Enduring hardship as a Christian is quite a task. It involves so many factors of which endless books have been written. I could go in a lot of different directions and come up with a whole battle plan of how to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” but I will do that in many separate articles. I believe also someday I will write a book series on the topic. But for now I am only wanting to put out one single lesson. I will post a series of scriptures after that to support the whole theme, but it is important to get this one lesson, because I believe it is one of the few main reasons why Christians do not fulfill their callings and why they never move beyond where they are at.
I once came up with a very lengthy study breaking down the Fruit of the Spirit. I have the original 1828 Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language I use to break down definitions. Webster’s original dictionary contained numerous biblical passages for virtually every definition. Webster himself learned 26 languages and did endless study of the biblical languages. Needless to say, I trust his definitions in context with scripture.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” Galatians 5:22,23
One of the fruit of the spirit above is Longsuffering. Other Bible versions translate it patience or forbearance. Webster defines it as:
“Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; long endurance; and patience of offense”
There are a few different concepts within this definition that I will write separate blogs on, but for this blog I mainly want to press on the part about patience and what that truly means. First though I want to make a few points to stress what we are to be patient about. We are to bear “injuries” In fact we are to “suffer injuries” I will now give the definitions of suffering, injuries, and patience and then I want to make my point scripturally with one main verse and then put out a challenge. After that I will post scriptures of biblical suffering and you can continue to read them if you want or not. Here are the definitions according to Webster:
Suffering: “To feel or bear what is painful, disagreeable or distressing, either to the body or the mind; we suffer with pain, sickness or sorrow. We suffer with anxiety. We suffer by evils past and by anticipating others to come. We suffer from fear and from disappointed hopes; to be injured; to sustain loss or damage”
Injury: “Any wrong or damage done to a man’s person, rights, reputation or goods. That which impairs the soundness of the body or health, or gives pain is an injury…We may receive injury by misfortune as well as by injustice”
Patience: “The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evils with a calm and unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness…or discontent; The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent. Perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion. The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.”
There is so much to be said of all these definitions, such as bearing offenses and injuries. Until the day you die you will have to suffer being offended by people one way or another. Very recently I had to endure being highly offended at someone and I’m just now getting over with it. I read a book a long time ago called The Bait of Satan which teaches that offense is his main weapon to use to divide us, and that it gives him a foothold in your life:
“Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26, 27
But the main definition I want to focus on is this: “endurance without murmuring, fretfulness, discontent”
One of the top few reasons why I believe that many Christians never fulfill the calling on their lives is because of these three words: murmuring, fretfulness, and discontent. Here is the scripture I want to use to back up this claim:
“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them…Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10: 6-11
God took the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years for what should have taken 11 days. Out of the original group of over 1 million that came out of slavery out of Egypt, only two people made it to the Promised Land. The story of the Israelites is almost entirely paralleled to the Christian life. God rescued us out of the slavery of sin, the wilderness is our journey with him throughout life in preparation for our calling, and the Promised Land is us reaching our calling to the fullest.
The Israelites complained every time there was a hardship. God destroyed thousands of them at one time just for complaining and being ungrateful. I can’t tell you how many Christians I see complaining on Facebook about stuff in their lives. I have been guilty of this in the past. I am of the firm belief that we don’t have enough of the fear of God in today’s society. Consider this:
“Do not be haughty(arrogant, conceited), but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israel), He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” Romans 11:20-22
You may want to ask yourself of ways you have complained and have been ungrateful. Do you complain in traffic? Do you complain when things don’t go your way or when you face hardship? Do you complain about school? About Work? Now I am not one who believes that everything in your life is God’s will. A lot of it is just the results of our own actions or inactions, or laziness. You reap what you sow. That is a separate blog.
The challenge I want to put out though is to study those three definitions and see in what area in your life you are not suffering in the right way, and make it a goal to not complain.
Fretfulness: Fretfulness is basically anxiety. Feelings are unavoidable many times but our actions and words are preventable. Fretfulness or anxiety causes many people to utter words that are in contrast to God’s words. We have to remind ourselves that he is faithful and that he has a plan. This is why we have to get to know his word and to utter his promises and to store them in our hearts to help alleviate our anxiety. One of the other fruits of the spirit is Joy which is a remedy for anxiety and fretfulness. Making ourselves Joyful is very difficult sometimes. Some people seem born with the gift of being carefree and peaceful and displaying joy. It’s not so easy for the rest of us. This is another reason we need to know scripture. If you know so full well the promises of God and can place your mind on eternity, it really helps. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost“ We are in a right relationship with him through Christ, we practice righteousness in our daily lives, we have peace in our circumstances because we trust him, and we have joy because we are redeemed and we have such a future hope. It is a state of mind. Turn off the television, get off Facebook, read scripture and go out in nature and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Joy is a very important topic I plan to write much about because it is quite a challenge for myself. I’m not writing these blogs just for everyone else. It really helps me because it forces me to study and to live up to what I teach.
Discontent: I wish I had the time to go into this and it is why I keep saying that I will write separate blogs. I will say a few words though. Being discontent is a state of mind. Like anxiety, it can cause us to say certain things and to take certain courses of action in our lives which are wrong. Being content comes with spiritual maturity and is one of the highest callings on the Christian life. The Apostle Paul mastered the art of this and is such an example to us. He wrote this while he was in prison:
“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying it is wrong to feel sad or discontented. You have to stop letting it make you utter words which God sees as ungrateful which is what he hates. Stop wishing things were so different and engage in your situation in the right way. Stop envying others and wishing you had what they have. I truly believe that only when we learn how to be content where we are at is when God will promote us.
One major problem I see with all this though is that we have a hard time trusting God because we seem to go nowhere in life. I have very strong reasons as I have said why many Christians do not ever progress spiritually and never act out their calling. I have said many times that I believe there are a few main reasons for this. One of them is Romans 8:28
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
This verse has been severely misused in Christianity today, especially when people shorten it to “All things work together for good” THAT IS NOT TRUE. It says “to those who love God” Jesus said “If you love me keep my commandments.” He repeats this in number of different times in a number of different ways. His commandments were to “love one another” and the first and greatest “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The Apostle John repeats that if we love him we will obey his commandments, and if we don’t we are a liar. The point being; God is not working all things together for good until you are actually loving him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving others. Are you really loving him with all your strength by wasting hours a day playing video games or watching sports when you could be learning his word or laboring in his service for the gospel, or helping others, or serving in ministry? I could come up with endless examples like this.
One of my next blogs is going to be on this topic so I’m trying not to elaborate on it too far. I consider it one of the most important things I will ever write about. It will offend many people but this is one area I mean to bring conviction. I believe too many people are conforming to the world. Notice in a similar way to the scripture above the implications of God’s will and working things out for good:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Notice after Paul says not to conform to the world he says “then you will be able” Other translations say “That you may prove” I plan to write a whole blog on how Christians are conforming to this world and that will most definitely get me a lot of haters from luke-warm Christians. It is not legalism. We don’t avoid things with a law mentality, unless you have not mastered the grace mentality. We avoid certain things out of love for God and so we can be spending our time on laboring for his kingdom.
So if you can’t tell, I like to break down definitions. I am so tired of one liner Facebook Christianity. Ask yourself; what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Just wait until I break down all those definitions and provide scripture to back them up. Scripture has a lot to say about our mind and about the heart. Can you just imagine all the ways?
So, with all that said, look out for future blogs. For now I will end this with a list of scriptures which deal with suffering biblically. When you read these keep in mind the definitions. These are also meant to give you hope. We today in America don’t suffer anything compared to the saints around the world currently who are being tortured and martyred for their faith. My favorite ministry, which I have followed over the years and support financially, is Voice of The Martyrs. Persecution.com if you want to check it out. They track persecuted Christians around the world and provide much support in a lot of different ways. So keep them in mind when you are going through what you are and remember to be grateful that we live in a country with so much freedom and comfort. Better yet, let us use this freedom to labor for the Kingdom of God. Thank you for reading.
2 Timothy 3:12- Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall Suffer persecution.
1 Peter 4:1- Forasmuch then as Christ hath Suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind…
1 Peter 2:19- For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, Suffering wrongfully.
1 Peter 2:20- For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and Suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
1 Peter 2:21- For even hereunto were ye called : Because Christ also Suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.
Philippians 1:29- For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to Suffer for his sake.
1 Peter 4:13- But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s Sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1 Peter 4:16- Yet if any man Suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
1 Peter 3:14- But and if ye Suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled…
1 Peter 3:17- For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye Suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
2 Thessalonians 1:4,5- … For your Patience and Faith in all your Persecutions and Tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which ye also Suffer:
Romans 5:3- And not only so, but we glory in Tribulations also: Knowing that Tribulation worketh Patience; and Patience, Experience; and Experience, Hope: and Hope maketh not ashamed…
Psalms 34:19- Many are the afflictions of the Righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
Romans 8:17- And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint Heirs with Christ; if so be that we Suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Romans 8:18- For I reckon that the Sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
James 1:2,3- My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers Temptations; Knowing this, that the Trying of your Faith worketh patience.
1 Peter 1:6- Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold Temptations: That the Trying of your Faith…
James 1:12- Blessed is the man that endureth Temptation: For when he is Tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that Love him.
1 Peter 4:12- Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to Try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
Luke 8:13- They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of Temptation fall away.
Mark 4:17- And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when Affliction or Persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended
2 Corinthians 1: 7- And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the Sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:8 – For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life;
2 Corinthians 1:9-10 – But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9- We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down; but not destroyed;
2 Corinthians 4:10- Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:11- For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
1 Corinthians 4:11- Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10- But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
2 Corinthians 11:22-27- Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I Am More; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
2 Corinthians 11:30- If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.
2 Corinthians 12:7-8- …There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9- And he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:10- Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Hebrews 11:35-38 “…and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Hebrews 12:3- For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, (Jesus) lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds
Hebrews 12:11- Now no Chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Proverbs 3:11,12- My son, despise not the Chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his Correction: For whom the Lord Loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Proverbs 15:10- …And he that hateth Reproof (Correction) shall die.
Galatians 6:9- And let us not be weary in well doing: For In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
1 Peter 5:6- Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you In due time.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18
I chose to make this verse the theme of this teaching. These are the words of Jesus and they are pretty self-explanatory. Overall, there are two ways that we suffer as Christians:
1. We suffer Persecution
2. We suffer Trials and Hardship
I will do a separate blog on # 2 after this one.
I am absolutely of the belief that many of the ways we are defeated as Christians is simply because we don’t know scripture well enough. I have found that a very effective strategy for overcoming a particular battle with something is to find all the verses which mention that topic and put them in a list. It helps to get the right perspective about why something happens and how to deal with it according to scripture.
The first way we suffer as Christians is by persecution. I have very strong convictions about this that will challenge some and may offend others. But here is a very simple question to ask: If Christianity in America became illegal and we faced going to court to be convicted and then thrown in jail, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
I plan to turn that question into another blog, but for now I will leave that for you to think about. One of the main points about this blog is to point out that if you are not facing any kind of persecution then you are doing something wrong, or simply not doing anything at all. One of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill relates to this:
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
This is very true when it comes to Christianity and it was taught by Christ himself. To get a right perspective though on suffering persecution I would like to list a number of verses that teach about it. The first few are from Christ himself:
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
“…whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:9
“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” Mark 4:16-17
Notice also how Christ said that “persecution arises for the word’s sake” The more you know God’s word the more you are accountable for. There’s a good chance after reading this blog God may give you opportunities and tests to confess him before people.
Next has to do with your mind-set:
“Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall Suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
This begs the question of whether you are really living Godly if you are not suffering any kind of persecution.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” 1 Peter 2:21
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind…” 1 Peter 4:1
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” Philippians 1:29
Notice how Peter says “arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” We have to have the right perspective about why we are suffering and be mentally prepared for it. Here is the other way we need to set our mind and attitude toward it:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mathew 5:11-12
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” 1 Peter 4:16
“But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:13
Christ himself said “Blessed are you” and “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” We are to “not be ashamed” These are the scriptures we need to fill our minds with and to keep reminding ourselves of. Now I know many people would say that the world will know we are his disciples by our good deeds. That is very true, and that is how they know you are legit. But I consider that a separate issue. No one was ever really persecuted for loving another. I’m talking about confessing Christ before people and standing out from the world and standing up for his truth and for God’s word. Loving people will get you a lot of friends and a good reputation, which is a good thing. Professing Christ, mentioning God’s word as the truth, and preaching the Gospel will get you persecuted in one way or another. You will not be part of the group and they will make fun of and slander you. But many people will respect you none the less for taking a stand and being someone of principle and conviction.
One problem we run into many times is that for many of the people we interact with on a daily basis, we never let know from the very beginning that we are Christians. It becomes increasingly difficult to witness if you have gone a long time hanging out and conversing with people at work or school without ever even hinting in any way. Especially if you have ruined your witness around them; laughed at dirty jokes, participated in gossip etc. If all the sudden you are put in a position where you have to reveal that you are a Christian it can become awkward. Your friends might start making fun of Christians in front of you, one of your Church buddies may walk up to you while you are with some of those people, etc.
I have found that the most effective way of preventing this is by making it known from the very beginning when you meet someone that you are a Christian. It could be as easy as just mentioning in conversation that you go to church; something, anything just so they have that in their mind. From that very point on they begin to watch you. Some people will even refrain from acting so crude around you just out of respect. They could even be a backslidden Christian themselves and won’t act certain ways just out of conviction. But some people will do or say things to provoke you. Some will just to test you and see if you are a hypocrite or if you will compromise. But you see where this leads? It creates accountability on your part. If you know that they are watching you, you are much more likely to be a witness.
I have found also that many times certain people when they are going through something really hard in their lives, will come to you to talk to instead of the rest of the people you work with. Those are the opportunities you are looking for. Or even if they don’t come to you, but you know they are going through something difficult, that is the time to do something for them and show them love. If they didn’t know you were a Christian then they might just think you are a really nice person. But if they know, then they realize why you did something loving for them.
I want to end this with one verse. It is very well-known that we are to be in the world but not of the world. We must witness, and if we face persecution or not being well liked then we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. But we have to make sure we are not conforming to the ways of the world:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Webster’s Dictionary 1828 “To reduce to a likeness or correspondence in manners, opinions or moral qualities. To comply with or yield to; to live or act according to; as, to conform to the fashion or custom.”
Notice how the verse says not to be conformed “That you may prove” what the will of God is for your life. It is my conviction that if we are conforming to the ways of the world then we will not see the will of God in our lives. I plan to write a separate blog on that one with many examples of how we conform to the world. This will bring a lot of offense and conviction, but I have come to the conclusion that a lot of my calling for ministry is for this purpose. I no longer wish to be thought highly of, and I will not apologize for preaching hard truth. We don’t hear enough of that today. So here I stand. As Paul said: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” Are you able to say that publicly? I really hope so. If not, you may want to pray and ask God to reveal what is preventing you. I have been there many times and I know how hard it can be. Especially if you have things in your life you need to give up. Condemnation will prevent you. But that is Satan’s strategy. Learn the ways of grace. Romans 6:14