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Jill’s Journal

Jill Thrift
Suffering is a rich topic about which much has been said and written, both in the Bible and without. The wisdom of God’s purposes through suffering is so far higher than our human thoughts that we could spend our entire lives on earth contemplating its glory and never exhaust its infinite layers of beauty, wisdom, and power for the one who knows Christ.

We were born for war, Kingdom warfare – so suffering goes with the battle even though the victory has been won. At the same time, suffering is an instrument of our metamorphosis from the old into the new man, and from the natural into the supernatural person.

Jesus told us to expect tribulation as His followers: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Looking at the life of Jesus, many would say that He did not overcome, but that He died in indescribable pain — shamed, despised, betrayed, forsaken, and utterly defeated. This is the apparent reality that paralyzed with fear and sorrow the hearts of the men and women who had believed and followed Him – until they saw the Resurrected Christ!

Unbelief blinds the heart from the truth that Jesus was not impotent in suffering. Faith knows that death to self is actually the place of power and victory that brings true life.

Jesus dreaded the experience of becoming sin for us, but He sought and received the spiritual strength and courage to pass through it. He had no impulse to protect Himself from others. When one of Jesus’ disciples cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest who brought Roman soldiers to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)

Jesus had such intimacy with and confidence in His Father’s love, that He knew angels would be sent to deliver Him if He asked. The same is true for all of those who live in the Presence of God and know Him intimately. Many of us go in and out of this realm of faith, not yet having learned to abide in God. I believe that a time is soon coming in which encounters with God’s love for us will so capture our hearts that we will do whatever is necessary to remain close to Him all the time. In that place of perfect love, there is no fear, because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

The love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father sealed their agreement before the foundation of the world on a plan to redeem mankind. God’s holiness demands that all His sons be holy as He is holy. God knew that sin would enter the human race. How could the precious ones whom He predestined before the foundation of the world be redeemed and made holy after being corrupted by sin and evil? According to God’s eternal moral law, He had ordained that only by the shedding of sinless blood could the sin of mankind be remitted. Whose blood could possibly be worthy as a sacrifice for sin?

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit put themselves in unity with a plan. Together, in one accord, God willed to enact the plan knowing that each Person of the Godhead would suffer beyond our comprehension. The wise counsel of the Godhead agreed that the Blood of Christ would be shed to buy back the sons and that the Resurrection of Christ would birth totally new creations. What a plan! But was God not afraid of the pain He would endure?

The Father would watch His only begotten Son live as a human man, suffering and dying, even receiving the fullness of His wrath for sin as Jesus bore the punishment for mankind. The Son would suffer unspeakable pain and torment in His spirit, soul, and body, not only at the hands of man, but also being separated from His Father when He would become sin for us. The Holy Spirit would be grieved and sorrowed to His depths, along with the Father and the Son. The Creator of the Universe, the One who is pure Love and pure Holiness volunteered to suffer and die in our place. He chose to “endure the cross, despising the shame…for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).

What if Jesus had chosen to avoid the cross, and to ask the Father to send those ten legions of angels? Do you believe that He had a choice about whether or not to obey Father God? Yes, Jesus did have a choice. He was “tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).His will was free, as the will of every Christian has been made free. When He came to earth through Mary’s womb, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). There is no doubt but that Jesus was like us, wholly dependent on the Father’s power by faith. He learned to trust and obey His Father. His victory was in the faith that He developed through a life of prayer and intimate fellowship with the Father.

Also before the creation of the world, the Godhead agreed on a life plan for each of us. He destined us in love (Ephesians 1:5), created us “in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). We are not to choose the good works that we want to do, but we choose whether or not to do the good works that God has planned for us. Will we go with His plan and stay on the path, or will we take detours or even an about face when we see suffering ahead?

Each time I hit an event of pain and suffering I am want to plead, kick, and protest, as if some strange ordeal were happening to me. I have been gripped with such powerful fear at times during persecution, physical pain, and crisis that trauma has found entry. Where is the peace guarding my heart and mind! In hindsight I see that it’s too difficult to get into the Presence of God during pain and fear if one has not developed the discipline of practicing His Presence all the time. I am learning to do this, but only as a result of years of great need. Fear and anger are still present, but they no longer manipulate my heart and decisions. Psalm 91:1 has become a reality to me: I see that if I dwell in the shelter of the Most High, I am able to abide in the shadow of Almighty God.

For many years He has been teaching and strengthening me in preparation for this season we are now entering of more widespread Christian persecution. Will I respond as Jesus did? “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). He was hidden in the heart of the Father through prayer.

It was just last week when I was asked to lead an hour of intercession for my city that the Lord prompted me to focus on the revelation of His Glory through the city church, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). As I began to consider this truth, I asked for more scripture and was directed to 1 Peter 4, the entire chapter. My attention was caught by the opening verses, and then by verses 13 and 14:

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

This is the mindset that I am asking the Lord to work in me. I have read and agreed with these scriptures all of my Christian life, but I cannot say that I do them. I am able to praise God for Who He is during suffering, but I do not truly rejoice in the sufferings. That capacity is resident in us by the Spirit, so I am now singing to the revelation and joy in me to rise up. I am asking for deeper renewal of my mind in the area of suffering and fear.

The morning following the time of intercession for the city last week, I received a daily scripture by email, from a ministry to which I subscribe. It was the opening verses of 1 Peter 4, from The Message translation:

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

Jesus was honest to ask the Father in Gethsemane to let the cup pass from Him, but His hatred of suffering did not deter His resolve to do the Father’s will, and complete the plan (Luke 22:42). He had already made that decision before the suffering was upon Him. Just prior to Gethsemane He prayed:

I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began (John 17:4-5).

Then Jesus prayed for us:

I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me (John 17:22-23).

If we agree with Jesus’ prayer and plan, then with certainty we have the same joy set before us as Jesus. I am still pondering the marvels and facets of this glorious promise.

Will we suffer together as one body during times of trouble? “Ifone member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). The strength to glory in suffering seems to be rooted in love: the love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, our love for Them, and our love for one another. In the oneness of love there is joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Lord, thank you that you have given us everything we need to walk with grace and courage through suffering, in fellowship with You. And thank you that as we do, Your glory will be revealed in us.

Jill Thrift
August, 2012

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