Sunday, November 21, 2010

Suffering with the persecuted






Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.



Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.


“Don’t forget about those in prison. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself.”
Heb. 13:3 (NLT)

In the very last week of this season of the Messianic Year, I have finally realized what its name should really be, not the Season of Shelter or the Season of Endurance but the Season of Suffering. I missed it because I was assuming the seven seasons should be named for seven attractive blessings the Messiah brings—life, freedom, power, etc. Suffering obviously does not fit the pattern.

We understand that the Messiah himself had to suffer. He was our substitute. He suffered so we do not have to. That is partly true, of course, but it leaves a huge question: why did the Messiah talk about suffering as the new “normal” for his followers?

How could the great, long-awaited Messiah, the Desire of the Nations, bring suffering to those who welcome him? If he were raising an army, we could understand it. Some soldiers would have to suffer and die in order to bring him to power. This is normal human thinking about suffering.

Jesus was not normal. He was a man on a unique dual mission—to bring the reign of God to earth and to show people what that reign would look like. He could have established God’s reign without suffering but that display of power would not have accomplished the second half of his mission. He suffered to reveal what power alone could never reveal—the depth of the love of God for us all.

If we welcome him, he sends us to continue both halves of his mission. He reigns in us (first half), and we show the world what his reign looks like, that is, what kind of people he turns us into as he takes over by his Spirit (second half).

By sending us to carry on his mission in a world that is still sinful, he sends us into harm’s way. Those who are busy with their own kingdoms, authority, and rights do not want him to take over their turf. They will fight us as they fought him, and we are to defeat them by responding as he responded.

His cross was the climax of his victory over Satan, and as we carry our crosses, the same victory dynamics are in play. There are three kinds of people—those who welcome the Messiah, those who oppose him, and the undecideds. When the undecideds see the resilience and love with which the welcomers respond to persecution by their opponents, they know whose side they want to join. The enemies lose all credibility, the undecideds welcome the Messiah, and victory is ours.

This has been happening for centuries and it continues to this day, especially in China. Today (Nov. 14th) is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (see www.persecutedchurch.org). As our thoughts turn to the brutal forms of persecution, let us not forget the many lesser forms that afflict millions of our brothers and sisters every day. Families disown them, classmates bully them, bosses deny them promotion, universities exclude them, intellectuals mock them, businessmen cheat them, communities refuse them burial.

Whether the persecution is life-threatening or not, unbelievers expect normal responses like fear, submission, bitterness, and revenge. When they see a messianic response, it demands an explanation. They ask, “How could you respond like that?” which being interpreted means, “Tell me about your Messiah and what he is doing to you on the inside.”

Let us pray on this special day that our persecuted brothers and sisters will be hearing that request a lot. Let’s read as much as we need to read or watch as much as we need to watch in order to start to feel what the persecuted feel.

Welcome: Suffering Servant of God, welcome to our lives. Tie us to all others who welcome you, and especially those who are persecuted for it.

Affirmation: I am the brother or sister of persecuted followers of the Messiah worldwide. I will take an interest in them. I will stop, think, feel, and pray.

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