You are reading in subchapter 5.1 of chapter 5 in the free, global online book, Fellowship With God in the Sixth Path. Navigation at the top and bottom of each page, allows you to open the table of contents, visit the home page, ask questions or share your story.
"man is born to trouble,
as the sparks fly upward"
I was five years old. Dr. De Charles was a small man. He had curly grey hair that stuck out from his head in various directions and was about one third bald. I don't remember if he had a mustache for sure, but he looked a lot like Albert Einstein.
I remember being at his office when no one else was there except members of my family. My parents had worried looks in their eyes as they knocked on his door. It was hard for mother to look at me.
He came to the door looking sleepy. He looked at me and scratched his head. He said, "I need to fix another broken arm on this kid like I need a hole in the head". He put a mask over my mouth and told me to count. Then I saw yellow, purple and blue dots swirling around against black until all was black.
In his file were the following approximate notations: Age two, I set a broken arm. Age three, a dislocated elbow. Age four, another dislocated elbow...
I can remember having a great sense of peace when I had a cast on my arm. It was heavy and hard. It couldn't be taken away from me.
I believe that Job was right: "man is born to trouble."
Have you been to "the edge"? If you have been there, you know what I mean. My heart has gone out to you as I prayed for this moment in your life. I have prayed for God's peace, power and joy in you as you read. I have praised God for what He will offer you.
Suffering can be so intense that one may struggle to hold on to sanity. One may even desire death. Some of you have known extreme suffering which I have not known. But, you and I may have a few things in common. Some trials of my early years were presented the chapter on "My Conversion". These included tragedy, violence, rejection, a broken home and disease.
My middle years were volatile as well. By the time I was thirty-five, my parents had been in litigation for most of the previous twenty-five years, resulting in the bankruptcy of the family business, in which I worked. During various lawsuits, I was disowned by each parent, but never by both parents at the same time.
I don't know the pain of going through a divorce, but being disowned by a parent, tore my soul, every time. I believe that my parents were better than most. It is unwise to judge another unless you have walked in their shoes and born their burden. But their moral code was powerless against the forces that were marshaled against them.
Why am I telling you these things? I am going to present some very hard scriptures to you in subchapters 5.1 and 5.2. I want you to know that I am not speaking from a theoretical ivory tower.
How to have fellowship with God in suffering
Fellowship with God, is a two way conversation in the spiritual realm, as we follow Christ, bearing His yoke in the world. All of what is written in this book up to this point prepares us to take the necessary steps. We pray the Endorsed Prayers from chapter 4 and let suffering perfect us. We Turn, Turn, Turn and Behold the Lord... in the Sixth Path. Personally, I have found pain to be a very effective teacher... in the Sixth Path.
To overcome intense suffering one needs power that is not one's own. No moral code can provide that power. To walk in the fire and not be consumed, one needs power from Him who spoke the universe into existence. If you do not know God, this subchapter 5.1 will be of little help to you. If you don't know Him, please read the subchapter titled "How to Become a Christian" in the appendix (A1).
The Endorsed Prayers include prayers for knowledge of God's will, enlightened eyesight, revelation, power, strength, wisdom, love, obedience, faith, forgiveness and evangelism. They were presented in the chapter on prayer.
Our natural attitudes towards suffering are contrary to scripture. We are never supposed to be afraid or anxious. We are to take up the yoke of Christ, rejoice in sufferings, praise God and let suffering perfect us. These things are done in us by God supernaturally, as we pray the Endorsed Prayers.
Before I present God's word, I suggest that you come into God's presence and pray. Please ask God to prepare your heart to hear and receive. Then please PRAY the passages as I present them. A lot is at stake.
(Pause for Prayer)
Think about these things:
- Philippians 4:8 says, "whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things."
I pray that all of you may do Philippians 4:8. I pray that God will empower you through the Holy Spirit to dwell not on your sufferings, but to think about those things mentioned in this scripture. It is hard for me to write about my sufferings. But it is necessary at this time. I write for your benefit. Decades ago I helped children of divorce through group workshops. I had to stop because it was too painful to relive those days. As I am writing this book and when I am finished writing, I must think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praise worthy. I can do that by prayer, by praying the Endorsed Prayer of "Strength".
We are not to be fearful or anxious:
- "Behold, a violent storm came up on the sea, so much that the boat was covered with the waves; but he was asleep. 25 The disciples came to him and woke him up, saying, "Save us, Lord! We are dying!" 26 He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:24-26).
Jesus is the one speaking in verse 26. He attributed their fear to a lack of faith. So, the remedy for fear is to persistently ask God for faith (micro-subchapter 4.3a).
- "for nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer, and by supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; 7 and the peace of God, that is surpassing all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
We are not to be anxious about anything. The Endorsed Prayer of "Faith" in micro-subchapter 4.3a is the prayer for anxiety. In this prayer we ask God to multiply our faith.
We are to be joyful in suffering:
- "Summoning the apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus' name" (Acts 5:40-41).
- "we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: 5 and hope doesn't disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5).
- "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people reproach you, 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 that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).
In the first verse, the apostles rejoiced after being beaten for their faith in Christ. The second verse tells us to rejoice in sufferings because of the benefits in this life. Some would prefer a life free of suffering to the perseverance, character and hope promised by that verse. There is no such thing as a life free of suffering. And there is no such thing as a prosperous soul without perseverance, character and hope. The third verse reveals that happiness results from suffering for Christ.
We are to cooperate with God patiently, as suffering perfects us:
- "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4). (The Greek word, pirasmos, translated as "temptations" is translated as "trials" in other translations. Actually, a trial is a temptation, and a temptation is a trial.)
It may seem unnatural, but suffering is actually good for us. This verse reveals that suffering brings about endurance and perseverance... faith that does not fail. It brings about faith that knows no fear, if we "let" it (V 4).
From experience I have seen my faith grow through suffering as I ask God to multiply my faith. Endurance is an undaunted faith. So, the passage says that when our faith is tested by suffering, it grows into a stronger faith.
Faith is a reward in itself. Faith feels good. Fear and anxiety feel horrible. Often our fear in a circumstance creates more misery than the object of our fear. One who encounters trials with a strong faith, does not feel the misery of fear.
We can ask God to remove suffering after it has accomplished His will in us. We can ask God to remove our suffering, as long as we include the following addendum to our request: "If it be your will". Jesus did this in Matthew 26:39: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire."
The Endorsed Prayers as a Remedy to Suffering
The Endorsed Prayers are the correct response to the suffering described in all of these passages. The request for increased faith will cast out fear and anxiety. We may have trouble rejoicing when persecuted for Christ because our love for our Lord is weak. Therefore we ask God to increase our love. Prayers for strength in the Holy Spirit enable us to persevere with joy. I will present the prayer acrostic FOLLOW CHRIST from subchapter 4.8 to show its application to suffering.
"Increase my faith in this trial!"
"Use this trial to open a door for Your word into other's lives!"
"Lead me to the rock, to strength in Your presence!"
"Multiply our love for each other as we struggle together!"
"Give us unity in this divisive trial!"
"Give me words of life for others in their suffering!"
"Forgive me for my self centeredness in this trial!"
"Send workers into John's life in his trial!"
"Reveal yourself to John in his trial!"
"Draw John close to yourself in his trial!"
"Nothing has happened that you didn't do or allow for Your glory or our good!"
"Thank You for what we have and what we will gain through this trial!"
Disciple Making Prayers
The disciple making prayers are specifically presented as a remedy for intense suffering. Prayers for making disciples are taking up the yoke of Christ. He promised rest to those who took up His yoke. His yoke is His work. His yoke is the reason He came to the earth, to make disciples. It is written "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Who did He invite to take up His yoke? Those who had heavy burdens:
- "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
How can His yoke be "easy"? It is easy for two reasons.
First, because we find "rest" when we take His yoke. His yoke is a remedy for those who are "heavily burdened". I believe that this "rest" is an intimate joy and peace in His presence.
The second reason that His yoke is easy is this: When we work under His yoke, we simply repeat the words of the Father and pray. It is an easy two-step process.
I presented a more detailed version of this two-step process in subchapter 4.9. I called it PASS. We PRAY the scriptures, Ask Him to give us words of the gospel and Speak by faith the words He gives us. The Holy Spirit does the rest. The four key words are Pray, Ask, Speak, Spirit (PASS).
The disciples suffered much for taking the yoke of Christ. But they received "rest" so it was easy.
Praise God in the Face of Disaster
In the face of disaster, we praise God as Job and Habakkuk did.
After losing all of his sons and daughters, his business and all of his possessions,
- "Then Job arose, and tore his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshiped" (Job 1:20).
Here are Habakkuk's words of praise in the face of disaster:
"For though the fig tree doesn't flourish,
nor fruit be in the vines;
the labor of the olive fails,
the fields yield no food;
the flocks are cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls:
yet I will rejoice in Yahweh.
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
Yahweh, the Lord, is my strength.
He makes my feet like deer's feet,
and enables me to go in high places" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
We are to praise God continually:
- "Through him, then, let's offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name" (Hebrews 13:15).
We praise God even as we suffer, following the examples of the two previous scriptures (Job and Habakkuk).
After being beaten, the apostles rejoiced:
- "Summoning the apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus' name" (Acts 5:38-41).
We need God to tell us how to respond to pain so that we may please him:
- "we also, since the day we heard this, don't cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects" (Colossians 1:9-10).
God will reveal His will, to the extent necessary, so that we may "please him in all respects". If God desires confession from us, He will reveal our sin to us so that we may repent. If God wants our faith in suffering to be seen by an unbeliever, He will open a door for His word and give us words to speak life into the lost.
God can create blessing out of disaster:
- Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,". God can do more than we can ask or imagine.
What is the greatest thing that you can conceive of to ask Him for? Please pause and answer this question. Fill in this blank: ___________________________________ What God can do is greater than that. Since we can't envision what He can do, we have to trust him. We trust Him that suffering is worth its price.
I have seen that the benefits to me even in this life have been worth the price of my suffering. But it goes against our human nature to see suffering as a positive in our lives.
Is suffering for Christ worth the price?
Many of you have not experienced extreme physical and emotional pain for Christ. For you, it may be difficult to imagine anything that will compensate you for its cost.
- "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us" (Romans 8:18).
- "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us" (Romans 8:18).
The benefits of suffering vastly exceed the cost. The passage indicates that the reward is in the next age ("the glory which will be revealed").
Paul's severe suffering results in "an eternal weight of glory":
- "7 But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; 9 pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death works in us, but life in you... 16 Therefore we don't faint, but though our outward person is decaying, yet our inward person is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory, 18 while we don't look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
Notice that Paul sees his severe suffering as "light affliction" (V 7).
I expect that the benefits in the Paradise to come will be immeasurably greater than all of our suffering in this life. I expect Paradise to be better than any sensual delight in this world. In this regard, I consider the Song of Solomon to be one guide to this ecstasy. The Song of Solomon is discussed in subchapter 6.1, "The Eternal State in Paradise: The New Jerusalem".
We respond to suffering by praying the Endorsed Prayers. In them we can have purpose, relief and even abundant life in difficult circumstances. Our response to suffering will be consistent with the purpose or cause of our suffering. The causes of suffering will be revealed in the next subchapter.