A Journey Thru Acts 28: Persecution In Purpose & Purpose In Persecution 2

refiner's fire (8-28-17)

We will continue what we started in the previous post:

Acts 7:54-61—8:8

8 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul  began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Those who had been scattered preached [“gossipped’—conversation] the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed [sermon] the Messiah there. 

[The early Christians did not let persecution distract them from their mission–proclaiming the Gospel of the death & resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Oh but how we let prosperity distract us from our same mission…]

When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

The LORD brought “great joy” (Acts 8:8)
out of “great persecution” (Acts 8:1).
Praise the LORD!

Oh the heavenly joy we miss
because we avoid cultural persecution &
chase earthly happiness…

May we rejoice in, not run from, danger & suffering…

We continue to dig into the Bible to see that the LORD lovingly leads His people INTO trials, difficulty, challenges, suffering, persecution. In heaven, God will comfort forever; on earth, He will forge our character. Don’t avoid this. Reject & run from the teaching that the LORD’s main goal for His people on earth is to make our lives as comfortable/easy as possible.

Here are some more Bible passages on this important Truth… 

John 16:33: The Lord Jesus said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. 

[Our peace is in Christ, not comfort,
in the Savior, not in safety,
in the Lord, not the La-Z-Boy,
in the Master, not the mall or meditation].

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 1:29-30: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ
not only to believe in him,
but also to suffer for him,
30 since you are going thru the same struggle
you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

[Powerful–belief in Christ & suffering for Christ go hand in hand–
both are “granted” (blessed!) on behalf of Christ to us as gifts!
Paul had struggles “still”,
meaning the Lord was allowing him to go through them for an extended time…
Oh there is a reason that true patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit…

1 Peter 1:1-9: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect,
exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia & Bithynia, 

[The early Christians were God’s chosen elect,
and yet He allowed them to be “exiles scattered” in foreign lands…
the love & blessing of the LORD does not mean that He makes our lives easier…

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace & peace be yours in abundance.

[Remembering this Truth—what the LORD accomplished for his repentant people
thru the Cross & empty tomb—is vitally necessary for us to survive & thrive in suffering!

We aren’t Christians simply because one day we chose to believe…
Even more than that, we could only choose to believe because first
God the Father chose US,
chose to make us new & transform (sanctify) us through the Holy Spirit,
chose to forgive & pardon us through the blood of His Righteous Son Jesus,
chose to call us to the obedience that comes from faith!

The more we marvel at the LORD’s undeserved mercy & grace to us,
the more we will have strength to endure the suffering that He leads us into…]

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
thru the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

[Oh do you know the riches of the inheritance of the Father for you,
child of God redeemed thru repentance & faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?]

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
5who thru faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

6In all this you greatly rejoice, [do you rejoice in salvation!?]
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—
of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

  • Being shielded by God’s power doesn’t mean we are shielded from suffering, but shielded from suffering that takes away our salvation in Christ! True Christians are shielded from forever walking away from Christ IN our suffering (though we may do it temporarily, true Christians will always repent & return like Peter!).
  • Suffering in the Lord leads HIM to get praise, glory & honor when He returns! How? Great question. We will talk about that a little later…
  • Suffering in the Lord helps us love Him, believe in Him & be filled w/glorious joy!

In suffering don’t check your financial account balance to be encouraged;
check your spiritual account balance in Christ Jesus: Paid in full! YES!

Luke 9:57-58:
 5As they were walking along the road, a man said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
58Jesus replied,“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

A man said he’d go WHERE the Lord Jesus went; Christ responded:
Ah, but will you go HOW I go there—no earthly comforts with much suffering?

Our US government’s witness protection program = hidden & away from danger;
our Governor Jesus’ witness protection program = out in the open & exposed to danger!

Matthew 10:16-20: 16“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes &as innocent as doves….

Christian Suffering (5-29-14)

[Many will discount this verse and say that the Lord Jesus meant this only for the original 11 disciples…goodness, my friends, then how do we explain the millions of Christians who have suffered severe persecution over the last 2,000 years, and the millions of Christians around the world each day today who suffer horrifically?

No, loved ones, this verse above, in addition to all the other many passages in Scripture on the suffering of God’s people, is meant for all Christians of all times…]

Revelation 1:9:
I, John, your brother and companion
in the suffering
and kingdom
and patient endurance
that are ours in Jesus,
was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

What does John highlight as part of our inheritance/blessings in Christ?
“Suffering, the kingdom, and patient endurance [in suffering!].”

Suffering is in the same category of blessing as the Kingdom of God!
And John wrote these words while he was exiled/imprisoned on the island of Patmos!

Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in
[or fellowship of] his sufferings becoming like him in his death…

You can’t have deep fellowship with Christ Jesus without deep suffering…

  • Soldiers in combat together grow much closer than soldiers behind a desk.
  • Athletes are closer after the end of a grueling season than they are before it.

Scars are a stronger cement than safety;
affliction is a stronger adhesive than amusement.

But how do we survive & thrive in such suffering?
How do we prepare, get ready, endure?

  1. Train. Exercise. Grow in faith in Christ. Mature. Exercise spiritually.

NFL training camp—we don’t say, “Those players are legalists for training so hard.” We say they’re DEDICATED&celebrate those who work to improve &challenge those who take it easy.

Once we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior by faith,
we must train,
we must “work out our salvation with fear & trembling,
for it is God who works in you both to will [desire] and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2).

NFL players that don’t train in practice get crushed on the field.
They suffer more in the game though they suffer less in practice.
Same with us.

As has been said, “Losing sweat in training often saves blood on the battlefield.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Timothy 4:7-8: “Have nothing to do with godless myths & old wives’ tales;
rather, train yourself to be godly.
For physical training is of some value,
but godlinesss
[requires training!] has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life&the life to come.”

  1. Remember Christians who have suffered&are suffering.
    You are not alone. Read Christian biography!!!

1 Peter 5:9:
Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
because you know that the family of believers throughout the world
is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

James 5:7-11: Be patient, then, brothers&sisters, until the Lord’s coming.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop,
patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
9Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.
The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering,
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
As you know,we count as blessed those who have persevered.

[Ah, but we often count as more blessed those who have played it safe and avoided suffering for Christ!!! Oh how far the Church has strayed from our Savior!!!]

You have heard of Job’s perseverance
and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Verse 7: Remember the Lord Jesus WILL return!
Our suffering WILL end, our tears wiped away by His nail-scarred hands!!!

That’s not pie in the sky/head in the clouds,
that’s not living in denial of suffering
but living in anticipation IN suffering!

Quarterbacks who brace themselves to get hit by a linebacker are less injured than those who are blindsided. Our preparation for suffering isn’t pessimistic but optimistic—it shows we trust God enough to believe His warnings & prepare & we love Him enough to want to honor Him WHEN we suffer!

  • Don’t thoughts of summertime help you persevere thru finals in the spring?
  • Don’t thoughts of future surgery (&relief/healing!) give u hope in present pain?

Verse 7: Look for encouragement in God’s design in nature—that’s why I use practical illustrations and daily-life analogies, that’s why the LordJesus used examples from nature—He designed parts of life to reflect some of theTruth of HisWord!

Verse 10-11: Remember God’s people in the Bible who suffered! Study how God brought good out of their trials—we have the benefit of hindsight that they did not have! The LORD is the same God for us as He is/was for them!

Verse 11: Remember the Lord’s character, Who He is!
He was compassionate & merciful as He allowed Job to suffer greatly,
And He is compassionate & merciful as He allows us to suffer as well!
Don’t stare at the waves, but at Him Who stands on them!

An anchor doesn’t makes waves disappear; it makes the boat secure in them.
So it is with us & Christ Jesus
(though He also has power over waves)—Hebrews 6:18-20

  1. Perspective is so important—how do you choose to view your suffering?
    Focus on the Lord Jesus & the Cross/empty tomb;
    don’t focus on your feelings.

“Believe Christ’s love [His finished work on the Cross]
more than your own feeling.
Your Rock does not ebb & flow, though your sea does”—John Knox

James 1:2-5: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

[Do you KNOW that the LORD will bring good out of your suffering?
Not do you FEEL, but do you KNOW?
That is faith, loved ones–trusting what He has said in His Word,
not what we feel in the world…

Do you want to be COMPLETE in Christ, do you want to reach full maturity?
This is the way to honor the Lord Jesus the most.
Though He loves us in “as is” condition,
we don’t honor Him by staying the way we are,
but we honor Him by “will be” condition,
becoming who He made us to be…

But how to focus our minds on Christ
with so many distractions outside of us AND inside of us?

The Bible & the Holy Spirit—both are utterly essential.

  • Strongest person on earth can’t, with fingers alone, twist an extremely tightened nut off a screw—leverage & power needed–apart from Christ we have neither.
    But a weak man, with a wrench, can loosen the tightened nut.

Tools matter.

God’s Word, His promises, is the wrench, & our strength comes from the Holy Spirit in us thru faith & prayer—both, still by the grace of the Father, enable us to constantly loosen our minds which are tightly focused on our problems, on sinful ways of looking at reality, & focus our minds on the Lord Jesus & seeing our suffering thru His eyes, in light of eternity, trusting in what He SAYS in the Bible not what we see in the battle.

Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to [copy] the patterns of this world but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

What are the patterns of the world that we are not to copy?

  • Why me, why now, how long?
  • If You were loving, God, You wouldn’t let this happen…
  • I dont deserve this/I cant take another moment/if You wont fix it I’ll do it myself
  • You must not be true because I’m not seeing the results I want &
    I will follow/trust in/worship whatever DOES get me results…

We will neither survive or thrive in our suffering if we continue to copy those thought patterns/attitudes—thru the Holy Spirit & the Bible we must see our suffering from God’s perspective, through His eyes…

Philippians 2:Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus…”

James 1: “Consider it joy when you face trials…”

Romans 5:1-5: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God thru our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 

3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know
[not FEEL by sight but KNOW by faith]
that suffering produces perseverance;
4perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
5And hope does not put us to shame [or disappoint],
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts thru the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.

All of these verses speak of an attitude change, a shift in how we look at suffering—we’ll then be able to make the choice to rejoice IN suffering, consider it joy when we suffer, trust our Father’s long-term results from our suffering, etc…

Hebrews 12: “Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…”

Gaze, don’t glance at the Cross;
study, dont skim the suffering of the Lord Jesus on your behalf…

Romans 12:1: “In view of His mercy,
offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy & pleasing to God,
this is your spiritual act of worship…”

By God’s grace, THIS is how to survive & thrive
when He lovingly leads us into suffering & persecution:

Spiritual training,
remembering Christians who have & are suffering,
focusing thoughts & attitudes on Christ Jesus
& what He accomplished thru the cross & empty tomb.

Closing Challenge

Suffering as a Christian is the highest/best way to glorify the LORD—we will never show the greatness of God more clearly than when we praise Him in the middle of our suffering.

The purpose of our existence is to glorify God—to spread His fame, to shine the spotlight of our lives on Him, to make much of Him;

  • if our lives are a magazine, to glorify God is for the Trinity to be both the model on the cover and the subject of every article/advertisement on the pages.

That people would see us and praise Him. That we would “display His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3), that the knowledge of the LORD would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea…

And we do this most powerfully when we suffer and STILL praise Him,
follow Him, obey Him, rejoice in Him, sacrifice for Him, trust Him, etc.

This was Job’s situation—God blessed Job so much that the devil challenged God, the devil said that of course Job praised God…everything was easy for him. But the devil believed that if life got hard enough, Job would eventually curse God and walk away from Him. In other words, yes Job praised the LORD in his ease/comfort, but would he continue to do so in his suffering?

Read the book of Job to find out how it all plays out—God was so glorified through Job because of Job’s response in his terrible suffering and grief…same with us.

Job 1:20-22:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship
21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Job 2:9-10:

 “[Job’s] wife said to him,
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman.
Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

When we suffer and continue to praise the LORD & honor Him, [this is speculation on my part], I think the angels stand amazed at God—

“You can do THAT…through THEM?
You are amazing, LORD!
You can transform HER/HIM…into THAT?
You are amazing, LORD!
Those humans were dead in sins and You have made them alive in Christ,
they were faithless & You have made them faithful,
they used to give up easily & drop out of the race with the tiniest pebble
and now You have made them to endure & persevere
and keep running on a broken leg.
They were blind but You have made them see You
& they remember & trust what they’ve heard from You
even when they are blinded by pain!
Only You could do this, LORD, only You—
truly You are worthy, the Lamb Who was slain,
to receive all glory and honor and power and majesty and praise…”

Remember Job & his suffering
& what he said in the middle of it (not just after)!

Job 23:10: But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Job 19:25-27: I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
 in my flesh I will see God;

From the book “The Screwtape Letters”:

“Our cause [demons’] is never more in danger
than when a human,
no longer desiring,
but still intending,
to do our Enemy’s will [God the Father’s],
[and the human] looks round upon a universe
from which every trace of Him
seems to have vanished,
and asks why he has been forsaken,
and still obeys.”

Psalm 73: 13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments…

…When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

[But through repentance & trust in the Lord Jesus Christ & His suffering,
any far off & unfaithful people can be brought near & forgiven in Christ!!!]

28But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”

gold bars (8-28-17)