The Tree of Life
April 30, 2000
We are noting PHI 3:10: "that I may come to know Him, and the power of [behind] His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." The next phrase we will note is " and the fellowship of His sufferings." This refers to participation in His sufferings. The mature or supergrace believer wears the mantle of continual satanic opposition. The question is often asked, "When will it get easier?" The answer that must be given is "Not until you die!" As long as you stick with the plan of God for your life, there will be continual pressure and opposition from satanic forces of evil. This participation in His suffering is the highest honor God could give to any believer in time. This undeserved suffering is the highest mantle or award in time for the mature believer.
This is the third phrase in PHI 3:10 that is very rich with meaning. The first one is PHI 3:10 which says "that I may come to know Him." The second one, "that I may come to know the power of [behind] His resurrection," and then this is the third one, "and the participation of His sufferings." This has nothing to do with the law of volitional responsibility or divine discipline but rather has to do with undeserved suffering. Therefore, we begin with the very simple principle; we must understand that God has provided in eternity past everything we will ever need for the subject of suffering. Paul wrote in 2TI 3:8-10 "And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses [this was the beginning of Moses' mantle of suffering], so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith or the doctrine of the Christian faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly [or lack of sense] will be obvious to all, as also that of those two [Jannes and Jambres] came to be. But you followed my doctrine, self-discipline, purpose, faithfulness, patience, love, perseverance or endurance."
This was Paul's power to undergo opposition, criticism, and annoyance without giving up or becoming discouraged and succumbing to self-pity. 2TI 3:11-12 "persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra [these were three towns where the Judaizers followed Paul and organized a conspiracy against him, and at Lystra, they stoned him to death]; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly or the spiritual life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This applies toPHI 3:10, "the participation of or in His sufferings." Under equal privilege and equal opportunity in the Pre-Designed Plan of God for your life, there are divine solutions to the problems of undeserved suffering. When we stick with doctrine for a long period of time, we come to the point where we have perfect happiness no matter what. Therefore, whether we are in some form of adversity or some form of prosperity makes no difference, +H or God's Happiness, pulls us through! As a matter of fact, some of the greatest blessings that will ever come to you will come during times of participation in His sufferings. As believers in The Lord Jesus Christ, each one of us is going to spend eternity in Heaven, our real home. So by living our life in the light of eternity your relationship with God will be your number one priority in your life. Our time on this earth is very short, even if you live to be a hundred; it is still like a drop of water in the ocean when compared to eternity. This life cannot compare with the eternal weight of glory which is far beyond all comparison 2CO 4:17-18 "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
You will also realize that participation in His sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, ROM 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." This is why HEB 11:25 says about Moses "choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin;"
Certainly you have problems and things that are painful and difficult in your life. The point is to advance to spiritual adulthood, so that the problems, adversities, tragedies, difficulties of life become a blessing because of participation in His sufferings. Strangely enough, the greatest blessings in life come to the believer who goes through undeserved suffering and reaches spiritual adulthood. All problems before then are a source of great difficulty and there are only two real problem solving devices functioning; Rebound and the Faith-Rest Drill. You are filled with the Spirit but that is something that automatically happens that you do necessarily have to concentrate on. But once you reach the first stage of spiritual growth, spiritual self-esteem, you now have the beginning of the four great problem solving devices of spiritual adulthood: Grace Orientation, Doctrinal Orientation, A Personal Sense of Destiny, and Personal Love for God the Father. Outside of occasional divine discipline because of failure or sin, all your adversities are going to be designed for even greater blessings. If the believer advances and uses the divine assets made available, in the eternal state he will be rewarded for taking advantage of his equal privilege and equal opportunity.
In the spiritual life there is no standing still, if a believer doesn't advance, he goes backwards, but if he is a winner he will persevere. 2TI 2:11-12 says "Faithful is the word. For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure [in participation in His sufferings or undeserved suffering for blessing], we shall rule with Him [as mature believers]. If we deny Him [in time by rejecting Bible doctrine] He will deny us [rewards, escrow blessings in eternity]. If we are unfaithful [disbelieving, faithless], He remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."
The fact that we are unfaithful does not change the faithfulness of God. Every believer is indwelt by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God cannot deny Himself since He indwells the believer. As you advance in spiritual growth you get a lot of pressure, a lot of undeserved suffering. But this is where you can have maximum glorification of Christ, and Satan hates that. So the sufferings here being such a high honor and decoration have a lot of distractions and obstacles to overcome. God permits Satan to use every device possible under the rules of the angelic conflict.
The Bible explains suffering and reveals powerful divine assets for coping with adversities and difficulties. Because of this, no believer needs to remain ignorant of the causes and solutions to any difficulty in his life. Suffering is not puzzling; every form of suffering in our lives has a reason and an explanation. In the Christian way of life, much of our suffering can be understood in relationship to the believer's spiritual growth. However, in this subject of participation in His sufferings, we will just examine the divine solutions connected with providential preventive suffering, momentum testing, and evidence testing. These are the categories of participation in His sufferings. This type of suffering challenges us as believers to learn and utilize the divine assets God has given us.
Suffering depletes our human resources and confronts us with our total dependence upon the grace of God, 2Co 12:9-10 "And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
Suffering is not merely a warning and a restraint but a teacher and motivator as well, suffering impresses upon us our need to conform to God's plan. Misfortune does not always come to injure us because the proper application of Bible doctrine under pressure produces spiritual growth. We experience the reality that God is "a very present help in trouble", PSA 46:1. As a result of using His provisions, our love for Him grows stronger, and we accelerate our spiritual advance. So whether as a protector or as an incentive for spiritual growth, all suffering in the Christian life must be understood in relation to the plan of God. Suffering is designed for our good and for His glorification: He is glorified by sustaining and blessing us in any situation, whether prosperity or adversity. It is for His glory, and that's why in the midst of hardships and disasters of life God promises, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (JOS 1:5; HEB 13:5).
Rather than eliminating suffering from our lives, He gives us far greater benefits by walking with us. As you grow spiritually, every stage of spiritual growth is accompanied by some form of identification with His sufferings, which were undeserved. This suffering occurs while you're on your way to certain stages of spiritual growth but the ultimate form is and when you arrive at spiritual maturity and you have "come to know Him, and the power of [behind] His resurrection and the participation of His sufferings," Under pressure the believer needs truth. If he is coddled and babied, he may be in danger of intensifying his problem by going into self-pity. No one with integrity wants to feel sorry for himself. This was revealed so magnificently by our Lord when He was going to the Cross LUK 23:27.
Problem solving when it comes to suffering begins with the first problem-solving device, Rebound. Remember that the Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life that demands a supernatural means of execution. Rebound brings us to the invisible behind-the-scenes ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the believer's life. It is called Rebound because every believer fails at some time or another and he must quickly learn how to reenter the Pre-Designed Plan of God. He exits by committing sin; he reenters by naming that sin to God, 1JO 1:9.
The next problem-solving device in the Christian way of life is Faith-Rest, which enables the believer to control his own mental attitude. While emotion is a blessing, it can also be a terrible cursing when it sweeps away reason. The distraught and disturbed believer regains and maintains his self-control by the Faith-Rest Drill. A confusing, complicated situation must first be reduced to utter simplicity by claiming stated promises of God, Heb 4:1:3 "Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it."
Promises are designed by God to stabilize us in times of suffering PRO 3:5-6, PSA 37:4-5, and 1PE 5:7 "casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you." The faith-rest drill is that problem-solving device used by believers in all dispensations for carrying and using the shield of faith. Stabilized by divine promises, the believer can now recall principles he has learned and eventually reach doctrinal conclusions. From the divine viewpoint he can then deal with the complexities of the situation.
The next basic problem-solving device which is vital in handling suffering is a Personal Sense of Destiny.
This answers the question "Where am I going in life?" "What is the purpose of this suffering that I'm going through?"
As you learn the relevant doctrine about your own future blessings; your eager anticipation, or hope, of receiving those blessings motivates you to keep advancing. This means that to handle suffering, you must develop enforced and genuine humility. Arrogance is the believer's worst enemy.
Obedience to the divine plan means using perfect divine assets rather than trusting inferior human ability. As the believer learns more doctrine, he understands the reasons behind God's commands and sees how His commands reveal His matchless grace and character. With a growing knowledge of Bible doctrine, enforced humility becomes genuine humility, the foundation for personal love for God. Therefore, he must always organize his day to accomplish his first priority, the assimilation of God's Word. It is through the word of God that all suffering is met, challenged and defeated.
The question is, "Will we respond to the situation in a way that is pleasing to God and be willing to participate in His sufferings? Our ambition is to be pleasing to Him, not to people, but to Him. This acceptability to Him is our reward, Many times God works by paradox: Success comes via failure; life springs out of death etc. The only part in the believer's life that crumbles is that which has to go anyway, the new life can never be harmed or affected. So often the means utilized by the Holy Spirit is an unsaved mate, or even a saved one, poor health or even good health, adversity or prosperity. He uses almost everything to bring out the worst in us, ultimately enabling us to see that the Christian life has to be "not I, but Christ," (GAL 2:20). People or circumstances are never the cause of failure. God's method for true spiritual growth involves pain as well as joy, suffering as well as happiness, failure as well as success, inactivity as well as service, death as well as life, the temptation to shortcut is especially strong unless we see the value of, and submit to, the necessity of the time element.
We must go back that very simplistic trust to rest in His hands, PHI 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun in you an absolute good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." And it will take that long! But since God is working for eternity, why should we be concerned about the time involved? It will help us to bear in mind that the principle of time underlies all of God's dealings with us. Growth takes time! 1PE 5:10 "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."