Tag Archives: suffering for christ

Tragedy? Or God’s Will?

Filled with hatred and rage, Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into an empty cistern (click here to learn more about cisterns).

ancient-cistern

Can you imagine the fear he felt at his brothers’ rage?  Joseph was simply doing his father’s bidding.  I’m sure he knew his brothers didn’t like him, because they had made no attempt to hide their disdain from him.  Yet, they were still his brothers, and, confident in his father’s love for him, I don’t imagine it ever occurred to Joseph that his brothers’ would ever want to kill him.

Yet, their hatred of him became nauseatingly obvious, when they grabbed him, ripping his coat off him and hurling bitter angry insults at him.  Joseph was only seventeen years old, and there were eleven of them against him.  This was no mere child’s play.  He could see the fury in their eyes, as they grabbed him.  There was no gentleness in their touch and no holding back their ire.  They hated him, and they wanted him to know it, as they roughly dragged him to the empty cistern and threw him in.

Can you imagine how Joseph must have pleaded with his brothers, begging them for mercy?  Can you imagine the utter terror he felt, as they ignored his pleas?  Then after being dragged by his brothers, he was forced into the small opening of an empty cistern, falling, who knows how many feet to the bottom?  I can picture them covering the cistern, then walking away, while the boy cried out to them, still pleading for mercy.

Alone in the dark cistern, his throat raw from crying out to his brothers for who knows how long, do you think Joseph prayed?  I can picture his tear stained face pleading with El Shaddai for mercy, as it began to dawn on him that his brothers would show him none.  I imagine he thought of his father, weeping at the pain his death would cause the old man.

Then, probably after many hours, Joseph heard the sound of the cistern’s cover being rolled away.  I imagine his heart leapt to his throat, as hope filled his chest.  His brothers had returned!  They were sorry for their actions.  Praise YHWH (Yahweh), who had heard his prayers and answered them!  As light filled the dark chamber, I believe Joseph would have forgiven his brothers.  I can picture him grinning up at them, as he stood there, bloodied and dusty, with the stains of his tears still on his cheeks.  Did he thank his brothers for their mercy, as they dropped a rope down, for him to tie around his waist, so they could pull him up?

Did his joy turn into fear once more, as they drew him up, and he saw the same hatred in their eyes as before?  Did he fear they were going to kill him?  As he looked from one brother to another, did Joseph even notice the Midianite traders at first?  Was it his brothers or the Midianites, who informed Joseph that he was now a slave?  Did his brothers smile in satisfaction, as they saw the look of horror on Joseph’s face, when the realization hit him?

Did Joseph see his brothers, with their backs turned against him, greedily dividing the 20 pieces of silver they had just earned for selling him?  Did he rue the day that he was born?  Did he wish for death at that point? Did his faith in the Most High God falter or remain strong?  How he must grieved the loss of his father, his home and yes, even his brothers!  What a tragedy for such a young man to endure!  Or was it a tragedy?  Could Joseph’s tribulation have simply been the fulfillment of God’s will?

Too often, in today’s church, we are taught to believe that if we are faithful, our lives will be filled with health and wealth.  But, if you truly study God’s word, you will discover that this is a lie straight from the pit of hell.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NLT)

Beloved reader, His words weren’t just for His twelve original disciples.  They were for everyone who would follow Him, then and now.  We will face many trials and sorrows in our lives, just as Joseph did, just as Jesus did, and just as His disciples did.  If someone tells you any different, they are lying to you.

Joseph's Bloody Torn Coat

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are alone in your suffering.  Joseph wasn’t.  Imagine how Jacob, his father felt, when his sons returned to him with Joseph’s bloody, torn coat.  Those of us who are parents, can imagine nothing worse than losing one of our beloved children.  I can only begin to envision Jacob’s horror, as his elder sons informed him of his loss.  How he must have lamented sending his beloved son to check on his brothers that day!  Did he blame himself for Joseph’s loss?  While his other sons tried to comfort him, Jacob swore that he would go to his grave mourning for Joseph, as he wept.  (Read Genesis 37)

Did his brothers feel any remorse for their crime?  Did they, too, suffer for the sin they had committed against their brother, Joseph?  Do you think they felt pain for their father’s grief?  We’ll explore this another time.

But remember this.  As tragic as it was, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, there would have been no need for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, more than 400 years later.  So, was this truly a tragedy, or was it simply God’s will?  Is your life a tragedy?  Or is it, too, God’s will?

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Does Persecution Still Exist?

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV)

For the last few days, I’ve pondered about what to write about persecution.  Lord, what would You have me write?  Many of us, who have been blessed to live in the United States, are often ignorant of the persecution and crimes committed against Christians.  We often, mistakenly think that the persecution of Christians and Jews is a thing of the past, but that is terribly foolish and wrong, for many of our brothers and sisters around the world are being persecuted, even now, as you read this message.

Indeed, I believe that there is coming a day, when even U.S. citizens will be persecuted for their faith in Christ.  In fact, that day has already begun.

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  (Mark 13:9-13 NKJV)  

We are living in dangerous times.  You don’t have to look far to see how children have turned against their parents, and parents have turned against their children.  In other countries, we’ve seen how families from other beliefs, (Hindu, Buddhist, and Islam for example) have turned against their own loved ones, by disinheriting them, beating and torturing them, and even killing them, simply because they believe in Jesus.  

The chart listed above, shows the statistics for 2018, for persecuted Christians around the world.  It is eye opening, and if you are a child of God, then this should concern you, because those persecuted Christians are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  I got this information from the following website:

www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ 

According to these statistics, approximately 8 Christians die daily, for their faith, which totals 255 Christians monthly.  For those who live in the U.S., can you imagine waking up each day, not knowing whether this is the day that someone will betray you for your faith in Christ?  Can you imagine wondering, throughout the day, whether you may be murdered because you are a follower of Christ?  The statistics tell us that 104 people each month, which is a little more than 3 people daily, are abducted for their faith.  Imagine, being snatched from your home, your place of employment, or from the streets, because you are a Christian.  As if this isn’t bad enough, 180 women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into unwanted marriages every month.  That’s 6 women who are raped, forced into unwanted, mostly abusive marriages and sexually harassed every day, just because they love Jesus.  Imagine the fear, shame and pain that these women endure!  66 churches every month are attacked, and 160 Christians are arrested and imprisoned for their faith, without benefit of a trial.

Beloved reader, don’t just sigh and shake your head.  Do you know that if you are a believer, you, too, may one day suffer persecution?  I don’t share this with you to frighten you, but so that you won’t be caught unaware.  Do you know that here, in the U.S., Christians are being sued for standing up for their faith, which is our first amendment right?

You don’t often hear about these things on broadcast news media outlets, or in most newspapers, because defending the rights of Christians is not part of their agenda.  Instead, many are trying to silence Christians, because true believers refuse to embrace sinful lifestyles, such as abortion, adultery, fornication and homosexuality, to name just a few.  Christians, such as our Vice-President, Mike Pence, are mocked and ridiculed for our beliefs.

Nonbelievers claim that Christians are narrow-minded and intolerant, and yet, they are the ones who are trying to silence us.  All too often, debates end in name calling and false accusations.  They do this because, All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.”  (John 3:20 NLT)  

Beloved, in these last days, don’t be shocked by the things that are happening in the world around you, and in your world.  For Jesus warned us about this…

12 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are My followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about Me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you.17 And everyone will hate you because you are My followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.”  (Luke 21:12-19 NLT)

Indeed, my friend, I suggest that we shouldn’t be surprised that people hate us because of our faith.  We should instead, be surprised by the ones who don’t hate us.  So, what can we do about this persecution of God’s people?  There is one thing that every one of us can do, no matter where we live, or what our circumstances are.  We can pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are suffering. The Apostle Paul even let us know what to pray for our brothers and sisters, and so did the writer of Hebrews… 

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  

19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should.  (Ephesians 6:18-20 NLT)

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.  (Hebrews 13:3 NLT)

Jesus promised that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for His name’s sake, and that they will receive a great reward.  Beloved, let’s be active in our prayers for our persecuted brethren, and remember, you or I could very well be the next one to be persecuted for our faith.  And if, you or I do suffer from persecution one day, hold tight to Jesus’ promise, and may we have the same attitude that Peter had…  

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.  (1 Peter 4:12-19  NKJV)

Links to sites about Christian persecution:

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

My Grace Is Sufficient…

8 Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; 9 but He told me, “My grace is enough for you, for My power is brought to perfection in weakness.” Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me. 10 Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf of the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong.

~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10  — CJB ~

grace-thorn-in-the-fleshHave you ever pleaded with God to take something away from you (pain, physical imperfection, disease, you name it…)? Have you ever been brought so low that you were certain you couldn’t take anymore? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. The truth is, I’m still making my way through, and just when it seems like I’ve got this thing beat or under control, it rears its ugly head up and knocks me down again.

Paul felt that way. You see, in this passage, Paul was telling us his experience of having visited the third heaven. He also spoke of how he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming prideful…

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

~ 2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

2 corinthians 12v9When I read this passage of scripture, I feel a stirring within, as I wonder about that thorn in the flesh. What does the scripture passage photomean? What is a thorn in the flesh?

Lord, I don’t want to take Your word out of context. I don’t want to shame You by reading something into it that isn’t really there. I pray Father, that You would open the eyes of my heart, and give me a true understanding of Your word. Holy Spirit, speak to me through Your word, and reveal the truth of Your word in Jesus’ precious name, amen.

For the record, no one knows exactly what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Some have speculated that his thorn in the flesh was poor eyesight, often citing these scriptures…

Look at the large letters I use as I close in my own handwriting. 

~ Galatians 6:11 — CJB ~

2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him (Paul) on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?”

4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”

5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

~ Acts 23:2-5 — NASB ~

depressedThis theory may or may not be true, though in all honesty, unless the Lord clearly shows us, we will never know for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Perhaps we don’t know for sure, because if we knew exactly what his thorn in the flesh was, we would be less likely to try to apply this scripture to our own lives, but who knows for sure?…

Still, I feel compelled to study this passage of scripture so that I can apply it to my life.Therefore, let’s start with the things that we do know for sure…

  • One thing is certain — Paul visited the third heaven (though whether he was in his flesh, or out of his body, he wasn’t sure)
  • Paul was given a thorn in the flesh
    • He received this thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself because of the revelations he had received from God
    • His thorn in the flesh was a messenger from Satan, sent to torment him and to keep him from exalting himself

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

Since I want to understand what Paul was telling us in this passage, so that I can apply it to my own life, I’m going to start by examining the original Greek text… The Greek word used for the phrase, Because of the surpassing greatness, is hyperbole

I.     a throwing beyond
II.    metaph.

A.     superiority, excellence, pre-eminence
B.     beyond measure, exceedingly, preeminently
C.     beyond all measure

Paul's VIsionAccording to this, the revelations that Paul had were superior, excellent, pre-eminent, exceeding and beyond all measure. Has the Lord ever spoken to your heart or given you a revelation? He has spoken to my heart many times, and those times are precious to me. They are awe-inspiring and exciting. Indeed, I would say that anytime God reaches down to one of His adopted human children, it is an extreme moment. For it is during those times that we experience Abba’s excellence, His superiority, and His preeminence.

All too often, I’ve seen men and women who have claimed to have a close personal relationship with the Lord, become prideful, and even arrogant, as though the Lord couldn’t speak to someone else.. I’ve seen men and women, who claim to have heard from God, live in utter rebellion to His word, while claiming that all we need to live a life of  One of my biggest fears is that I might become prideful because the Lord has spoken to me. That’s why I often pray, “Father, help me to stay low. Help me to be humble and to stay humble. Please don’t let me become prideful because of the work that You have done in me.” Perhaps that isn’t an area that you struggle with, but it is one that I always pray about, because if the Apostle Paul, who was such a powerful man of God, struggled with pride (as 2 Corinthians 12:7 alludes  to), then it is something that I need to pray about, because I am nowhere near as mighty in Christ as he was.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

The Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis, which is defined this way…

I.     laying bare, making naked
II.    a disclosure of truth, instruction

A.     concerning things before unknown
B.     used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn
         from view are made visible to all

III.   manifestation, appearance

According to the words spoken so far in this scripture verse, Paul had a supreme experience that was beyond all measure, when he had his apokalypsis. You see, my beloved readers, he received a disclosure of truth and instruction concerning things before unknown. Things that were hitherto withdrawn from view were made visible to him. They were manifested before him.

Is it any wonder that Paul was in danger of becoming prideful and therefore needed to have a thorn in the flesh after such an experience? Often times, we forget that all of the great heroes of the bible were mere mortal men, like we are, and as such, they too, struggled against their flesh, just as we do…

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Corinthians 12:7 — NASB ~

The Greek word for “keep me” in this verse is mē, which means, no, not lest. Let’s look at the next word(s) so we can place it together with mē, and gain understanding.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!

The Greek word for “from exalting myself” in this verse is hyperairō, which means:

I.     to lift or raise up over some thing
II.    to lift or raise up over some thing
III.   to carry one’s self haughtily to, behave insolently towards one

Therefore, Paul was given that thorn in the flesh to prevent him from raising himself above others. He was given that thorn in the flesh to remind him not to carry himself haughtily and that he not behave insolently to others. Pride is one of ugliest of all sins.

It was pride that caused Lucifer to be cast out of heaven. It was pride that caused his fall to the earth, and it is his pride that has caused his ultimate fall into the lake of fire. Pride is the cause of Satan’s destruction, and it is the cause of our destruction as well. Pride causes us to disregard the needs of others. It causes us to think more of ourselves than we should, and less of others. Pride causes us to think and feel that we are gods. Pride leads us into other sins. Pride leads us to hell.

Therefore, in light of this, when I read this passage of scripture, I’m able to see God’s love, His mercy and His grace in ordaining Paul’s thorn in the flesh. You see, although Paul’s thorn in the flesh tormented him, God used that torment to help Paul stay humble, for He knew that if Paul became prideful, his ministry would suffer. He knew that if Paul became prideful, he would no longer minister life to either the Gentiles or the Jews, because the ministry would no longer be focused on Christ, but on Paul, himself. God knew that if Paul became prideful, he would be in danger of hell…

But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).

~ James 4:6 — AMP ~

What about you, my beloved readers? Do you have a thorn in your flesh? Have you prayed and asked God to remove it, but still it torments you? Has it occurred to you that perhaps, out of His immeasurable grace and love, God has given you a thorn in the flesh to keep you humble? 

I’m speaking to myself as well as to you. Many times, I’ve asked the Lord to heal my body, and I have believed, only to be disappointed. I’ve even had different leaders within the church imply that the reason I’ve suffered with my affliction is because my faith is not strong enough, or perhaps, I did something to cause my pain. All of that has caused me to question my own faith, but then I read this scripture. Whatever Paul was tormented by did not leave him when he prayed about it, and certainly no one could imply that Paul’s faith was weak. 

So hold fast to your faith, my brothers and sisters. Unlike the message that much of the church preaches nowadays, God’s servants are called to suffer. Read your scriptures — both Old and New Testament apostles, prophets, judges, evangelists and ministers of every kind, who were called by God, suffered greatly for the Lord. Unlike today’s church would have you believe, they were not exempt from pain and suffering, and neither are we. Therefore, we must come to realize that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And know this, my beloved suffering readers, God’s grace is sufficient!

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers