansions. But no. Those things do not comprise the heavenly riches. Actually, they are the height of spiritual poverty for when these things grasp your heart, that is the end of you spiritually.

God’s riches, the riches that He wants to show forth to the world in and through us, are the fruit of the Spirit. Those are the spiritual riches.

And so, therefore, God allows afflictions into our lives that they may press us and through this pressing the true heavenly riches in us will show forth.

The perfect example is Jesus. The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:22-24:

“22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 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.”

And, in Isaiah 53:7, it says of Jesus:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

It is clear that Jesus was afflicted! He was reviled; and He suffered. But He wouldn’t utter a word. Jesus opened not His mouth!

Now, not opening our mouths when we are reviled is not easy. Actually, it is very difficult. The minute we hear something against us, our mouths begin moving even before the reviler has finished saying whatever they want to say about us!

But we have such riches in Christ Jesus. Imagine Jesus, He

“reviled not again”.

Imagine,

“when he suffered, he threatened not”.

That is not easy. Sometimes we may do nothing, but in our hearts we end up doing so much!

But we have such riches in us! That is why God allows us to be afflicted. When we are afflicted, these riches show forth. The fruit in us gives forth its aroma.

And if the fruit has not formed yet, afflictions will serve to show us our need for repentance and drive us to desire a greater work of the cross in our lives. There is so much work that afflictions accomplish in a believer’s life. In a word, suffering produces grace. There is no grace without suffering. That is why the Apostle Paul preached the cross before he would talk of grace.

Finally,

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

The word “temptation” here is the same word “affliction” that David used in Psalm 34.We will be tempted. We will be tried. We will be afflicted if we are true children of God. But God’s hand will be upon us and He will not allow any trial or affliction to overcome us. He will make a way, a way of grace for us to walk in victory through every affliction.

Advertisements

Sell All/Take Up The Cross/Invest

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-22

This post boasts all the subjects that I have listed in the title above.

One would need to write whole books and more to dissect this small portion of scripture, so I will not attempt to do that here. Instead, I will just home in on verses 21 and 22. The Bible says that Jesus beheld this young man and He loved him. That singular fact is of great importance to us in understanding God’s heart for us.

When Jesus loved this young man, it is clear from scripture what Jesus did. The account says He told this young man:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

We cannot assume that, if Jesus truly loved us, that He would tell us anything less than what He told this young man. But the first thing is to be sure that Jesus does love us. Does Jesus truly love us? You bet He does. He gave His life on the cross for us. But the flesh has a problem with the love of Jesus for, when Jesus says He loves us, the flesh would want Him to shower us with American dollars and houses and lands; and the occasional private jet. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing gospel in the church today. But it is a worldly gospel, of the flesh, and demonic.

But, on the contrary, when Jesus turns His loving gaze upon us, He only has one thing to say to us:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus asks us to sell all that we have, to take up our cross and follow Him!

Now, we might not be rich like this man was, and we might have a problem with the “sell whatsoever thou hast” when we probably have nothing to sell. Not all of us have things to sell. But “selling all” here does not necessarily mean giving away or parting with our material riches. More importantly, it means denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. When you deny yourself, you have “sold all”!

And the poor here might not be referring to the materially poor. But what if the poor here refers to anyone who might need something from you; say, for example, someone feels they need to rob you, or to insult you, or to hit you on the cheek. That’s a poor person right there, and you need to “sell all” and let them have their way with you. Actually, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that demanding.

The gift, or joy, of denying ourselves! The pleasure is all mine, said the Apostle Paul:

“9… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

The flesh is against the cross. There is nothing in all what Paul writes here that the flesh can rejoice in. But Paul, who in the Spirit saw the beauty of the cross, rejoiced in these contrary states of affairs, things contrary to everything that the flesh stands for. They were the things that would make him spiritually rich.

Denying oneself means exactly that: denying your rights! That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

In all what Jesus said to do here, there is a denying of self. In the Spirit, you gain your life by losing it.

Finally, let us see something slightly different but equally important. Scripture says that Jesus beheld this young man and loved him. Now, even in ordinary life, when you love someone, you want the best for them, don’t you? Jesus saw this man, He saw in the Spirit the worldly wealth that this man had and Jesus immediately knew that He could turn this young man, whom He had taken an instant liking to, into one of the top “billionaires” in God’s heavenly Kingdom. All the young man needed to do was… invest. In the Spirit, Jesus saw what this man’s worldly riches were worth in heaven if he could invest them wisely. Jesus decided to inform the young man of the Good News.

“Friend”, He said. “I have for you the best investment proposition that both heaven and earth can offer.

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”.

Jesus said,

“… and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

But, sadly, the rich young man could not see in the Spirit. Unfortunately, he did not see things as Jesus saw them. He did not see the great reward that would be his in heaven if he followed Jesus’ advice to sow in the flesh and reap in the Spirit. He could see only in the flesh; and all he saw was his valuable wealth – and someone (Jesus) trying to take it away from him.

[A woman and a young man meditating]

Image18763

Seeing Into God’s Kingdom – Part 2

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 2 Cor. 8:1-5

In every epistle that Paul wrote, he reminded the churches of what they first saw in the Spirit. As the prime example of one who had adhered to the revelation of the gospel in his heart, Paul, speaking to King Agrippa, said,

“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).

Paul obeyed the heavenly vision that God had given him! What a grace!!

But the heavenly vision that Paul saw was the same vision that the churches had seen through Paul’s preaching – the crucified Christ and the spiritual riches connected with His resurrection – and it was this same vision that he was beseeching them to obey.

In the Kingdom of God we cannot talk about money, nor material wealth. As important as we often tend to think these things are, yet they do not constitute the spiritual riches that God wants us to know of and to possess. It is due to our fleshly weakness that we put so much emphasis on these things. But you could be a billionaire believer here on earth and yet be a pauper in God’s Kingdom.

This is made abundantly clear in our key scripture here through the example of the Macedonian church. Notice they were in “deep poverty”. Do you know what it means to be in deep poverty? Coming from Africa, I do. If you go to the small neighborhood shops particularly in the poorer sections of town during the evening and just hang about, you will hear wonders. You will hear (mostly) women and children buying… half a kilogram of maize flour (which is probably for the entire family six to ten souls); a quarter kg. of sugar; etc. Things like bread are an unbelievable luxury. In fact, much more bread goes stale in some of these shops than is sold. I lived in one such neighborhood and not one shop sold margarine. Such things are unheard of. That is why when you are trying to take a photo in such places and you tell people to say “Cheese!” they will look at one another in perplexion instead. They don’t know what cheese is – and it is not a matter of not understanding the language.

Now, normally when we hear such tales, we feel sorry and we wring our hands in agony because we can’t imagine the sufferings that these poor people are going through. But in the Spirit, we cannot feel sorry for ourselves simply because we do not have cheese to eat. Nor can we say we are suffering because we are financially poor. On the contrary, we suffer in the Spirit when we do not have the grace of God. The sorriest mess of a person in the Kingdom of God is the man or woman who does not have God’s grace in their lives. He/she suffers and God also suffers or grieves in His heart.

That is why, although the Macedonians were dirt poor, they did not feel sorry for themselves, nor did they allow Paul to feel sorry for them. They were upbeat because they were rich in the Spirit. They told Paul, “Paul, we are sticking to the revelation of the gospel that you brought us!” In fact, these guys were so rich – so rich in grace – that they turned the tables on poverty.

They went ahead and brought out the riches of the grace of God that was in their hearts. So much so that Paul was overwhelmed. And when we say that Paul was overwhelmed, it is a given that God was also overwhelmed. For Paul followed Christ; he was a faithful representation of God’s grace and God’s character.

So, therefore, the Macedonians first “gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God”. The abundance of God’s grace in them enabled them to do this. After they gave their own selves, through that same grace, they then gave of their material possessions and finances “beyond their power”!

We are not talking about good people here. We are talking about people who broke through into God’s Kingdom and possessed their inheritance, God’s grace. God’s grace comprises His spiritual riches.

I will end here because one could not possibly write enough about the Macedonians.

But we cannot help noticing that as the Macedonians were exercising the grace of God by giving their lives, the Corinthians, who were much more affluent, were holding tight onto their purses. They had promised Paul that they would give to the poor saints in Jerusalem and a whole year had gone by without even a dime given! Now Paul had to send Titus once again to try and pry some money from them!! Incredible.

May God give us the grace to see into His Kingdom and to partake of His spiritual riches, His grace.