SUFFERING FOR HIS SAKE
BY: JACKIE CAPORASO
JANUARY 5, 2007
MESSAGE No. 166
LEARNING TO LOVE THROUGH SUFFERING
LEARNING OBEDIENCE THROUGH SUFFERING
THE GENUINENESS OF OUR FAITH ON TRIAL
UNTIL CHRIST IS FORMED IN YOU
CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN
BOND TOGETHER BY LOVE
THE ULTIMATE TEST OF OUR FAITH
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil. 1:29) These were the words of the wise apostle to the beloved church at Philippi. He could make this claim because this had the experience. He had not learned it from man nor had he learned it from books; he knew it first hand from his relationship with God’s Spirit.
Everyone suffers, but to suffer for His sake is a privilege that is not granted to all; but it is granted to some. In this world, everyone suffers, but suffering does not always count as being for Christ’s sake. These bodies of death (as Paul called them) are the primary cause of much suffering. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7: 24)
Our human bodies are susceptible to hurt when wounded and they are even subject to death. When our bodies are hurt or lame, we are greatly limited in our activities and even brought down to the dust; Job certainly found this to be true. Job’s sufferings were not only physical but as his family circle was destroyed and his wife and best friends turned against him, he certainly experienced anguish in his soul as well.
Until recently I thought that suffering for His sake simply meant suffering when we are rejected or persecuted for His Word. We have found that to be true experientially and it certainly was the case for Paul and the early disciples. But as we see the suffering that is going on in the Body of Christ today, we are finding that there is another way that we must suffer for His sake.
I know that many who are reading this will under-stand and Paul’s declaration certainly confirms it. He wrote to the church “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” (Col. 1: 24)
We are not geared to thinking that there is some-thing lacking in the affliction of Christ for His body, the church. And even if we have thought about it, we may not be aware that we are the ones called to fill up that gap in our own bodies.
We may think that “intercession” is strictly getting in our prayer closet and praying many prayers for others…this may or may not be part of it. But full intercession comes when we are granted to suffer for those who are in need of the kind of help we can impart to them. Full intercession is more than a religious exercise; it is taking in our own bodies that part of the suffering that they are not able to bear.
Intercession consists of meeting the needs that are in His body with full compassion and understanding; it is being willing to bear some of their sufferings in our own bodies. We cannot do this of our-selves, but we will do it if God grants it for it is a privilege and a ministry to His body, the church, and it is part of the sufferings of Christ.
The popular health and prosperity message leaves no room for suffering. Many even teach that if one suffers it must be that there is some kind of hidden sin or lack of faith in their lives and they are judged accordingly.
Paul taught, “Follow me as I also follow Christ.” Paul suffered greatly in his flesh and understood perfectly the purpose of his sufferings. He declared that he would rather die and go to be with His Lord, but for their sake he needed to continue in this flesh.
LEARNING TO LOVE THROUGH SUFFERING
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affliction and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like- minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind… Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:1–2, 4)
Paul counted all the sufferings that he had to endure a privilege. He continued his letter by saying that his consolation and his joy were made full when he found those who were of like-mind and same love.
When he found those who were of the same mind and sharing the same love and conviction, it filled him with joy. Paul was not just speaking of those who agreed on doctrine although that is a blessing in itself, but more than that Paul was speaking of those who had gone through suffering as he had and had experienced the same love taking them through.
These people had left their good reputation behind and had suffered much persecution. They had held on to each other and had come through their experiences with the same love and the same mind.
They knew that they had not suffered because of lack of faith or because their God had turned away from them, they came through knowing that they could trust Him and trust each other.
It was not Paul’s great revelation that enabled him to expound the word with amazing clarity; it was the fire that he had to walk through. Paul received his anointing through suffering and so do we. No matter how great the revelation, it is still dead letter if it has not passed through the fire.
We may be gifted with the ability to express our-selves with beautiful flowing words, yet they are of no value without the love that only suffering can produce.
In one of his famous letters to the church, Paul expressed, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (I Cor. 13: 2)
True love can only be found through suffering. It is when we have suffered that we love and have compassion for others. It is then that faith works to accomplish its goal, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working by love.” (Gal. 5: 6)
I loved my husband with all my heart and we had a wonderful marriage but it was when he became sick with dementia that my love for him passed the acid test. It was then that I realized that the love I had for him only the best of human love.
He had always been so nice, so attentive and easy to get along with, but when his personality changed and he became cranky, irritable and difficult to live with, I really had to examine my love. It was then that I recognized that I loved him with human love and I came short of the unconditional love of God.
I also realized that he had become a “lamb” to teach me God’s true love. It is easy to love someone who is lovely and it is easy to pray for those we love. What’s more, we cannot make ourselves love someone; only God can change our hearts and suffering is His an effective instrument.
John saw the resurrected Christ with “…feet like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters…” (Rev. 1:15) Jesus had walked the walk in the furnace of earth and His feet had been refined in the fire…We have met the Christ as our Savior and as our Comforter, but today we meet Him in the fire; He is walking the walk with us in our furnace of earth.
This is why His voice is as the sound of many waters…it is the voice of the many souls that have been saved and fully tested; they are the ones in whom He has made His abode. From the time of Adam to now and through the ages to come, He appears in this body of many voices with feet refined in a furnace.
It is because we suffer that we are able to under-stand and to love one another. We have heard that we can choose to love…yes, we certainly can choose this but we cannot just receive love by choosing it. Once we choose it, we must go through the suffering that will bring the reality of it in our lives.
Many fall by the wayside in the tests. It is easy to lose the vision or to become so discouraged that we lose heart. This is why God said, “Be strong and of good courage.” And Jesus echoed, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus first overcame all these feelings in the flesh and then He gave us the same Spirit with which to overcome as well. This is why Paul and the disciples sang praises when they were going through the agony of great persecution. They took hold of that Spirit within them and overcame their discouraging thoughts
LEARNING OBEDIENCE THROUGH SUFFERING
Suffering can make one bitter or depressed and accomplish a negative result. This is where the overcoming Spirit of Christ within makes the difference.
This morning I heard Him say, “Yes, the ring of fire is coming in closer and it is becoming hotter; there seems to be no way out. Yet I have made a way of escape right through the fire. You can make it if you quit the whining, the complaining and murmuring and set your face like flint and go through. I have given you a clear vision, so keep your heart and mind upon it and you will not perish; you will come forth as pure gold.”
We are told that “In the days of His flesh (Jesus) when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement (fervent, intense) cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:7-8)
This is powerful. Jesus, the beloved Son of God was crying, imploring and begging His Father to save Him from the death of the cross and the Father who was well able to save Him, and who was hearing His beloved Son, was not responding in His hour of greatest pain.
The Father did not spare the Son because it was through His suffering that all who were in His loins could obtain a life much higher than this natural life. It was through suffering in the flesh that the Son learned to obedience so that in the hour of His greatest sacrifice He yielded Himself even unto the death of the cross.
It is through suffering that we become one with our Father and with one another. From the time of our birth, we are subjected to learning submission to someone. We learn to submit to our parents, our teachers, the drill sergeant, the laws of the land and many other things.
When the soul who has learned submission comes in contact with the Word of God, it quickly submits and obeys. When the soul has been without discipline, it picks and chooses what it desires to obey of the Word.
I know of a young man who has been in trouble with the law for his rebellion. He has committed crimes that resulted in him going to prison and even into solitary confinement. The parents who are good Christians are devastated by this and want so much to help their wayward son.
But the truth of the matter is that God has provided for him the opportunity to learn obedience. God is breaking his rebellious nature and bringing him unto submission to a higher power.
Even though the higher power is the law and it is often flawed, yet God uses these things to work submission in the rebellious heart. If the young man learns quickly and takes a hold of his opportunity, God will greatly bless him. If he rebels more against it all, he will pay the price.
Beloved, even those who have learned submission are still in the same body of this death. There is still a gap to fill in the Body of Christ; so many times we suffer not only for ourselves but also for others in the Body. In the Body of Adam, we all died because of one man.
The entire Body of people in Adam was made subject to sin and death because of his disobedience. So in Christ, the entire Body is brought into new life, because of the obedience of one Man.
The entire Body is very much one. Even though we are individuals in our personalities and callings, we are weaved together as one creation of God. When one rejoices, we all rejoice and when one hurts, we all hurt.
Paul told the Church that it had been granted to them to suffer. We cannot suffer unless we are granted the circumstances necessary to bring the right kind of suffering in our lives. Suffering with the right attitude accomplishes a lot for us.
How many times have we met with those who spoke the same word we speak and believed the same ways, but somehow there was something that did not set well within us? They more or less followed the same principles; they had suffered many trials too. But there was something hard about their attitude; their sufferings had not taught them obedience to the Father, they had become rigid in their doctrines.
It is not because we meet in the same place or eat the same food that we are of one accord; it is when we are obedient to the same Father. Jesus declared that we would recognize true prophets by their fruits. First, this means that we will know them when their word comes to pass.
But it is also when they exhibit love and compassion for God’s people that their word becomes life to them. It is then that we embrace our true brothers and sisters in the Lord. Their calling may be different from ours but their fruits are the same because we all obey the same Father.
Sufferings are necessary in our lives and they test us on every level. They are not always physical sufferings, but they are always made to order for us. Physical sufferings keep us from pride too for when we suffer we are slower to be critical of others and of judging them harshly.
The health and prosperity gospel leaves no room for suffering. Many teach that if one suffers it must be that there is some kind of hidden sin in their lives and they are judged accordingly. If one is not healed, it is because they lack the faith to receive their healing.
Actually, God provided us with bodies that were subject to pain and suffering. He did not give us armored-covered bodies protected from wounds and bleeding; He wanted us to experience suffering first hand so that we would never want to make anyone suffer again.
It is when we have suffered in our bodies that we become more tolerant of those who are suffering. We are not as likely to judge them so harshly. Paul taught that it is when we think we stand that we fall. Indeed it is when we are led to believe that we have so much faith and so much revelation that nothing can happen to us that we fall the hardest. It is when we think that because we are many we are strong, that we fall the hardest.
THE GENUINENESS OF OUR FAITH ON TRIAL
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to the praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 1:6-7)
We are all acquainted with these verses but somehow, when we get in the fiery trial of our faith we fail to apply them. I hear some who are “generals” in the Armies of God and who have led many through successful battles, complain that now there is no more power for healing and deliverance in His Body. They ask the question from their hearts, “What is wrong Lord?”
Actually, I believe that we all already know the answer to this but we need to be reassured. We all need to hear it repeatedly. The truth is that all flesh is being consumed in the fire so that only the pure image of the Christ may remain.
It is the quality and the strength of our faith that is on trial. Is our faith grounded in the letter of the word or the written verses of the Bible? Or is it grounded in a daily relationship with the living Lord of our life. We will be tested over and over until the faith that is more precious than gold appears. There-fore, we rejoice in our trials.
UNTIL CHRIST IS FORMED IN YOU
Paul wrote to the church, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19) Paul wrote that he was laboring again, so he was well experienced with what it meant to labor in birth for the Christ. When Paul first received the word, he was steeped in Judaism and he made every effort to persecute and destroy the word that he now had to embrace.
Paul knew that the Lord Himself had called him. He knew that he needed to leave behind his former convictions and count them all as dung for the sake of Christ. He recognized that he had to stand in the new faith that had arisen in his heart and that he must not deviate from it. He quickly chose to follow this Holy Spirit within and not man.
He wrote that when God called him, he did not run to those who were apostles before him, but instead he went back to Arabia where he waited three years before making a move. This was the time of Paul’s travail when Christ was being formed in him.
It was during that time that Paul fully received the word that had now been engrafted in him. This new word was in direct opposition to what he had once believed. The word that he had once believed he now counted as filth and wickedness. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted (engrafted) word, which is able to save your souls. (Jas. 1:21)
It was during the three years in Arabia that Paul labored against forces of unbelief. It was then that his heart became fixed; he fully embraced his calling and left behind the religious forms that he had once cherished.
It is the “implanted” or engrafted word of truth in us that is able to save our souls. And, it is after we hear the word of truth that the struggle against the constant reasoning of our minds begins. It is then that the pull to return to our old familiar ways is un-relenting.
It is then that we learn to embrace the power of the cross and to cling to the word of life. This struggle is the labor and travail that establishes us in the Christ within so that we become unshakable and immoveable. This word is the seed that contains the new creature that we are in Christ.
It would be immature to believe that we become a fully formed creation in Christ the moment that we hear the word of our salvation. It takes more than a mental acceptance; it takes faith from the heart and this faith is tested every step of the way.
This is why the forming of this new creation in Christ is compared to the formation of a child in the mother’s womb. It takes time and nurturing, and it is in jeopardy until the day of its full birth. Paul knew this and he labored with the young church so that they may be fully grounded in the word that had been implanted in them.
Jesus taught, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John. 12: 24)
We know that Jesus came in the flesh and actually went to the cross two thousand years ago according to our calendars. However, we read that the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world, (Rev.13:8b). This means that the Christ was in the earth from the foundation of the world.
We know that the Rock that followed Israel in the wilderness was Christ, “…and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (I Cor. 10:4)
They drank of that Rock through Moses, but it was not until Jesus came in the flesh, poured out His atoning blood and arose in the power of resurrection, that His Holy Spirit was released and came to dwell within man, opening the way for man to receive the Christ through faith.
From that time on, throughout the centuries, true believers have given birth to this Christ creation within them. This is why we read that those who have died in the faith are awaiting a better resurrection.
They have been raised to life in spirit and soul but they will not be complete until we all come into this same resurrection power. “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided some-thing better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb. 11:39-40)
The Christ Seed has been sown in the earth of man’s heart, but as it is in a birth, there is a period of gestation and a time when that seed is in jeopardy. The dangers of rejection, miscarriage and even abortion are just as real in the Spirit as they are in the natural.
As the Christ is formed in us, the engrafted word in our newly born minds and hearts must be received with faith before it is of any benefit at all. If there is doubt and fear we will not find the grace and courage to reject the false teachings that had been established in us, and the word will be of no benefit to us; the child will not be formed and we have a spiritual “miscarriage.”
Again we read about those in the wilderness, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Heb. 4:2)
The process takes place over and again with every truth presented to us. This faithful Seed struggles against unbelief or the cares of this world and the many enemies that rise up to destroy it.
The word is as a seed planted in the earth that makes every effort possible to reach the sunshine. We all have seen little plants struggle to come up between cracks in concrete, and so it is for this mighty seed; it makes every effort to break through the hardness of our hearts and minds.
We used to sing a lively song about the little lily that came up through the heavy sod. It went “Yes I marvel at the wisdom of our God…when I saw the little lily pushing up the heavy clod… Then I marveled at the wisdom of our God.” Indeed that Seed of Christ violently wars until He breaks through the hardness of our hearts, swallows up our death and enfolds us in His life.
Even then, it is not the end of our journey; as we grow in Him day by day, we are tested and tried until the fire of His love removes all the dross and we come forth in His image and likeness; this is marvelous indeed!
CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN
The Old Testament is full of symbolism concerning the mystery of Christ in us. It was to Abraham that this Seed, which is Christ, was promised. God gave this Seed to Abraham when He gave him his son Isaac and so it is Isaac who becomes the type of Christ.
Other seeds were also given to Abraham, but God made it clear that the inheritance would only be in Isaac. Even though Ishmael was a true seed of Abraham, he had no part in the inheritance that God had promised.
Ishmael had to be cast out along with the woman that gave him birth. “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” (Gal. 4:30)
It was of great importance to cast out the bond-woman along with her child!! This is very significant for us today. The Christ that is born and formed in us has no ties whatsoever with the woman or the church that has brought up children under religious bondage.
The true Christ is formed by the word of the free woman. This is why the Lord has called us out of the bondwoman because she has no place with the inheritance in Christ. Her children will not be part of the sons of God Company who will bless creation.
The children born of the letter of the law cannot inherit the promises of Christ. The bondwoman still keeps her children tied to her rituals. They feel guilty if they do not attend her services and meetings. They feel that they will die if they do not receive her words and they could never conceive that the fountain of living water within them can fully sustain them. Yet the sons of the bondwoman can-not inherit the promises.
BOND TOGETHER BY LOVE
I remember a song we sang as a prayer, “Bind us together Lord with cords that cannot be broken.” It is our heart’s desire to have fellowship with those of like-mind as we. Yet as we continue on this walk, we find that this becomes more and more difficult. Many times, we fail to move on with God because we hate to leave behind those that we love so much.
The truth is that as we become more and more engrafted in the word of truth, we find that those who once believe as we did are no longer the same to us. Yes, we can find a common ground with many and fellowship with them on that ground, but our souls yearn to find those with whom we can share the beautiful revelation of who He is.
So it gives us great joy when the Lord leads us to meet even one who is truly drinking of the same water and breaking the same bread. This is the true communion of the saints. It may happen only by phone but we know that the flesh has no part in this anyway.
THE ULTIMATE TEST OF OUR FAITH
Abraham had walked with God and talked with God many times, and he had been faithful to obey. Isaac, the son of promise, the son that God had given to him as his heir, was now grown and doing well. Abraham had sent Ishmael away along with his mother Agar, and things were moving along very nicely in Sarah and Abraham’s household. But God was not through with them and so the day came when He called to Abraham and Abraham answered, “Here I am.”
“And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen. 22:2)
When Abraham heard the call, he answered right away. At first, Abraham must have wondered at what God was asking of him; but he did not flinch. He knew that any sacrifice that was to be offered unto God had to be offered willingly. But this time God had requested a hard thing; He asked for his dearest son Isaac to be offered up.
Nevertheless, Abraham’s answer was immediate; there was no hesitation and no delay, “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place which God had told him.” (Vs.3)
What could have gone through Abraham’s mind at that time? Surely God would not ask him to slay this son, this only son that had come to him so miraculously. This was the only son he fathered with his wife Sarah. God Himself had given him to them with the promise that he was the seed that would someday bless all the nations of the earth.
But now he was faced with having to give him back to God. This did not make sense when it came to reason and it is where it would be easy to fail the test. How could God give such a wonderful gift and then ask for it back? This is where man’s reasoning must be replaced by faith; it is a test of faith. The decision must have been wrenching for the old man but he acted in perfect faith; he took Isaac with him and went.
Would God take away the only son who could inherit the Seed as high and as great as the stars of heaven for multitude? Abraham knew His God and he trusted Him fully and without any reservation. God would provide Himself a sacrifice.
This is a parallel for those who are called into this walk of perfect faith. It is not a test for those who are just beginning their walk in God; it is not for the immature. This is a test for those who have heard His voice and who are walking faithfully with Him. It is a test for those who have a true relationship with Him and have learned to recognize His voice.
It is only when we have talked with Him and walked with Him daily that we are able to hear such a request from God. And even among those who hear, only a few are willing to offer this sacrifice. Yet none will reach the prize of the high calling of God in Christ without coming to this altar.
The visible church has failed this test, will those who had once come out of her be caught up in the momentum of their ministries or will they heed the still small voice that is calling them apart one more time? Will those who have seen Him in the gifts and in many miracles and have tasted of His glory and His marvelous word be able to offer it all back to God?
Will they follow Him all the way to the altar of this ultimate sacrifice or will they find good reasons to turn away? Will they be as Esau who forsook his birthright for a mess of pottage?
The popular church has taught the people that Christ is given so that they can have the good life here on earth and reach heaven later. She has failed to hear His voice and to follow Him to the altar of sacrifice. Just as Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, she has failed to pay the price for the inheritance.
Have we heard the call to lay Isaac down on the altar? Is it time to lay down our ambitions for God and wait on Him to raise the Christ within to a higher level of life and service? Are we willing to wait on Him so that the sons may arise and truly bring deliverance to creation?
“Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you. So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and two of them went together.” (Gen. 22:4-6)
This is not a communal call; it comes to each individually. Is it time to leave the servants behind? The time of “serving God” in the usual way may be over. Is it time to walk up to the top of the mountain with Isaac and lay it all on the altar? This must be settled before we can receive all the promises that are ours in Christ. There will be no “sons of God deliverance in the earth until Isaac is offered up back to God.
Each must come to this place of recognizing that now we are at a place when all the devices that we have used to move the Hand of God may no longer work for us. Now we must just trust Him to raise us up to this higher place in Christ. We give it all back to Him and trust Him with our lives.
It was after Abraham passed this test that God declared, “Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, ‘In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:16b-18)
This says it all. It is when we obey the voice that asks for the ultimate sacrifice that we receive the fulfillment of the promises that are in Christ. Not just the promises of health and happiness, but the promises that in Christ we will bring deliverance to the creation that is groaning in pain from the bond-age of death.
While the world is trying all sorts of ways to find peace, God’s sons are hearing that this peace will come as they continue to follow Him in perfect obedience.
Because of His love,
SUFFERING FOR HIS SAKE – MSG. No. 166 [Jackie Caporaso] 1-5-07 1