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Message #12: “Suffering for the Sanctified”

Now in the second section of this matter of sanctification we’re considering the realms of sanctification, and the first is the realm of suffering 3:13-22 and then the realm of everyday living 4:1-11. I am not sure if we will get to chapter four or not. I was tempted this morning to go into a very lengthy exposition of what I didn’t say too much about verses 10-12 last night which is taken from Psalm 34 but I am simply, deliberately passing over them; because I am afraid that if I get into Psalm 34 I will never get out , because it’s one of my favorite Psalms, and it has within it my life verse and my wife’s verse. They are one in the same, by the way, Psalm 34:3. This section is simply a reinforcement of what was presented concerning the matter of a summary for all saints. The realms of sanctification.
First, the realm of suffering. There is in verses 13-17 exhortation concerning this and then in verses 18-22 the example concerning this. The exhortation for us, the example from the Lord Jesus. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers (and the word there really means zealous) of that which is good? But and if you suffer (and there comes the word for suffering) suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror (or fear not their fear), neither be troubled, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” I like very much the American Standard translation of this verse, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (or sanctify in your hearts, Christ as Lord). “And be ready always to give and answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, Having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation (or behavior or manner of life) in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing than for evil-doing.” Now there are five things that I want us to see, one for each of the verses here before us.
First, the matter of protection that is ours when we suffer. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers (or zealous) of that which is good?” May I say that suffering does come as a part of human existence and as part of the life of the child of God. Never think that because you are a saint that you are exempt from suffering. Suffering can come and does come sometimes in ways and areas and realms where you least expect it. (I think today, July 10, exactly a year ago, when our daughter was operated on because she was diagnosed as having Hodgkins disease, and they determined that she would have to have her spleen removed; and the surgeon cut her right down the middle, removed her spleen, examined and removed biopsies in ten locations within her body, did two other incisions, removed a bone marrow for transport checking, and removed her appendix at the same time. I tell you guests, sometimes parents almost suffer more than children when they go through these things. God has blessed my life in many respects, and I know much of the triumph of faith; but the Lord also sometimes allows us to taste the trials of faith. This came home to me last year, and I related to this in a message here at Sandy Cove right when I was going through this experience.)
Hebrews 11 is very interesting in that passage that we often refer to as the Westminster of the Hall of Fame of the faithful. You read about how people accomplished things for God, and how they were victorious in their faith. In the summary of some remaining heroes of faith beginning in verse 32, “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” There is a shift there when you come to “and others.” Have you ever noticed that? The first are the triumphs of faith, but when you come to “and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection; And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” By the way, it doesn’t say that they were delivered. They went through it and they took it on the chin, and most of them died for their faith— (“Of whom the world was not worthy;”)
Sometimes in your life you’ll enjoy the triumphs of faith, but there are other times when the trials of faith will come. It’s in that realm of suffering that you will demonstrate the reality of sanctification of how holy God is making you to be. Never forget that the protection of His presence and power is always ours. I like what Romans 8 says. It’s one of the great pinnacle chapters of the Bible. Verse 31 says, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us.” So in any circumstance of life when suffering becomes your lot, you can say, “God knows, God cares, God will provide in His own way.” Eventually every Christian is ultimately delivered, even if it’s in death; because then you are delivered into the very presence of the Lord. God may be magnified by life, by allowing you to remain in this life or by death, by taking you home to glory. In and all, you are His and He cares for you and He protects you. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” No adverse circumstance of life should deter you from realizing that you are His, and He is yours, and He is for you. From Song of Solomon 7:10, “I am my beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.” His protection is my portion.
Second, there is the matter of persecution. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror (or be not afraid of their fear), neither be troubled.” Persecution is part of the life of a Christian. In John 16:33 the Lord Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Paul in writing to Timothy in II Timothy 3:10 says, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine (or teaching), manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” We can expect this as part of our lot as believers. Going back to Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Can any of these things separate us from the love of Christ? “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” We are more than conquerors because there is always a divine dimension to our persecution that extends out from time into eternity, and there are eternal consequences for us who are faithful in the midst of suffering as we rely upon our Lord and nothing can separate us from His love. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When persecution comes to you, don’t question the love of God. In fact, lean upon His love, rely upon His love, and draw upon His grace in the difficulties of life. When afflictions come many times we’d like to see them removed. Sometimes God sees fit to remove them. Sometimes He does not see fit to remove them. Sometimes like with Paul and his thorn in the flesh, you end up having to live with your affliction. Paul, as he records in II Corinthians 12, prayed to the Lord three times that his thorn in the flesh might be removed but God didn’t remove it. He simply said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” So you may end up having affliction and persecution all your life, but you can draw upon the grace of God and find that His grace is sufficient for you. Concerning my voice problem, I found that after having gone through five weeks of silence that it didn’t do a bit of good, it’s rather discouraging. Then I went back and got operated on all over again and had some problems, there were two more weeks of silence. I wrote a letter to my friends, some of you might have gotten a copy and said that I was going to draw upon the grace of God and would most gladly therefore glory in my infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
One of my good friends, Dr. Richard Seume, who is Chaplain at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote back to me after that and said, “Stuart, I am not quite sure whether I have gotten to that point yet.” For seven years, Dr. Seume’s kidneys have not functioned, and he has to be on a kidney machine three times a week, six hours at a time. If anybody knows anything about that, it’s quite an affliction; and I thought that when I had had about seven months of difficulty, that was a problem. He had seven years. He spoke at our annual banquet last fall and brought one of the finest messages that I have ever heard, in regard to the grace of God and God’s sufficiency and how God can use you and how God can use one, in spite of difficulties. By the way, he didn’t even relate to his own difficulties then. So I say to you, if you suffer for righteousness sake, this especially relates to those who receive persecution because of their witness for Christ and stand for Him. Happy or blessed are you, and don’t fear their fear or be troubled. What should you do in the midst of suffering? Realize in that circumstance that you have the privilege of projection, of projecting a testimony for Christ to others. Notice verse 15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts (or better as the revision has, “Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord”).”
Now I am aware of the debate that goes on whether you can get saved by simply accepting Christ as your Savior and not as Lord. I do believe that according to Romans 10 that you must believe on Him as Lord. Yet, I have often said that the tragedy of many Christian lives is that it’s a little bit like the history of England. One of my professors said that you can state the history of England in a sentence or in a phrase— it’s the limiting of the power of the monarchy. When William the Conqueror came in 1066 to England he was the absolute ruler, and what he said was what was done. If he said heads rolled, they literally rolled. He was the absolute ruler. Then as more power was taken away from the king and was given to the people (which in a sense we think is a wonderful thing, but in one sense maybe it isn’t), the people get more power and the king got less power until now the monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth, reigns but she does not rule. England is ruled by the House of Commons through their Prime Minister. What a tremendous spiritual analogy that is to many Christians. When Christ first came in He was absolute ruler, but then we limited His power more and more and more until the House of Commons, our flesh, takes over; and we appoint our own Prime Minister, and He (Christ) is just a figurehead in our lives (nice to have around for ceremonial purposes, just like the Queen of England).
This passage indicates that you set Him apart in your hearts as Lord, as the supreme One in your life. I am inclined to think that sometimes He allows suffering to come into our lives so that we acknowledge that, that we will acknowledge our need for Him and then and there rely upon Him. To set apart Christ in your hearts as Lord, that’s the preparation. The plan is, be ready always to give an answer. The Greek word there for “answer” is “apologia” from which we get the term apologetics, and the word apologetics means to speak forth, to say forth. It is not apology in the sense that we apologize because we are wrong, but it is speaking forth because the truth is right. It is like a lawyer’s defense. He sets forth all the reasons for his case, and that’s in essence what you have here. Where you are in the midst of sufferings, set apart Christ as Lord but also prepare a reasoned defense. Thank God for the reality of His truth revealed in His Word, and be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you. Here’s giving it and it’s the projection of that giving it forth that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you. There is a personalization of truth here. The hope that is in you and God does give an inner assurance even in times of suffering and especially in times of suffering that is personally yours. When you get into difficult situations in life, you can’t just borrow the fruit of other people’s lives. The Lord must bring forth fruit in your own life, and sometimes it is through difficulty. The hope that is in you...then the procedure...with meekness and fear. I think always that we have to be careful that we are not cocky and smart. When I teach the book of Ephesians, I refer to the wise man’s walk. I say that there is considerable difference between a wise man and a wise guy. Some Christians like to act like wise guys— they know all the answers. I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t know all the answers, but I know Someone who does; and He can give wisdom even when I don’t know what to do or what to say, especially in difficult circumstances of suffering in life. It’s then, with meekness and fear, we look to the Lord and give out our witness for Christ.
This is followed up then with our practice in verse 16, “Having a good conscience.” This is the internal assurance. I do believe that when suffering comes in whatever form, whether externally, internally, or around you, that you ought to search your own heart. There is nothing wrong with that. I don’t believe that you ought to be utterly introspective all the time, but it may be that some of your problem is come from your own sin and we ought to face that. We ought to acknowledge our sins before the Lord and receive the cleansing of the blood of Christ which is available to us day by day as we confess our sins, so that we will have a good conscience before the Lord. That even affects your prayer life according to I John 3 where John talks about the matter of prayer and of our relationship to the Lord. Beginning at verse 19, “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” We ought to be internally pure, clean before the Lord and then externally there should be the evidence of this in our lives. Having a good conscience that whereas they speak evil of you (and I call that infernal accusations). No matter how you seek to live for the Lord, there will always be some who misunderstand you. In the midst of our affliction with our daughter, we had some people call us and tell us that it was because of our sin that our daughter was the way she was, and that if we were right with the Lord this wouldn’t have happened. It happened. You’ll get these infernal accusations from people. I tell you then that you just have to lay yourself upon the Lord and say that God knows as we said when we first heard about our daughter. Thank God she is better now, and I expect my wife and daughter to be at the concert tonight. “. . . whereas they speak of you as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good manner of life in Christ.” These will end up being inconsequential accusation when you go on just living for the Lord and loving Him in spite of accusations that come to you. It will be backed up by what I call incontrovertible actions. Just go on serving the Lord and loving Him and living for Him; and no matter what other people say, your life is going to back up your testimony for Christ and especially when you are going through suffering. The seven weeks when I could not say a word to anybody, not even a whisper, there are so many things that you would like to say but you just rest it with the Lord. I even had one person who wrote to me and told me that probably I had lost my voice because I wasn’t right with the Lord. It’s amazing how much help you get from the saints in difficult times. Praise the Lord as I Peter 4:19 says, “Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
Let me just relate to 3:17 in closing. Here’s perspective. “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.” Here is a better way. The better way is God’s way. If God in His way and His will allows suffering to come into your life, it may be that some of it is your own fault. Later on Peter relates to this in the next chapter when he says in 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf.” So it is a glorious way that you suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. It is interesting that these exhortations of verses 13-17 are followed by the example of the Lord Jesus Who suffered for us. May I assure you that in any circumstance of suffering, it will be sweetened by realizing that Christ suffered for you; and that you don’t go through a time of suffering alone or without Someone who knows what you are going through. He can sympathize with us in our times of suffering. We are reminded in 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened (or made alive) by the Spirit.” Thank God that in this realm of suffering, there is sustenance for the saints in the all-sufficient Savior Who loved us and gave Himself for us. Frankly, my heart goes out to those who suffer without a Savior, who don’t know our Savior. May I say if there is any one who has come into our service this morning who doesn’t know our Savior, it would be the greatest delight of my heart and those who are on the staff here to point you to Jesus Christ that you might know Him. Then when the sufferings of life come, and they will and they do, you will have a Savior to stand with you in and through your suffering.

As it was delivered at
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
July 10, 1976

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