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Embrace Suffering as a Friend
Mother Teresa says “When suffering comes to you, welcome it with a smile. It is the greatest gift God can give you. Have the courage to accept anything God gives you with a smile and willingly give him anything he asks of you.”(Stories of mother Teresa, 64)
The passages below are taken from the book “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway. It was published in 2002.
There are many ways the Lord may lead a Christian during his or her life, but I’m convinced that the path of every believer will sooner or later include suffering. The Lord gives us these trials to keep us humble and dependent on him for our sustenance.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (NIV) I believe when suffering and pain increases, sinning decreases. I’ve certainly not yet reached the point of being “done with sin”. I still complain to the Lord when I suffer.
How we mature as a Christian largely depends on the attitude we have when we’re faced with suffering. Some try to avoid it or imagine it doesn’t exist, but that will only make the situation worse. Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief. This is better, but falls short of the full victory God wants to give each of his children.
The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend. We need a deep realization that when we’re persecuted for Jesus’ sake it is an act of God’s blessing to us. This might sound impossible, but it is attainable with God’s help. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:11—12.
We can grow to such a place in Christ where we laugh and rejoice when people slander us, because we know we are not of this world, but our security is in heaven. The more we are persecuted for his sake, the more reward we will receive in heaven.
When people malign you, rejoice and be glad. When they curse you, bless them in return. When you walk through a painful experience, embrace it and you will be free!
When you learn these lessons, there is nothing left that the world can do to you.
God is my witness that through all the tortures and beatings I’ve received I have never hated my persecutors. Never. I saw them as God’s instruments of blessing and his chosen vessels to purify me and make me more like Jesus.
Sometimes Western visitors come to China and ask the house church leaders what seminary they attended. We reply, jokingly yet with underlying seriousness, that we have been trained in the Holy Spirit Personal Devotion Bible School (prison) for many years.
Sometimes our Western friends don’t understand what we mean because they then ask, “What materials do you use in this Bible school?” We reply, “Our only materials are the foot chains that bind us, and the leather whips that bruise us.”
In this prison seminary we have learned many valuable lessons about the Lord that we could never have learned from a book. We’ve come to know God in a deeper way. We know his goodness and his loving faithfulness to us.
Christians who are in prison for the sake of the Lord are not the ones who are suffering. When people hear my testimony they often say, “You must have had a terrible time when you were in prison.” I respond, “What are you talking about? I was with Jesus and had overwhelming joy and peace in his intimate presence.”
The people who never really suffer are those who never experience God’s presence. The way to have God’s presence is by walking through hardship and suffering---the way of the cross. You may not be beaten or imprisoned for your faith, but I am convinced each Christian will still have a cross to bear in his or her life. In the West it may be ridicule, slander, or rejection. When you’re faced with such trials, the key is not to run from them or fight them, but to embrace them as friends. When you do this you’ll not fail to experience God’s presence and help.
When a child of God suffers you need to understand the Lord has allowed it. He has not forgotten you! The devil cannot snatch you away! Jesus made this beautiful promise to his children, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27—29.
The first time I went to prison I struggled, wondering why God had allowed it. Slowly I began to understand he had a deeper purpose for me than just working for him. He wanted to know me, and I to know him, deeply and intimately. He knew the best way to get my attention for a while was to give me rest behind bars.
Whenever I hear a house church Christian has been imprisoned for Christ in China I don’t advise people to pray for his or her release unless the Lord clearly reveals we should pray this way.
Before a chicken is hatched it is vital it is kept in the warm protection of the shell for 21 days. If you take the chick out of that environment one day too early, it will die. Similarly, ducks need to remain confined in their shell for 28 days before they are hatched. If you take a duck out on the 27th day, it will die.
There is always a purpose behind why God allows his children to go to prison. Perhaps it’s so they can witness to the other prisoners, or perhaps God wants to develop more character in their lives. But if we use our own efforts to get them out of prison earlier than God intended, we can thwart his plans, and the believers may come out not as fully formed as God wanted them to be.
I’m often asked about the rights of pastors in China. A pastor has no rights, except the rights of a slave! Everyone in this world is a slave. They’re either slaves to sin, or slaves of Christ. Our “rights” are in the hands of Jesus. We must fall on our knees in complete dependence on him.
Christians in China appreciate whenever believers around the world try to help them during times of imprisonment or persecution, but all efforts to help need to be bathed in prayer and rooted in God’s will, otherwise it only seems to make things worse.
The world can do nothing to a Christian who has no fear of man. (319-313)
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