EVERY BELIEVER SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL BY DR. BRETT BURLESON

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1 EVERY BELIEVER SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL BY DR. BRETT BURLESON 2 TIMOTHY 3: CORINTHIANS 11:24-27 JOHN 15:18-20 LUKE 9: ROMANS 12:1 Main Idea: Everyone who follows Jesus will suffer for His sake. I. The Reality of Suffering Christians II. The Variations of Suffering Christians III.The Necessity of Suffering Christians The Apostle Paul is one of the most recognizable names in Christian history. In Paul s letter to Timothy, a younger minister of the gospel following in his footsteps, words of encouragement and words of warning were passed along. Paul was encouraging Timothy about the joyous work of the ministry that awaited. But he was also warning Timothy about the opposition that was sure to come. Paul instructs Timothy to minister with his eyes wide open, because hardship and even persecution would be part of the deal. After speaking of his own ministry struggles, Paul says to Timothy: 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3) Did you notice what he said in verse 12? Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Paul was no stranger to suffering for the sake of the gospel. He reminded the Corinthian Christians of some of the things he suffered: 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger 1

2 from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 11) All of these things happened to Paul, not just randomly, but specifically because of his commitment to the gospel. He would have known none of these things had he not professed the name of Jesus. So as Paul writes his letter to Timothy, he makes sure the message is clear: committing yourself to the gospel won t be easy. Everyone who wants to live for Jesus will suffer. IN THE INSANITY OF GOD, NIK RIPKEN TELLS THE STORY OF MEETING WITH PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS AND TELLING THEM, YOUR STORIES ARE AMAZING. WHY HAVEN T THEY BEEN WRITTEN DOWN? CONFUSED AT WHAT HE WAS SAYING, ONE OF THE OLDER PASTORS TOOK NIK ASIDE TO A LARGE WINDOW. HE SAID, I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE SOME SONS, NIK. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU AWAKENED YOUR SONS BEFORE DAWN AND BROUGHT THEM TO A WINDOW LIKE THIS ONE, ONE THAT FACES EAST, AND SAID TO THEM, BOYS, WATCH CAREFULLY. THIS MORNING YOU RE GOING TO SEE THE SUN COMING UP IN THE EAST! IT S GOING TO HAPPEN IN JUST A FEW MORE MINUTES. GET READY NOW, BOYS. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU DONE THAT WITH YOUR SONS? I ve never done that, Nik chuckled. If I ever did that, my boys would think I was crazy. The sun always comes up in the east. It happens every morning! The old man nodded and smiled. I didn t understand his point, that is, until he continued: Nik, that s why we haven t made books and movies out of these stories that you have been hearing. For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it. Persecution for our faith has always been and probably always will be a normal part of life. THE REALITY OF SUFFERING CHRISTIANS Hardship falling upon Jesus people is as old as Christianity itself. It was happening before Paul became a Christian. It happened during Paul s life as a Christian. And it has continued on until this day. Consider the following:

3 EACH MONTH 322 CHRISTIANS ARE KILLED FOR THEIR FAITH 214 CHURCHES AND CHRISTIAN PROPERTIES ARE DESTROYED 772 FORMS OF VIOLENCE ARE COMMITTED AGAINST CHRISTIANS (SUCH AS BEATINGS, ABDUCTIONS, RAPES, ARRESTS AND FORCED MARRIAGES) According to The Pew Research Center, over 75 percent of the world lives in areas where severe religious restrictions are enforced. Many of these severe restrictions are carried out against people who identify themselves with Jesus. That those who follow Jesus might suffer is no secret. Jesus made it clear that we actually should anticipate hardship as a follower of Him. He said plainly: 18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15) Jesus also said these words: 23 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9) Jesus made it clear: If you re going to follow me, you must be willing to suffer loss; in fact, if you follow after me, you will suffer loss. It s just like Paul was telling Timothy: Everyone who wants to live for Jesus will suffer. THE VARIATIONS OF SUFFERING CHRISTIANS One thing we must keep in mind is that God does not give the same exact life assignment to every single Christian. God gives one Christian a certain form of spiritual giftedness, and another Christian a totally different kind of spiritual giftedness. He assigns one person a certain number of days, and another a totally different number of days. Some Christians will get married, others will not. Some will have children, others never will. And some will live in a part of the world where severe religious restrictions are enforced, and others will not. The lives and experiences of those who follow Jesus will be as diverse as the people themselves. This is God s design and plan for His Body. So while we know that all who follow Jesus are called to suffer loss, we must not assume that it will look exactly the same for every Christian. The reality of suffering loss should be the same, but how it plays out will likely vary.

4 So the question is: How might suffering for the gospel look? Giving The Lives We Have As highlighted earlier, some Christians will pay the ultimate price: they will give their lives for the gospel. This was more than likely what Jesus 12 disciples understood Him to be saying about their own lives in John 15. Jesus told them that the look of love was the laying down one s life for another. It is on the heels of this definition of love that Jesus then commands them to love as He does. I can only imagine that they understood this to be a call to lay down their very lives for the gospel. And they would. Almost all of the time, these disciples of Jesus were crucified or stoned or killed in some form or fashion because they believed in Jesus. Facing physical persecution, these disciples would hold firm to the gospel and give their lives. And many have followed in their footsteps. The stories of Christian martyrs are numerous. From Polycarp to John Wycliffe to Jim Elliot, countless Christians, when threatened with death, chose Jesus. But not every Christian will die because of their faith, at least not in the sense that they are killed for it. As stated earlier, God does not intend for every believer to live the same exact life. So it only stands to reason that while some will die the death of a martyr, others may not. Yet they are still called to die and suffer loss for the sake of Christ in some way. LITTLE THINGS ARE ONLY LITTLE THINGS. BUT FAITHFULNESS IN LITTLE THINGS IS A BIG THING! BROTHER ANDREW, FOUNDER OF OPEN DOORS AND AUTHOR OF GOD S SMUGGLER Giving the Lives We Could Have Listen again to Jesus words in Luke 9: 23 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9) Jesus spoke about us losing our lives. For some they indeed will be called upon to lose the lives they have. But what about those who are never presented with that reality? They will be called to lose the lives they could have. Jesus said that we die daily. Consider Paul s words to the Christians in Rome: 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices. (Romans 12) 4

5 Living sacrifices. Think about that term for a moment. We understand the concept of a sacrifice that results in death. But a sacrifice that leaves us alive? You see, some of us will die for the sake of the gospel. The rest of us should live for the sake of the gospel. THE NECESSITY OF SUFFERING CHRISTIANS If we are one of the Christians who do not live with the threat of physical persecution, we should be looking for other ways to lay down our lives ways we can suffer loss for the good of others. Jesus made it clear that we should be willing to lay aside our lives. For some of us, this means laying aside the lives we could have. Forfeiting comforts, privileges and luxuries so that Jesus Kingdom would be tasted by others. A living sacrifice. ONE CO-WORKER AMONG VIETNAMESE CHRISTIANS SAID, BUT, ONCE AGAIN, IF WE CANNOT TESTIFY THROUGH OUR LIVES BY BEING EXAMPLES OF LIVING SACRIFICES, OUR TEACHINGS WILL BE FUTILE. STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM DEVOTIONAL What are some things you could claim as your own, that if sacrificed, would advance the cause of Christ? Perhaps some time? Maybe a material possession? A certain degree of comfortable living? Will you see these things as your time, your possessions and things you ve earned for yourself? Or will you perhaps lay them aside, sacrificing them for the good of the Kingdom? I m going to lay down my life, Jesus said. And I m calling you to do the same. CONCLUSION Some will give up the lives they have for the sake of the gospel. Others will give up the lives they could have for the sake of the gospel. The sacrifice may not look exactly the same, but make no mistake about it: Everyone who follows Jesus will be called to make it. Dr. Brett Burleson is the Lead Pastor at Dayspring Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. 5

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