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Standing in Awe in the Face of Suffering
While enduring suffering how can we continue to set our eyes on God and His majesty?
Origen of Alexandria (185-253) was a Church Father, early Christian theologian, and scholar. While Origen had many problematic beliefs, that would later have him denounced as a heretic, I do not believe anyone could doubt his motivation and his love for God. When Origen was just 16 years old, Septimius Severus, the Roman Emperor made a degree ordering the execution of all Romans practicing Christianity openly. Origen’s father, Leonides, happened to be one of the people sentenced to execution. Origen attempted to become a martyr as well and die with his father. Quite humorously, Origen’s mother hid his clothes and stopped him from going outside to turn himself in. Origen was willing to die for his faith at age 16. While I would love to say that I would die for my faith at 20, I do not think I can accurately say what I would do if I was in Origen’s position. In fact, my actions in my own life prove I would do the opposite. When I am presented with an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone I know is not a Christian, do I? When I should spending a lot of time building my brothers and sisters, in Christ, up; do I? Sadly, I do not in most cases. May God give me the strength to testify to His glory. Origen’s devoted service did not stop there. Origen would write to Leonides, telling him to keep the faith. If I was in Origen’s position I would be scared to death for my father. Some would maybe tell him to denounce the faith, so he might live. Origen did the opposite. He told his father to endure through the suffering. Why would Origen give such advice? I am convinced Origen gave that advice because he knew the God he served.
Paul the Apostle was put into prison because of the events that took place in Acts 21. While in prison he wrote four epistles; Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul recognizes the worry that was felt by the Church there and perhaps all the Churches that Paul had connections with. In chapter three of Ephesians, Paul writes, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:13). In this scripture, Paul is worried that his tribulations and struggles will discourage the Church and stop them from carrying out the work that the Lord would have them do. This should be the opposite effect of the tribulation that we go through. Jesus tells us that we must take up our cross and follow Him. If we lose our life in the process than we shall find life (Matthew 16:24-26). Though it is difficult to remember, our suffering should remind us of the God we serve, why we are going through the suffering, and the results of serving Him. In Philippians, Paul writes, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil 1:20). God should be glorified through every action of our life and even in our death. Charles Spurgeon, Reformed Baptist preacher from the 19th Century, is recorded to have said, “They will never keep me from speaking about Jesus, not now, not ever. After I die, they will speak about me speaking about Jesus.” When we come in contact with the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, there should be a part of us that never wants to stop talking about Him and what He’s done in our lives.
Remembering the God we serve is of the utmost importance when considering the suffering we go through. The God we serve is so much greater than we can possibly imagine. Theologians throughout time have spent the majority of their lives studying God (which is an amazing thing), but the image of God that we come up is not to compare to the true living God. Human terms cannot describe the Almighty God. When we say that God is unfathomable, we truly mean that. We can spend our lives reading Scripture (Which I highly recommend), but we will never be able to completely understand how awesome and majestic our God is. We may go through suffering, pain, stress, disappointment, embarrassment, and even death in our mission to bring others to Christ, but we must remember the God we serve and how worthy He is for our sacrifice. Paul writes in Romans 1 that we are to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). The sacrifice of our bodies, our time, our desires, our comfortable states, and, perhaps, even our relationships is a form of worship for God. The reason we make such sacrifices is based on the greatness of God.
It is important to remember why we are suffering when we are in the midst of suffering. For what reason are we spreading the Gospel? For our own self benefit? So we seem smart? Far be it from us to find reasons to spread the Gospel outside of Christ. To brings souls to Jesus should be our motivation for spreading the Gospel. Paul knew this when writing his epistles. Though he was suffering, he persevered knowing that what he was doing what was right. Paul knew the greatness of his God and the efficacy of the cross in his life. Paul knew that he was God’s vessel for bringing about salvation through the cross to the lost. We too play a part in God’s Will, and we should always realize our important role in the Kingdom when suffering.
The results of our suffering will result in the greatest of gains. In Romans 8, Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). We have a great promise awaiting us as the Children of God. We have the promise to one day see our Father. One of the famous beatitudes is, “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). What a great blessing, that we, who were once rotten in sin and without hope, have been purified by the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross, so we might see our Heavenly Father someday and be in His presence forever and ever amen. Hold to that blessing in the midst of suffering.
Even in suffering, we should still see God for who He is, what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what He will do. Even in our suffering, the majesty of our God is clearly perceived and He will receive praise for it. Even in suffering, we will stand in awe.
All scriptures are from the The ESV Bible. Crossway, 2001, www.esv.org/. unless otherwise noted.