Suffering for Christ

Francis Chan (2)

Francis Chan spoke in our chapel service this morning at William Jessup University. Recently, he spoke with one of the Chinese underground church leaders who outlined the “Five Pillars of the Underground Church” (which has flourished to over 100 million believers, without megachurches or celebrity pastors).

  1. Read the Bible, deeply and constantly
  2. Pray a lot, personally and collectively
  3. Be a missionary; everyone shares their faith
  4. Expect the miraculous; know that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead abides with us today
  5. Embrace suffering, for the glory of God

The fifth “Pillar” surprised Chan the most and gave focus to his message today. In a culture that quits all too easily and that whines all too frequently, the idea of celebrating or embracing suffering seems very foreign.

Small things seem to distract us. Big things prove utterly daunting. But brothers and sisters in China embrace their suffering, knowing that this converts into eternal reward (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Perhaps we fail to suffer well because we embraced a gospel of prosperity and favor. When tough times come, when people resist or reject our faith, when things turn sideways in our congregations, we cut and run.

Or perhaps we fail to embrace suffering, because the other four pillars are so pencil-thin in our lives. God’s Word is not planted deeply in our souls, we pray little, we share our faith with nobody, and we have ceased to expect miracles.

God is quietly orchestrating a Kingdom-revolution in China through 100 million Chinese believers. They have no platforms and no media. But it seems they have all they need; and perhaps more than many of us.

What pillars guide our lives and our churches?

SPECIAL NOTE Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. It comes early this year. In recent years I have written devotional reflections each day throughout Lent (40 days) as part of my own discipline for the season. I plan to do it again this year with Reflections Through Romans. I invite you to join me. In the meantime, I’m giving you an alert so you might consider what fasting you might practice during the season, if you’re so inclined. 🙂

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10 Responses to Suffering for Christ

  1. Suzette Honore says:

    Hi David,

    I am thrilled to hear you will continue writing the devotions for Lent again! They are such a blessing and encouragement to me in “giving up in order to receive” during Lent =)

  2. Jim Swaney says:

    Very impactful and meaningful, David! Thank you for writing this!

  3. roger says:

    Good word. Nothing “new,” but as you pointed out, it is important for all pillars to be in place.

  4. Matt Bowes says:

    Hi David!

    Perhaps the 5th pillar shouldn’t have a comma: Embrace suffering for the glory of God. Or maybe that’s not clear. See, somewhere in 1 John or maybe Ephesians, it says that those who suffer for the glory of Christ will be blessed, and I think a lot of folks feel like their emphysema or hypochondriaca meloncholia ought to count for something. No. No, it doesn’t.

    Otherwise, that guy who just died of cancer after a ruinous and horrible struggle that refused to bow to Christ, he gets more blessings than the guy who served God all his life and went quietly in his sleep at the age of 96.

    So the gist of suffering for Christ isn’t a “I’ll just sit in the dark with my boils don’t-mind-me” kind of suffering, but more of a suffering for the sake of Christ, a sort of “are you a Christian, if you are, we will behead you” kind. The kind where you are suffering precisely because of Christ, not in spite of or apart from him. People who are sick and suffer pain, yes, that’s suffering, but not the kind the Bible is talking about. I think some people get awfully confused about that, and will try to comfort others by saying, “don’t worry, you get your reward in heaven for your suffering.”

    This reminds me of a thing someone once said, when we were talking about gifts of the spirit: “Martyrdom could be a gift of the spirit.” I thought, I don’t think that’s a spiritual gift. It’s something else entirely, but not a spiritual gift. It’s not in the nature of spiritual gifts, for starters.

    • David Timms says:

      Matt, that’s an accurate delineation. Yes, we’re talking about suffering for the cause of the Kingdom, the sake of the Gospel, and our faith in Christ. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Amy says:

    Beautiful, David…thank you ❤

  6. Randy Mayer says:

    I look forward to your devotions on Lent and a time to reflect on the 5 pillars of suffering …

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