From the first moment I saw my baby girl and held her in my arms I made an unconscious vow to protect her at all times no matter what it cost. I think this is a natural and admirable emotion for a parent. As she got older and started interacting with the world on her own I realized I could not protect her from all things. I couldn’t save her from the “mean girls” at school. I couldn’t fix her grades when she chose not to care or when something was hard and required more work from her, and soon, I won’t have control over whom she chooses to marry. No parent wishes unnecessary hardship for their children, but we have undoubtedly become more obsessed with smoothing over everything we can to not just make life run as smooth as possible for our kids – but to fix it when they’ve messed up. Should we help them avoid suffering or failing?
George Otis, Jr. in his book, The Last of the Giants: “Lifting the Veil on Islam and the End Times,” said, “Is it conceivable that Christianity’s failure to thrive in the Muslim world is due to the notable absence of Christian martyrs?” Now that is a statement that should get us all thinking. I have spent a fair amount of time talking about suffering and how it relates to the love of Jesus. I have not spent a lot of time talking about God’s plan for missionaries and the suffering that may be a part of their journey. I don’t want to simply focus on missionaries here though.
Are we called to suffering and even death in ministering to the Muslim’s? Are we hiding our light under a bushel when it comes to Muslims? John Piper wrote, “The record shows that from Jerusalem and Damascus to Ephesus and Rome, the apostles were beaten, stoned, conspired against and imprisoned for their witness.”
If the ultimate purpose on earth is to evangelize, which I believe is true; then the risk of suffering in so doing is not only a possibility, it’s a conscious choice.
How many are not saved because we don’t accept the cross?
Again, John Piper says, “What we have seen is that this embracing of suffering is not just an accompaniment of our witness to Christ; it is the visible expression of it.” I think what he is getting at is that the suffering is the expression of the love of Jesus.
This message is so hard because it calls us to give up our excessive leisure for acts of servant love. This is clearly a choice and one that involves sacrifice and potentially, actual suffering. Our children need to see us make that choice.
Paul made that choice as did Jesus. What makes all of this very hard to understand and follow is that we are not only called to suffering but also to experience the joy of suffering… Joy? Paul said to the Thessalonians in 1:6-7 “You…received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
Are we robbing our children of Joy when we save them from suffering? And how will they learn to CHOOSE to suffer in the name of the Lord if we’ve done everything in our power to shield them from even incidental suffering?
How do you teach that to your children?
How do you tell them that life is not only about accomplishment, happiness, rewards and reaching for security? What security is in their suffering? I believe this may be the hardest lesson you could possibly share with your children and it may take a lifetime for them to understand it. It may take a lifetime of demonstrating the joy of suffering for Christ that will convince them of the efficacy of this message.
It might take an incredibly difficult choice of letting them suffer even when you have the means to save them.
God is indeed the source of all joy. To reach for Him only is gain. There is no denying that for any Christian who knows His word. God is the end product in suffering and missionaries who are humble. I read somewhere about a missionary who spoke what he thought of himself, “I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for him to use, and He found me.” “People who find themselves as invalids rather than heroes will make excellent missionaries,” says John Piper. You’ve probably heard this quote from Jim Elliot who died as a missionary at a very young age:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
This is a lesson for us all. Our nation is so interested in the “good life” that we miss the message of the Bible. I have spent almost an entire lifetime pursuing goals, success and even money… so much that I have missed the true message. Even though I am a devoted follower of the Lord! I have prayed and read the bible every day. I look to Jesus for every decision. And yet the most important message of the Bible I relegated to missionaries. Jesus chose to suffer for us all. Paul chose to suffer for the gospel. We are all called to suffer for the gospel and I, for one am praying to Jesus for the grace to make that a part of the very fiber of my life. I want the kind of Joy that is a part of that kind of suffering. I want it for my kids! Bless you Jesus for what lies ahead.
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By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom.