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Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." What compels a man to follow the Lamb wherever He goes? What kind of encounter with the Living Christ changes someone so much that he gives his life to the call, the commission, the commandment, and the cost of being a disciple and making disciples? What is it, the suffering of love?
Paul considered his troubles "light and momentary." To him they were achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs all of them. (2 Corinthians 4.17) He says in 2 Corinthians 11.25-28 that five times he received the 39 lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods. Stoned once, he was also shipwrecked three times. For a night and a day he drifted at sea. He tells of dangers on his frequent journeys, of toil and hardships, of sleepless nights and of hunger and thirst, of exposure to severe weather. To this he adds the daily pressure of the churches. What was he thinking?
Paul had a willingness to die, to give his life that he might gain Christ. He gave his life to serve Christ as a bond slave. He saw himself as an ambassador called to preach the great message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had within him a hope and an understanding; and his letters plead with us to grasp what the Spirit is saying.
Paul had an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. We find it in Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26. That encounter forever changed his life. That encounter cost him his vision at the time. For three days he was without sight, and neither did he eat nor drink. (Acts 9.9) He became "a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake." (Acts 9.15, 16)
Paul wasn't alone. Peter writes as well of this suffering of love. This is not the suffering we experience because of the consequence of sin in our lives. This is "that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" kind of suffering. Peter says, "Yet if any one suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." (1 Peter 4.16) Peter's advice? "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." (1 Peter 4.19) Peter talks about this suffering in 1 Peter 3.17, 18, and also says:
For it is better, if the will of God be so,
That you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
For Christ also has 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 by the Spirit.
Peter has more. He tells us not to think it strange when we experience fiery trials but rather to rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings, for when His glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4.12, 13)
Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5.8). He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Is 53.4, 5)
As we partake of flesh and blood, Jesus also likewise took part of the same that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2.14)
This woundedness pleased God. It pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (Is 53.10)
Jesus loved in the midst of suffering. Jesus rendered Himself voluntarily an offering for sin. He forgave. He transforms lives in the power of the Cross, in suffering. Jesus sought the pleasure of God. He chose to demonstrate mercy and grace, truth and love. Jesus had a joy that came out of pain which He voluntarily bore by Himself. (Hebrews 12.2) He chose to give His life a ransom, to glorify His Father.
The Apostles understood. They chose to yoke themselves to Christ, to Christ's purpose. The sufferings of Christ are the afflictions of love. Abraham Kuyper in his book The Work of the Holy Spirit states that "love suffers because the spirit of the world antagonizes the Spirit of God." The two stand in opposition. This conflict, this tension, and the "no compromise" and "no tolerance" position of the Holy Spirit with evil causes love to suffer. When we find the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we will seek another's eternal welfare and good rather than self-gratification.
The world does not appreciate Christ's holy love and is offended for Christ denies the world its joys and sinful pleasures. Jesus was mocked, taunted, spurned, and held in contempt though He persisted to love and admonish. Kuyper says, "Love can bear, but not tolerate, all things. It bears sufferings, because it does not tolerate the worldly spirit." Real love has with it a real hatred of all that is unholy, a hatred of everything God hates. It takes the strength of God to walk in humility, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering, simplicity, and in purity of life. It takes knowing who we are in Christ and the basis of our acceptance in the Beloved.
The selfish refuse to suffer. They have to be comfortable and complain if they experience any discomfort. Others suffer unwillingly due to some unexpected circumstance. Others suffer as the consequence of sin. The suffering of love is a suffering in which one voluntarily opens oneself to the suffering involved in loving without regard to one's own well-being, an active suffering. Dietrich Bonhoeffer while taking leave of a fellow prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp said, "This is the end -- for me the beginning of life." The next day he was hanged. Our joy is hidden in suffering and our life in death. It takes a supreme allegience to Him.
The world takes shelter and security in arms and ammunitions, in violence and winning wars. On the Cross Jesus triumphed in establishing His Kingdom not in violence, not in self-serving ambition, but in the suffering of love. On the Cross Jesus demonstrated God's love for humanity (John 3.16; 1 John 3.16) and man's love (in Christ) for God. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.8)
You will see the suffering of love every time a mother cares for her child, a father sacrifices for his family, a neighbor seeks the welfare of a stranger, a believer chooses to abstain from a sinful habit, or a Christian takes the time to share the hope that is within him. You will see it when you look for it. And then you will understand that woundedness is a gift, for when you take your woundedness and join it to the wounds of Jesus, you will find the life of Jesus flowing into you; you will be grafted into Him.
We ask for your prayers and financial support to meet what God is asking of us. In May an MCM team returns to Israel; locally, MCM actively ministers to those seeking healing, deliverance, help, and hope in Jesus Christ at Craighouse®, our community outreach and fellowship.
We need your help to carry the gospel of Christ, the gospel of the Kingdom of God around the world and across backyard fences. We welcome your generous gifts! You are touching lives through your gifts to Mary Craig Ministries. We sincerely thank you for giving.
Compelled by the love of Christ,
P.S. Go to www.marycraig.org. Order books from our Catalog section using PayPal. Worship with us 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Grow and flourish in small group ministry at Craighouse®, located in the Pompano Plaza at 114 E. McNab Road, Pompano Beach, FL 33060. Log on to www.craighouse.org for a map and more events and Bible studies. Reach MCM at 954-491-7270. Send in your prayer requests.
It is a faithful saying:
For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him;
If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him:
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we believe not, yet He abides faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2.11-13
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