Suffering is an aspect of human life. Suffering is common to all men. Most people do not want to talk about this aspect of their life. They would rather ignore this harsh reality. It is therefore, strange that young people would desire to discuss this subject. Young people are foreigners to physical pain and suffering. They enjoy, generally speaking, health and strength of mind and body. Besides they are protected from abuse by their parents.
However, this theme is appropriate for you, the young people, if we are mindful who we are as the young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We are believers in the name of Christ Jesus. We bear the mark of God’s covenant friendship! In the old dispensation, the men of Israel bore the physical sign of circumcision and this mark declared to them each day that they were God’s chosen and beloved people. We too bear the mark of God’s covenant. This mark is not now physical and visible, but it is the mark of the sacrament of baptism. And not merely the fact that we received the outward sign, but, rather, that we have the spiritual realities signified in baptism. We have been washed in the blood of Christ. We have received the Spirit of Christ with the result that we confess His name and live according to the commandments of God. We have been made to be, by God’s grace, His people and we possess the spiritual realities signified in baptism as the mark of God’s covenant of grace in Christ Jesus.
We are, with all of God’s people, the living among the dead, the Church in the midst of the world, the friends of the living God among those who hate Him and His Word.
Therefore, we expect suffering and know it to be an inevitable part of the life of faith. In that light, to talk about it is most appropriate for us.
It may be helpful to point out the relationship of this second speech to the first and the third speeches for this convention. Suffering for Christ’s sake is the result of both confession of Christ’s name and our service to God. The first speech is, Saved to Speak; and the third speech is Saved to Serve. Our subject naturally follows upon these truths for the Christian suffers because the world hates his speech and despises his service of God.
With the above as introduction, I ask you to consider with me our theme. Saved In the Way of Suffering, by first considering 1) Suffering for Righteousness Sake; 2) Suffering in Hope; and 3) Suffering with the Saints.
Suffering for Righteousness Sake
We must ask what is the nature of this suffering? Let us distinguish the suffering for righteousness sake from other kinds of suffering. In general, we may observe that suffering can differ as to form and have many different causes. Suffering as to form can be psychological suffering of the mind and will. For example, the suffering of fear or guilt. Suffering can also be physical, of course. In addition, suffering can have different causes. First of all, all men, believers and unbelievers, suffer because of God’s curse upon creation. Illness and disease are the experience of all. Hurricanes and tornadoes spare none in their path. Everyone suffers. Secondly, there is that suffering that has its cause in sin. Loneliness is often caused by pride and arrogance. Diseases due to the sins of immorality befall many. The suffering that children must endure because of a parent that lives in adultery. Broken marriages, broken homes and hurting souls because of the sins of selfishness and lust. Thirdly, there is a suffering due to one’s religion, which is not a suffering for righteousness sake. Iran is a land of suffering and pain and agony in no small part because of its unbiblical Moslem ideals. Finally, there is the suffering that is for righteousness sake. All suffering is not of the same kind or nature.
This evening we will discuss only the one kind of suffering, Suffering for righteousness sake. For it alone is the way of salvation.
What is specifically this suffering for righteousness sake? Please, note in I Peter 3:14 we read, “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake,’’ and in I Peter 4:16 we read, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian. . Acts 5:41 declares of the disciples that they rejoiced “to suffer shame for His name.” Suffering for righteousness sake is to suffer for Jesus’ name. It is to be hated for our confession of the Reformed faith. We suffer for Jesus sake when we confess and preach that Jesus died for some, the elect, and not for all men. People hate you for your confession that man by nature has no free will unto good but is totally depraved. We suffer for righteousness sake when we live out of the principles of God’s Word as these apply to all our life. There are principles of marriage. For example, that marriage is for life; and that in marriage we are to reflect the relationship of Christ and His Church. There are principles that apply to the rearing of our children. There are principles that apply to our relationship to our employer. Every sphere of life is governed by the principles of God’s Word. Out of these we live and for them we suffer.
We should note then that suffering for righteousness sake is, first of all, inevitable. The Christian cannot escape it. We read in Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Therefore, Peter wrote to the saints concerning suffering for Jesus name, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” We are to consider suffering as inevitable. Secondly, let us note the source of this suffering, or by the hand of whom do we suffer. We suffer at the hand of those who are devoid of grace and who out of the depravity of their hearts hate God as He has revealed Himself in Christ according to the Scriptures. All men have not faith. This hatred of the child of God bums fiercely among apostates. Those who once knew the Word of God and have rejected it are those who bring the Church great suffering. It was the unbelieving Jews that hated the Christ; it was the unbelieving Jews that persecuted Paul from city to city on his missionary journeys.
As young people, you must clearly understand that when you suffer at the hands of unbelievers it is because of their hatred of God and His Word. You must not imagine that it is due to your personality or social position in life. No, it is because of your love of God. The Church of Christ suffers because of its confession of the truth and because of its service to Jehovah God.
Thirdly, what is the character of this suffering? Suffering for righteousness sake is always without a cause. The occasion for this suffering is our confession and our service to God in Christ Jesus. But our suffering is without a cause in us. Do not overlook this truth. Consider what we read in Ps. 35:19, “Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.” Jesus applied these words to himself in John 15:25, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” What was true of Christ is true too of the Christian, who is a partaker of Christ’s suffering. The Christian when suffering for righteousness sake suffers not having done evil to his neighbor. He is hated without a cause. The cause of this suffering for the Christian is found in the depraved heart of the ungodly. The unbeliever hates God and all who defend the honor and glory of His name.
Scripture forewarns us that we will suffer for the sake of the gospel. Allow me to quote two passages. In John 15:18-19 we read, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And in John 16:1-3 it is stated, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
We suffer for Christ’s sake now and will suffer in the future. You suffer now as young people, when you refuse to attend the theater and are ridiculed for your refusal. You suffer for righteousness sake when others scorn and hate you for not participating in their beer parties. You suffer for Christ’s sake when men ask scornfully, “how many children are there in your school?” Young people must bear the reproach of Christ when our churches are held in contempt because they are of “little strength.” You suffer for Christ’s name sake when you for the purpose of the establishment of a Christian marriage refuse to date unbelievers and persons of non-reformed churches. Hated because you want to date and marry one who is one in the Lord with you. God requires young people to suffer for Christ through the proper confession your father boldly makes in the community. Your father, whom you love is considered odd and peculiar.
In the future, too, you will suffer for righteousness sake. You will be the Church of tomorrow that witnesses to the Reformed faith as we as Protestant Reformed Churches have been graced to know and confess it. The false church and all antichristian persons will heap upon you their disdain. You will be mothers and fathers who may have to bear the rejection of a child because of your confession. The hatred and rejection of a son or daughter is one of the most painful experiences that God’s people are called upon at times to endure. Besides the Bible tells us that in the last days, which may not be far off, we will not be able to buy or sell. You will suffer the loss of jobs. It is possible that you will starve. Further, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, that an humanistic and carnal society will characterize true believers in Christ Jesus as mentally ill and incorrigible and thus institutionalize or imprison them.
Suffer for Christ’s name sake we will surely be called upon to do.
Suffering in Hope
Suffering is the way of salvation. We are saved in the way of suffering. This is our theme. The salvation spoken of is salvation from the viewpoint of our complete victory in the glory of heaven. The way to heaven is through suffering for righteousness sake.
We must answer the question: why is suffering the way unto complete salvation and glory in heaven? The answer is, because we suffer for the principles of the gospel of Christ. The truths of the Word in regard to God, Christ, the sinner, the church, and every other aspect of our life are the principles of the Word of God. These principles govern our life by God’s grace. We are committed to them. God has made us to be disciples of the Lord. We live our lives by them and out of them. These principles are the stepping stones upon which we walk to glory. He who refuses to live out of these principles, forsakes them, walks upon the pathway to hell. Therefore, we insist on these principles of the Word for your and our safety and for God’s honor.
The pathway of principles of God’s Word which leads to heaven is inseparably joined to suffering. Christ Jesus preached and lived out of the principle of election and consequently died the death of the cross, because he assumed the responsibility for the sins of those whom God gave him. He was exalted in the way of suffering. The way to glory for Christ was the principles of God’s Word, which occasioned and required much suffering. So also for the apostle Paul. He lived out of the principles of the gospel and suffered for them. Suffering for righteousness sake is inseparably joined to the principles of God’s Word believed and confessed.
Therefore, we suffer in hope. We are confident that suffering is the way unto complete salvation.
Many in apostatizing churches fail or refuse to see this truth. They imagine that they can avoid suffering for righteousness sake and yet walk the pathway to glory. Remarriage of divorced persons is sanctioned, contrary to the principles of God’s Word, in order that man or woman and children involved need not suffer. To avoid suffering the loss of jobs Sabbath labor is condoned: unionism is approved; and members of the church are assured that much in the world of unbelief is commendable and consequently we need not walk strictly as pilgrims and strangers in the world. The principles of God’s Word are set aside. And they are set aside for the purpose to escape suffering, which they occasion. This is not the way to heaven. The Judaizers of Paul’s day did the same, “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’’ They twisted the Scriptures to avoid suffering.
But we suffer in the hope of glory. We understand that the principles of the Word of God are inseparably joined to suffering. We know that in this suffering we are partakers of Christ’s suffering, I Peter 4:13. We know too that we shall be partakers of His glory, who was raised far above all principalities and powers and set at God’s right hand.
We suffer in hope because we know that this suffering is according to God’s counsel and purpose in Christ Jesus and is given unto us in His grace. Philippians 1:29. Thus we are called upon to rejoice when we suffer for righteousness sake. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’’
We Suffer with the Saints
We must not view ourselves individualistically. We are not the only ones who have been and are called upon to suffer for righteousness sake. We must not develop a martyr’s complex. We must not adopt a morbid resignation to the inevitable. This is not faith.
We suffer in the knowledge of the suffering of the saints of the past. In Hebrews 11 we have recorded how the saints of the old dispensation suffered for God’s name sake. We must be mindful that today saints in other lands suffer for Christ’s sake. Remember too that the young saints upon the mission field in Singapore suffer persecution in their homes.
We suffer for our faith as witnesses unto the saints of tomorrow. Our parents have done that for us. We must be willing to bear every reproach of Christ and all hatred in order that we may give a clear and definite witness to our children.
May the Lord of glory uphold and strengthen you in this spiritual warfare for the honor of His name and the salvation of His people.
I thank you.