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Tag: suffering

Joy in Suffering

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at a couple different kids camps.  One, of course, was Camp Little Red – and we’ve done that for several years. I think there is only a handful of summers since we’ve been married that we haven’t spent at least a week out there. But we also got to go out to River’s Edge Camp this summer – and that was new for us. In many ways it is very different from Camp Little Red – but at the same time, it’s just the same. It’s a bunch of people who love Jesus and want these young kids to know and love him too!

So it was a real blessing to be at both camps – and I thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to go and do that. Camp has certainly made a difference in my life – and I know it’s made a difference in the lives of many here in our church! So I am excited for our church to continue being involved in camp ministry – I think it’s a fantastic way for us to be involved in sharing the Gospel and making disciples.

But to get back to the message for this morning – when I was speaking at River’s Edge Camp – my theme for my messages for them was “The Adventure of a Lifetime.” And we talked about how following God is always an adventure. Peter walking on water, David going up against Goliath – Moses leading the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. We talked about all of these incredible adventures that we usually hear about in Sunday School. But I didn’t want to paint a picture for them that following God is always easy. It is always an adventure – but it’s not always easy – it’s not always fun. There are times when following God is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

And so, I told them the story about Paul and Silas getting thrown in jail. But as I was preparing for that message, pulling out the points that I was going to share with the kids – I found that God pulled out several points that He wanted to share with me. Things that He wanted to challenge me on and encourage me in. Some of those thoughts have really stuck with me for these past couple weeks and so this morning, I want to share some of that with you too.

I want to read from Acts 16 this morning. This will be the extended version of what I shared with the campers. Just to give you the background to this story – Paul & Silas have headed out on what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul had in mind to go to Asia, but God kept closing those doors and instead redirected him to Macedonia. And so that’s where we pick it up in Acts 16, verse 11. And by the way, this is Dr. Luke writing this account… He says in verse 11…

11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

Acts 16:11-15

And so, so far, things are going really well for Paul & Silas. As missionaries they are having great success. They’ve only been there a short time and already they’ve met this Lydia lady, they’ve shared the Gospel with her, and she and her household believed the Gospel and are baptized! It’s a fantastic start!

I think we could see some parallels in our little church here. As a church, we’re only in year two and God has been so good to us already! We’ve grown to be a wonderful little family – we’re so thankful for each one of you. Through the different ministries of the church – and just through different people talking with friends and neighbours – our church has had many opportunities to share the Gospel with many people, we’ve had people believe and accept Jesus and we’re started to make plans for our first baptisms this fall!

It’s super exciting! Just as I’ve said in my camp theme, following God has been an incredible adventure. However, as Paul & Silas were about to find out – it’s not always fun and games!

16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials.21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” Acts 16:16-21

I can certainly see some parallels here too. That last statement sounds just like what you might hear about Christians today. People might say of us – “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Canadians to practice!”

Although Canada was founded on Christian principles and on the truths of Bible – our country is increasingly moving in the direction where speaking the truth of the Bible and living according to that truth is becoming illegal. There are more and more laws that obligate us to live and act and speak contrary to how God has instructed us.

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Suffering for the Cause of Christ

If you haven’t been with us in recent weeks, we’ve been going through the book of Colossians – which is Paul’s letter that he wrote to the church in Colosse. And the content of this letter is basically, “Christianity in a Nutshell.” It’s the basic truths about who Jesus is and what He came to do – and what we should do because of that. And as I eluded to with the kids in the kids time, today in this particular passage, we’re going to be looking at what Paul describes as the secret of Jesus Christ.

Several times throughout the New Testament, Paul refers to Jesus as God’s secret plan – a mystery kept hidden from the beginning of time. So we’re going to look to see what that’s all about. And with that we’re going to look to see what Paul did because of that secret. Paul’s entire life revolved around this secret – so maybe there are some lessons in there for us as well. 

This morning we begin at Colossians chapter 1, verse 24. Paul says…

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”

Colossians 1:24-27

Ok. Pause here for now. Before we get too far along, let’s take a minute to chew on this.

This first verse 24 can be a little confusing. Paul says…

I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. Colossians 1:24

Now my first thought as I read that is “what…. say that again…” How is Paul participating in the sufferings of Christ? And further, how do the sufferings of Christ continue even now?

And if you read that in the NIV or the ESV translations, you’re probably even more confused. Here’s what the English Standard Version says.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Colossians 1:24 ESV

What in the world does that even mean? How is Paul “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?” Is Paul saying that something is lacking in what Christ has done for us? Are His afflictions, His suffering on the cross – his death and resurrection is still lacking something? Is our salvation not complete?

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Dealing with Suffering

For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about living as aliens and if you’re just joining today for the first time – that might seem like a slightly odd sermon topic. But the reality is, as Christians, we ARE aliens. We are foreigners, strangers, short-term visitors on planet earth. We will spend maybe 60/80/100 years here and then woosh – we’re off to our eternal home – a place called Heaven. A place where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears, and no more sorrow – Just life as God intended it.

But as you know, we’re not there yet. We are still in a place where there is pain, there is suffering, there are tears and there are sorrows. And as Christians we are not immune from all that.

There are no promises in the Bible that tell us that Christians will be free from pain and suffering. If anything, the Bible promises us the opposite – that there certainly will be pain and suffering for anyone who wishes to follow Christ. Jesus says in John 16:33…

 “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” John 16:33

So how do we deal with that? How do we deal with pain and suffering, not just in the world in general, but in our own lives? Does God have a purpose for our pain (for our trials and sorrows) or is it just part of living in a sin-filled world? I mean, everyone experiences pain and suffering, but as Christians, as aliens in this world, how are we supposed to respond when we go through those dark, difficult times in life?

Table of contents for Living As Aliens

  1. Living As Aliens
  2. The Role of Aliens
  3. Dealing with Suffering
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