July 13, 2010
Building Strong Friendships in Christ
Telling of Affliction Today
“For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”
1 Thessalonians 3:4, Page 1848
I was fishing a few days ago with a friend of mine. We saw tarpon jumping through schools of bait near the beach. My friend castnet a live bait fish, hooked it up, and waited. He caught nothing, but he came with a friend too, and his friend hooked up something very big. His friend fought and fought that monster for about an hour. As I watched the fight, I mentioned to my friend that the fish never jumped. You see, tarpon almost always jump and jump and jump when hooked. The monster never jumped. Well, I am not a prophet, but I do have some experience with tarpon. I was very concerned they had hooked a shark, and they are very dangerous to land, unhook (if possible), and release. After about an hour of fighting the monster, they saw it was a stingray, about four feet across the wings. Needless to say, they were disappointed.
Paul did not rely just on experience to know that he would suffer affliction. He had the revelation from the Lord Jesus that told him about suffering for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The strong emphasis here in 1 Thessalonians 3:4 is upon preparing younger believers for the suffering of the ministry team.
As we have seen in the previous verses, Paul told the Thessalonians all about his life, and imparted it to them. Suffering would be a part of serving Jesus Christ. Believers will be called upon to suffer for Christ in many ways. But, suffering should never take the believer by surprise. We prosper through suffering and persecution. Our friends in Christ need us to remember that Jesus told all of us that we would have afflictions in this life, and we should prepare our friends, especially young believers, for seeing us go through suffering for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to encourage them as they go through afflictions for the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to let them know beforehand that afflictions will be a part of our lives in Christ, and it should not surprise us or cause us to doubt Jesus.
Jesus gave His life on the cross to bear all the wrath of God, and experience the full punishment for sin demanded by the justice of God. In His holiness and righteousness, God judged sin, particularly my sin and your sin. For all eternity, Jesus died once and for all, paying the complete price for sin. By faith, we believe that Christ paid the price for my sin. He died for me. He has the power to forgive sins, and loves to forgive every person who comes to Him as a child, asking for His forgiveness by faith alone. You can express your faith in Jesus by accepting His gift of forgiveness today. The only way to face affliction triumphantly involves knowing that Jesus has forgiven you. Life starts with Christ in your heart and living by faith.
So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship form when we tell our friends that normally all Christians will suffer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship grow when we share our suffering with other believers, and let them know that more sufferings will come. Living in Christ together means that we experience the same kind of life that Jesus lived on earth, which included suffering for the Gospel.
● We harm our bonds of friendship when we ignore suffering and imagine that true believers do not suffer affliction for the sake of Jesus. We should expect affliction, tell others to expect it, and endure it together.
Application for Today
Today, I will let my friends in Christ know that God brings affliction into the lives of believers. I want to prepare them for my future afflictions, and theirs, so no one will be surprised, and we may endure and triumph through them when they come by the power of Jesus Christ. Will you be talking about affliction and triumph today?