by Christian Penn
Let me challenge you to read Isaiah 53 slowly with much thought and consideration. When you finish reading it, read the rest of this article.
“A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Have you ever thought or wondered how a person could possibly have a relationship with someone that we really do not understand and with whom we cannot relate? The sweetest relationships have been brought about when people that were experiencing similar events in their lives got together. Especially is this true when it is dealing with suffering. When two people can relate in feeling sorrow towards one another, it cements their relationship. A Christian must come to the realization that in order to become really acquainted with the Lord and close to Him, we will have to be acquainted with sorrow and grief and endure suffering as He did.
Our relationship with Him is cemented through our suffering. Notice in Matthew 5 those words, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” Later on He says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake,” and then again He says, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.” How does He tell us to react? “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Why? So that we can be drawn closer to Him. The Lord indicates that if we suffer and endure sorrow that we will be called near the Lord and be drawn closer to Him. Perhaps none of us will ever know the Lord until we have walked with Him in sorrow.
Have you ever noticed that every truly greatly used man of God was acquainted with sorrow somewhere along the line in his life? In Matthew 26:36-38, we find that Jesus desired to take some of His disciples with Him when He was in sorrow, perhaps so they could see a little bit of what they would need to endure for Him. Yet the disciples were not yet spiritually mature enough to handle it, in fact, it was fear of persecution that prompted Peter’s denial of Christ. Nevertheless, if we are to be close to Him, we must be acquainted with the same sorrow with which He was acquainted.
There are several ways we experience sorrow that will draw us closer to the heart of God.
We must be hated.
(John 15:18-25) How can someone who hates the Lord possibly still love you and me if we love the Lord and are close to Him? We will be hated because we are identified with One that the world hates. We must expect it and realize that it will only draw us nearer to Him. Also, we will be hated because we refuse to be a part of the world, thus bringing conviction to them for the sin in their lives. If we are part of the world, we cannot be close to the Lord, for friendship with the world is enmity with God. Therefore, we are his friends because we obey Him. (John 15:13-15) If we are His friends, we will be the enemies of the world and hated because of it. The truth of the matter is their hatred comes as a result of our love for our Lord.
We must all have trials.
(I Peter 1:7; I Peter 4:12-14) Trials represent temptations with extreme circumstances. It is a type of torturous effort in an attempt to make us deny the Lord or to step out of line from Him. A trial is more than something to hurt us; it is something that tests us. Gold is refined of its impurities by fire. It is gold no matter what, but to be purified it must be refined. The fiery trials we go through purify us and prove our love for the Lord. When we go through trials, those trials cement our relationship with the Lord as He sees the truth of our devotion to Him.
We must endure tribulations.
(John 16:33; Acts 14:21,22) Tribulation, or better yet, affliction, is what the world does to us because of our stand for Christ and because of their hatred for Him. Christ was afflicted by the world. The Egyptians afflicted the children of Israel and we will be afflicted by the world. It is the world’s way of bringing trials to us because of our stand. It is the nasty words they call us, the hurt they bring to our physical bodies or the destruction they bring to our property they are afflicting upon us because we are identified with Christ. As we are being afflicted by the world, we are torn more and more away from the world and thus we become more submitted to the One for whom we are suffering. The sorrow may seem heavy, but in the Old Testament we see that tribulation always caused people to turn to the Lord. The Lord comforts us and we are drawn closer to His fellowship as He sees us suffering affliction as He did for us. (II Corinthians 1:4)
We must endure persecution.
(Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:20) The word persecution comes from the root word pursue or being chased or even put to flight. It connotes Christians being cast out by the world or the world aggressively pursuing us in order that they might bring affliction to us. In other words, they will afflict us and then they will cast us out. It is much the same as that which took place to the children of Israel when they were afflicted by the Egyptians and cast out and then the Egyptians still pursued them in an attempt to afflict them more. The world does not want us here so they will do their best to chase us away. They pursue our Christian schools in an attempt to close the doors. They pursue our fundamental churches in an attempt to lessen our effect and that pursuit will oftentimes be relentless. But as we are being chased by the world, we are drawn closer to the Lord as we seek shelter in Him. We must suffer reproach. (I Peter 4:14) The word reproach speaks of shame or insult or even ridicule. The Christian must be willing to suffer the taunts and insults of the world. (Philippians 2:5-7)
We must endure infirmities.
These are things in our body that take away our strength or cause us great physical pain. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. Perhaps it was a disease of the eyes that caused him great pain and suffering. Timothy had stomach problems. (I Timothy 5:23) No doubt many of God’s good people have known what it was to suffer infirmities in order that they may be drawn closer to their relationship with the Lord. (II Corinthians 12:1-10) Paul was acquainted with suffering and he knew the infirmities that God chose for him to endure for His glory. Though he asked for God to remove them, God chose not to and said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” (II Corinthians 12:9) Often an infirmity simply draws us more into submission to the Lord and makes us stay closer to Him because we know we need Him to give us the strength to overcome those infirmities. Job’s faith grew in the Lord in the time of infirmities in his life, but notice what he said in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” Thus God allows infirmities to perfect our relationship with Him.
We must accept chastisement.
(Hebrews 12:1-11) The word chastise means to train with pain or sorrow inflicted. We can use the example of a child who is being trained and disobeys and we must inflict punishment upon them in order to teach them the lesson properly. (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus was chastised for the sins that He did not even commit, but rather for our sins. (Luke 23:16,22) In the same respect, often times God will chastise us as children in order to train us better to be what we ought to be and to draw us closer to Him. The chastisements of our Heavenly Father are sweet, if they cause us to be closer to Him. Notice verse 7 of Hebrews 12, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” So we see the chastisement we endure is only used to draw us even closer to the Lord.
God uses the elements of sorrow to perfect us unto Himself. Perhaps no man who has ever been close to God and really known Him in sweet fellowship was able to be in that position of closeness without first of all becoming acquainted with sorrow. All great men of faith who really knew the Lord, like Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Paul and Peter, were well acquainted with sorrow. In Hebrews 11 we see that sorrow was a great part of the successful walk of these great Christians of faith. This will cement the relationship between God and man as we learn to walk in sorrow. Paul said it beautifully as he spoke in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.”
by Christian Penn