Although Jesus promised us we would be hated for His sake, (Matthew 10:21-25) He didn’t say we wouldn’t feel the sting of that animosity. Suffering for Jesus is not called suffering because it’s enjoyable. David felt overwhelmed with the enmity and hostility of his enemies. Verses 1-5 read,
“Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
4 More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
5 O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.”
We know God is with us, yet sometimes at the height of suffering we can wonder if we will ever reach the end of it. We can wonder if The Lord will ever deliver and avenge us. If faith we easy or automatic everyone would have faith. The enemy lies to us and about us. The world of haters finds false reasons and flawed assumptions to hate us. But we know we do not need to hide our wrongs from The Lord and we couldn’t if we wanted to. It is futile to hide our shortcomings from the world. If they think we haven’t ever fallen as they do, then they wouldn’t see how God has saved us and how He can save them too.
That doesn’t give license to sin. We are citizens of Heaven, representatives of God, and ambassadors of the church. We live and walk in obedience to Christ. We don’t hide our sin, but we also live in a manner that honors our Father’s name and doesn’t shame our Brothers and Sisters. Verses 6-12 say,
“Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that dishonor has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother's sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12 I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.”
The deeper our passion for Jesus, our fervor for The Father, and our zest for The Spirit the more the world will despise us and be repulsed by us. They will call us fools, the will shake their heads and think we are ridiculous. Even our blood families will talk about us with derision. They see our behavior and it is peculiar. It makes no sense to them that we would submit to God, one another, or them. It makes no sense that instead of fighting back we would offer ourselves for more beatings. But we are meant to stand out from the world.
We are meant to look, act, and sound like Jesus. It isn’t always easy to be the butt of the joke but we know the Truth. We just can’t be like the world imprisoned to lies and ignorant of the chains and oppression they are under. For us, suffering is temporary. It is knowing that which allows us to make it through. For the believer, suffering for righteousness’ sake has purpose and that purpose is great. We can rejoice and continue to live as Jesus lived with love and virtue. We do not earn salvation through our uprightness, we are saved because we have faith in Jesus. Romans 5:1-6 says,
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
We know that suffering is necessary and good. We know that The Holy Spirit uses it to conform us to Christ’s image. And in Him we can tell the world about how wonderful He is, how He saved us and can save them too. Those awesome purposes mean that there are times when we may suffer longer than we would like. But faith reminds us that misery and affliction will end at the perfect time. Verses 13-18 read,
“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
14 Deliver me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
17 Hide not your face from your servant;
for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
18 Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
ransom me because of my enemies!”
The lost are headed toward the eternal pit. They are not aware of why they might suffer. But The Lord uses their suffering to bring them to a place where they realize they can only call out to Jesus to be saved. He uses us, our entire lives including our suffering and our response to suffering to demonstrate His saving power to the world.
When we suffer, we call out to The Lord, we don’t try to numb or relieve the pain by our own strength. We do not seek the answers or provisions of the world. We seek the Kingdom of God, His will, provision, strength, healing, and joy. When we seek God first, everything else falls into place and worry about our distress becomes foreign to us, the children of Almighty God. (Matthew 6:25-34).
We can’t look to the world for compassion, provision, or anything we should be receiving from The Lord. They hate us because they hate Jesus. They hated Him so completely and utterly that they wanted to murder Him in the most horrific and tortuous way a person could be killed. But they didn’t take Jesus’ life, He gave it. We like Jesus must be ready to do the same. We must be willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake which is the sake of the whole world. Verses 19-21 read,
“You know my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to you.
20 Reproaches have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
and for comforters, but I found none.
21 They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”
Verse 21 presages Jesus’ agony on the cross. He endured that torture for us. When He cried out that He was thirsty they gave him sour wine, vinegar instead of wine. First mixed with gall and myrrh to decrease his pain, but Jesus refused it. (Matthew 27:34). Then later he accepted sour wine without the gall to prolong his suffering. (Matthew 27:48). Neither was to slake his thirst. The world may offer us money, power, and revelry, but none of it is for our true benefit. Let them seek their profit from the world, eventually all their wealth, all their rich foods, and all their false power will be a stumbling block. They will either fall on their knees before Jesus or be thrown into the pits of Hell. We cannot be like them and therefore send them to Hell ourselves. Verses 22-28 describe it.
“Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
24 Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
25 May their camp be a desolation;
let no one dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
27 Add to them punishment upon punishment;
may they have no acquittal from you.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”
The sinner will never be counted with the righteous. Only those made good and holy by Jesus’ blood will be in the Book of Life. Everyone starts out with the opportunity to be saved. God, our Father has chosen that all can be saved by Jesus. But many will not listen to the urgings of The Holy Spirit. Many will close their ears and harden their hearts against Him and so they will be blotted out of the Book of Life and instead die eternally.
For us who humble ourselves before The Lord, admit our sin, and let God be our God, He saves us. He keeps us and carries us through the suffering. He won’t save someone who won’t admit they need saving. He helps those who ask for His help and rescue. Verses 29-33 read,
“But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”
So Believer, do not be afraid to suffer. Do not be afraid to call out to The Lord for deliverance. Call out to Him and praise Him for His Salvation. Let the world know how great our Lord is. Let the church know how good The Lord is. Verses 34-36 read,
“Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
35 For God will save Zion
and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
36 the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.”