Monday, October 25, 2010

SUFFERING FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE

During the week of the Lausanne Congress here in Cape Town, Thandi and I were able to go with a few students to a nearby Anglican church which was hosting a series of Biblical topics covered by some of the incoming global church leaders. We decided to attend a few sessions in the "Healing" tract and it was great. The speaker was a pastor from Singapore who has planted a number of churches in this key city with 'healing rooms' that have naturally grown around the services, thus meeting the people's needs in very real ways. But he came across in a very down-to-earth way and wanted to communicate God's heart to bring all forms of healing/salvation (look up Sozo in the greek) through His church (i.e. all His people). The simplicity and humility of this anointed man was quite disarming and it was a very captivating lecture with some good hands-on application at the end where we prayed for each other and released God's presence in us to the person suffering from some sickness/pain, and a few people got healed of years old problems!
As the pastor instructed us, "Don't start telling God what to do; he already knows what to do! Just engage the Spirit, visualize God healing them and release His presence."

But what stuck out for me the most was when he highlighted different understandings of SUFFERING. He spoke about the suffering of the Bible and the early church who said "We must endure many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God" and how this continues to this day in countries where believers are persecuted for their faith. But what about open countries that have not faced physical persecution for some time? This is where many buy into the fallacy that a sickness or disease falls under the category of suffering for Jesus' Name. If we are honest, we sometimes see an illness we are going through as God's will for us to make us more holy and dependent upon Him. But where does it speak about this in the Bible? I have heard many people speculate about Paul's "thorn in the flesh" being some kind of illness he had to battle through. But if you follow his life after conversion, it was clear he had many enemies and it was likely a group of religious people (some say the Circumcision Party) who doggedly pursued him and tried to discredit everything he said and did. This was truly suffering for the sake of the gospel going forth and the Name of Jesus being lifted high in all nations as God has intended from the beginning.

It is God's will to heal His people and the suffering we are called to partake in is only that kind that surely comes when we exalt him before any other thing in this world. As it says from Jesus' own mouth in Mark 10:45, "The Son of Man (Jesus/God) did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." His death and new life was (1) for the purpose of God's glory in heaven, to Whom every knee shall bow, and (2) for the purpose of bringing his abundant life (Jn. 10:10). Granted, we cannot walk in this abundant life until we have entered into His death (Gal. 2:20), which is our part in suffering for His Name's sake, but then we are not to accept plaguing illnesses as part of God's plan for us.

Lastly, it was very encouraging to hear that even when we pray for healing and it doesn't seem to happen for the person, we mustn't give up and say it must be God's will. You move on to pray for the next person God speaks to you about. Those who receive the gift of healing usually receive it just like any other gift from God--by a passion and asking of fellowship for it for the glory of God. As Paul instructs, "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31).

I hope you are encouraged as I was to press deeper into God's rich storehouse of gifts and see a little more of heaven come down to earth and bring the full salvation (physical and spiritual) God intends for all nations to receive from Him.

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