To Suffer, or not to Suffer. That is the question

24 10 2013

There are many Christians calling themselves “Kingdom people,” who strongly believe that Christians are supposed to experience “heaven on earth” in our daily lives – an earthly Christian Utopia so to speak. They believe that if Christians are living “the good Christian life,” or are “being obedient” to what the scriptures say, Christians WILL experience ONLY blessings and prosperity! This is called the “prosperity message.” This “prosperity” train of thought is not a new concept. It was in fact the Jewish ideology in Jesus’ day more than 2000 years ago, and still continues up to today. The Jews in Jesus’ time expected Him to set up an earthly Kingdom, and that He would deliver them from all forms of exploitation and suffering – Mark 15:43. Contrary to this, Jesus clearly explained to these “Kingdom minded people,” that He was not here to establish an earthly Kingdom. Jesus did not address the social ills of His time and neither did Paul. A good example illustrating this is when Paul exhorted the believers who were slaves, to be submissive to their masters – 1 Tim 6:1; and Titus 2:9. This is very different to how some believers behave today, rebuking and binding all forms of discomfort, lack, and suffering!
Let’s look at what I believe to be a key passage of scripture for those believers who are experiencing very hard times of  suffering. To those of you who are perplexed about the situation and the extremely difficult trials that you may be experiencing at present. Hopefully this will bring some consolation and comfort, and most of all, encouragement!

You will see, that Peter was one of those “Kingdom people.” He didn’t believe that suffering was part of the Christian walk.

Matthew 16:21-23 NKJV 21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and SUFFER many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

I would like to highlight two very important points here:

Firstly, Jesus said that He would suffer because of the “elders and chief priests and scribes.” How many of Gods children have suffered under the heavy hand of some Christian elders, chief priests and scribes? So many people have been wounded and scarred by churchianity, that they have become “church outcasts, vowing never to return. You are not alone. Jesus was the forerunner!

Secondly, Peter didn’t believe that Jesus would have to suffer. Peter reacted as if Jesus had violated the “Kingdom message.” Peter was a “prosperity guy!” Jesus then sharply rebuked not the suffering that He was about to face, but Peter’s ‘satanic’ ideology. How different this is to the churchianity of our day, where suffering is rebuked, and lavishness and comfort is our “Christian right!”

In closing, Paul gives us an account of his own Christian walk. As you will see, it includes much suffering. It is a long shot from the popular “prosperity and the earthly Kingdom message.”

2 Cor 11:23-27 Amp 23 Are they [ministering] servants of Christ (the Messiah)? I am talking like one beside himself, [but] I am more, with far more extensive and abundant labors, with far more imprisonments, [beaten] with countless stripes, and frequently [at the point of] death. 24 Five times I received from [the hands of] the Jews forty [lashes all] but one; 25 Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been aboard a ship wrecked at sea; a [whole] night and a day I have spent [adrift] on the deep; 26 Many times on journeys, [exposed to] perils from rivers, perils from bandits, perils from [my own] nation, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the desert places, perils in the sea, perils from those posing as believers [but destitute of Christian knowledge and piety]; 27 In toil and hardship, watching often [through sleepless nights], in hunger and thirst, frequently driven to fasting by want, in cold and exposure and lack of clothing.



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