Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Suffering for Fellowship

This will probably be one of a couple postings prompted from the RightNow '09 conference at Irving Bible Church in Irving, TX. There were a bunch of great speakers, but I think the topic that resonated with me the most was Pastor Francis Chan speaking about suffering. The verse that was the focus of his discussion was 1 Peter 4:12, which reads:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Peter said to expect suffering, so we should be surprised if you are not suffering. Knowing that suffering will come is important, but it’s also important to know that we have an enemy that desires us to quit. Satan will use your suffering as a means to frustrate you and get you off your game. Moses became frustrated and instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it, against what God commanded. This act of disobedience, birthed out of frustration, prevented him from entering the Promised Land. Pastor Chan made the point that we may not see the reward on earth, nor can we expect that. But the God of all Grace will restore you. You have to expect, accept and maybe like some of the suffering, knowing that it will be a little while, but God will restore you. Suffering and brokenness is the place God grows you (but that’s another post).

That growth comes from the fellowship you experience in suffering. Pastor Chan spoke about suffering as a means of fellowship with Christ. Shared suffering provides the most honest and intimate form of fellowship. He said consider what it would actually look like if you really, truly shared in Christ’s suffering. Imagine being chained to the same piece of wood, staring into the eyes of your Savior as the roman soldiers laid devastating blows to both of your backsides. There is not another moment that two people could be closer. In those moments, you look into your King’s eyes and know exactly what he is going through for you and you see the love, mercy and grace as He looks at you. That is fellowship; that is connection. In that moment, just briefly, you know God. You at the least know a little more than before. The point is, we are going to suffer and that’s a good thing. Without suffering, there is no comfort. Why would we experience the comforter (the Holy Spirit), when we’re comfortable? We don’t need Him then. God said He’ll be there in the Suffering. We should love Jesus so much that we can accept the suffering as a chance for fellowship with Him (this was probably one of my favorite quotes). When we’re able to do that, the suffering becomes ok, because we want to experience Jesus so much that the suffering isn’t important.

I think this lecture got to me the most because my view of suffering has changed quite drastically over the past year. No longer do I equate suffering with bad things outside of me happening TO me. Instead suffering has become this unexplainable feeling inside me that is almost a constant drawing to God. Of course there is physical suffering, but I’m talking about spiritual suffering, suffering of the heart. I always feel like there is more of God that I long for, that I am constantly aware that I am not good enough to approach Him yet He still invites me to Him (all I need is but to ask), and that no matter how much time I devote to Him, it’s not enough and He expects more from me. As scary and as hard as it sounds, I want to fellowship with my Messiah in that way.