Joseph Herrin (09-19-2011)
The union of Christ and His body is a great mystery. Much has been written and preached regarding the oneness of Christ and those saints who comprise His body. One aspect of our identification with Christ that has been largely neglected, especially in this late hour at the end of the age, is the church becoming one with Yahshua in His suffering.
The apostles were not averse to speaking openly about this aspect of our union with Christ. They actually had much to say on the subject.
II Corinthians 1:5
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
Now, if Paul had said “the riches of Christ are ours in abundance,” or “the pleasures of Christ are ours in abundance,” we could be certain that this passage would be one of the most quoted in this hour of sensuality. Yet, that is not what the apostle declares. He says, “the SUFFERINGS of Christ are ours in abundance.”
Consider carefully what is being stated. Paul is not speaking of any and all suffering. He is speaking specifically of the sufferings of Christ. These are afflictions and sorrows and trials that are uniquely associated with the Son of God. Let us define these sufferings that Paul is talking about.
The sufferings of Christ are those sufferings which arise as the will of man comes into conflict with the revealed will of God. Christ ALWAYS chose to do the will of the Father. He testified that He did not come to please Himself. The will of God will not lead us to the same experiences we would choose for ourselves. Christ was not born in a mansion. Yahweh did not give His Son a great reputation among the people. Quite the contrary. The Jewish leaders accused Yahshua of being born illegitimately, of being a Samaritan (mixed race), of having a demon.
The Father did not choose for His Son to walk in a position of worldly power and prestige. Christ had no great ministry center. He had no wealth, or political influence. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. Yahweh chose for His Son to perform His ministry as a wanderer, a poor man who was homeless. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had nowhere to lay His head.
Yahshua is a pattern for the body of Christ. Whenever any man or woman accepts the invitation of Christ, when they begin to walk as His disciple, they will be brought to this form of suffering that is unique to Christ. They must act as if they hate their own soul in order to follow in Yahshua’s steps.
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate… even his own life (psuche – soul), he cannot be My disciple.”
The apostle Paul most certainly has this form of suffering in mind when he declares that “the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance.” You cannot be Christ’s disciple without experiencing the suffering that arises as your own soul’s desires are denied that the will of the Father might be accomplished. The disparity between man’s desires and the Father’s are at times extreme.
Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
There are times when the Father reveals some trial ahead of us, and everything within our natural being recoils in horror, fear and loathing at what is before us. To be numbered among the overcomers in Christ we must not shrink back at such moments. We must press forward. There are great consequences riding upon our decisions, even as there were for the Son of God in that moment portrayed above.
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Here are described some of the sufferings of Christ. Those who come to Christ, and become partakers of His Spirit, are to surrender their lives to be led of the Spirit in all things. This surrender will result in conflict with the world, and the religious spirits in this fallen world system.
The Hebrew saints addressed in these words experienced “a great conflict of sufferings.” These were truly the sufferings of Christ. The Jewish religious leaders persecuted them, and Roman society also did the same. The disciples of Christ were subjected to public reproach. They were made spectacles before their neighbors. They had to accept scorn, shame, and many evil accusations. We read that some were imprisoned. Others had their property seized.
Do not be deceived in thinking such things could not happen to those who walk faithfully with Christ today. I can tell you truly, from my own experience, that such tribulations are as likely today as they were 2,000 years ago. This must be so, for Christ’s body has always been perfected through suffering. Let us remember again the words of Paul:
the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance…
This testimony occurs frequently in the Bible.
I Peter 4:12-16
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.
Both Peter and Paul are speaking in harmony. Paul states that the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance. Peter shares that when we encounter the sufferings of Christ we should not act as if some strange thing were happening. What could he possibly mean, other than that being a partaker of Christ’s suffering is common to all disciples? Christ’s sufferings are to be expected, anticipated, and received with grace. These two apostles are speaking in perfect agreement with the Son of God Himself. Yahshua testified that no man could be His disciple apart from taking up his cross and following Him down an afflicted path. This testimony is found from the gospels to the book of Revelation.
I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Yahshua, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Yahshua.
The day is at hand when a remnant of God’s people will once again identify themselves as John did in these words. When we speak to a true brother or sister in Christ we will acknowledge one another as “a fellow partaker in the tribulation… and perseverance of Christ.” The troubles of Christ are appointed to us in abundance. Think it not strange. These things must be.
In former years the saints in Christ were more amenable to suffering with Christ. I do not mean to suggest that there has ever been more than a remnant who have embraced such things, but at least the church spoke openly about such matters, even if only a few had the attitude of Paul expressed in the following words.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
In 1693 Thomas Shepherd wrote the first stanza to the hymn titled Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for ev’ryone,
And there’s a cross for me.
I recently finished reading the wonderful biography of Amy Carmichael written by Elisabeth Elliot. The title of the book is A Chance to Die. Ms. Carmichael left a comfortable life in England in the late 1800s to live among the native people of India as a missionary. She understood something about the ways of God, and the call of the body of Christ to share in the sufferings of Christ. The following poem that she penned gives eloquent testimony to her understanding and her experience.
Hast Thou No Scar
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
What a question to ponder in this hour. “Can he have followed far who hast no wound or scar?” I have at times considered that I would not want to stand before Yahshua on the day when I must give an account of my life and not have any testimony of being a partaker of His sufferings. I would be ashamed to stand before the One who suffered so much for me, and to not have suffered anything for Him.
Consider the attitude of Peter, and the other apostles toward suffering.
After calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Yahshua, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Christ tells the saints that this attitude is right and proper.
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
People of God, I am not a bold or courageous person. God chose one of the most timid, fearful, weak, and anxious of all men when He claimed me as His son. I have often been in fear and trembling and great anxiety as I have viewed the afflicted path before me. Christ has come to me at such times and given me great comfort and encouragement. Yahshua has held me to the course and preserved me through many perils.
For years, as I followed the leading of the Spirit of Christ, I did not know from one day to the next where my family’s provision would come from. I found such an existence to be exceedingly taxing. Yahweh did not choose this path to torment me. Rather, He desired to set me free from the giants of fear and unbelief. I would not have personally chosen to face these giants. I would have avoided them if I could, but I am grateful that my Father had my highest good in mind, and He would not relent despite my many pleas.
I have faced physical trials of health in my body, and among family members, and have been instructed by the Spirit to look to Him for healing. When I was diabetic, and later had a heart attack, the Spirit would not permit me to seek medical care. These things were for my chastening, and I had to bear up under them patiently while trusting my life to the hands of my heavenly Father.
As I have followed Christ wherever He would lead I have been brought into conflict with many other saints. I have been rejected by ministers, put out of churches, and have had my wife and son depart from me. Other ministers and Christians have vilified me, and used their ministry platforms to launch attacks against my character and my teachings. I have accepted poverty during many seasons of this walk, and have been in lack often. Twice I have been jailed. I have faced the threat of having all my possessions taken from me by force. In all these things I had to choose to yield my soul’s desires to whatever the Father should choose for me to experience.
It is evident that our Father often chooses for those who follow in Christ’s steps to suffer. We should “think it not strange.” As we respond to each new trial with grace, patience, forgiveness, and love we will find that Christ is formed more fully in us. This is Yahweh’s purpose. He wants us to share His image and likeness. We are matured through those things we suffer.
I am no glutton for suffering. Yet, the Spirit of Christ has shown me that none can come to maturity in Christ apart from accepting that path He has chosen for them. All must yield their lives to the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must not shrink back. We all have need of endurance so that after we have done the will of God we can receive that which is promised.
In Gethsemane the Father presented to His Son a bitter cup of suffering from which He was to drink. Christ’s soul had to be crushed as unto death in order for Him to accept that which His Father chose for Him. The Father is offering the same cup to His sons and daughters today. The apostles understood that it is an honor to be invited to drink from the same cup as Christ. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do so.
Will you accept the invitation to drink from Christ’s cup? Will you become a partaker in His sufferings?
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for ev’ryone,
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