Afflictions Ain’t that Bad: Fellowship

I hate pain.  I used to train as a wrestler and it was grueling.  I don’t think I can explain it well, but I’ll give an example.  When I was a freshman in High School we were doing a “Red Alert.”  You moved from station to station: push-ups, sit-ups in another, running stairs…etc. Each station was 1 min.  We did it straight for 45 min.  You did it with as much energy as you could give.
Anyway this one time I was dying.  I hurt so bad; muscles and lungs.  In my despair I gave a grimacing look to the coach and asked the stupid question “How much more time?”  He responded “30 more minutes.”  I just cried.  I was already whipped.  I didn’t think I could finish.  Lest you think I was weak, I was in the 110% club on the team, I was amongst the hardest workers.  By my senior year I would do the Red Alerts, wrestling practice and then run after practice four miles from school to my house.  My perspective changed and my endurance for pain increased.
I have found that carrying out the will of God is more grueling than Red Alerts.  We have to suffer.  It is normal for life.  Some pain is self-induced along with natural suffering.  But taking on Christ is an additional pain that is surprising.
We all suffer just being alive.  We get colds and cancer.  We stub toes, go to work, and have neighbors and other conflicts.  And then there is family lalala.  You get the idea.  Inescapable!
Then there are the stupid things I’ve done.  I’m talking primarily about sin.  Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, and a desire that is insatiable; this all lead to trouble.  Always wanting and striving caused me a lot of pain and lead to emotional and physiological issues.  There is no peace in this state.
Coming to Christ, like many, I thought “If I do what is right with God, things would go better.”  No one had to tell me this, “It just goes to reason.”  Do good and God will bless you and do bad, well, “Karma” will kick your hinny.  I did find that as I quit striving as a pagan much of my pain subsided.  I received a relative peace.
I was still suffering the natural pain though.  I knew I would, I guess, but it was buried deep.  I think it was tied to cultural superstition of the Bible and Jesus.  This was frustrating.  I still had bills, family, work problems…I was disillusioned quickly.  This was good; the illusion was gone and I could move on.
But here is the chaw.  This greasy slim of bitter Coppenhagen in the lip, an over-active salivary gland that makes you spit.  I would now take up the suffering of Christ?  I thought “But wait, I wanted less trouble.  That’s why I went to church, that’s why I started doing good.”
Like Jesus we will suffer.  A student is not greater than his master.  We suffer in two ways for being CHRIST-ians.  There are two enemies.  The pain from serving and the suffering of tares, we will call them christians not CHRIST-ians.  This is a funny side note.  I’m trying to write “christian” in a lower case c to emphasis the “said-follower” over the real CHRIST-ian and my program hardly lets me.
The suffering from helping others comes in various forms.  You have less money to care for you, you have less time for you; you have more trouble.  You take on the trouble of others and receive no appreciation.  And to boot, those you help often times reward you with mistreatment.  They speak poorly about you, guilt always does, and they steal and manipulate.  You bear the weight of their idiosyncrasies and on and on.  I could write a book on this; actually I am.  This is inspired by experience and Richard Wormbrandt, Voice of the Martyrs founder; Sufferology is the topic.
Now I’m finally to why I’m writing.  The Christian will assail you for serving as Christ would have.  “If they hated me they will hate you too.”  We think it is the world that persecutes and we have evidence of the fact.  But I’ll let Voice of the Martyrs write about that.  There is a surprising resistance in the church to self-denial and cross bearing.
The context of Christ is a religious community.  He suffered from them not Rome.  All his comments on mistreatment are to be understood from this point of view.  We can see the religious Jews hated him.  They resisted Him.  They killed Him and a Pagan ruler tried to save him.  Pilate is a great foil.
You won’t experience this unless you obey Christ.  When you step outside the herd, you disturb the religious ether.  The “spirit” in Christ’s religious context still resides today.  A demon possession of its host.  The host is the visible church.
Those who abide in Christ, these are part of the invisible, worldwide, universal church.  Read my blog on abiding…as audacious as it sounds you probably do not understand it.
Remember Jesus speaking of the tares.  I think you do, so I won’t explain.  These are by far the majority population in the church today in America.  Are there truly 224 million Christians in the American church?  I have a friend who pastors a large prominent church In Seattle, WA.  He says his guess is that 80% of his congregation will perish in Hell.  Of course he doesn’t tell them and I won’t give his name.  He needs his job; I say this tongue-in-cheek.
You will be rejected, ignored, marginalized, threatened, shoed-out and maligned.  I had an assistant pastor tell my brother-in-law that he wanted to punch me in the face.  By the way this pastor is a good guy.  You would love him. I think he is cool too.  But he wants the status quo; that which he is accustomed.  Overall it doesn’t matter what the Bible says for many of us.  Desire rules!  People will stand strong and boldly, dogmatically, bigotedly over benign doctrines that do not effect lifestyle.  But!  If you mess with a guy’s life; Well “Those are fightin words!”
Previously, I’ve written a blog entitled “A Fun Day: Christian Bigotry” Read it to get a strange example of rejection.
When you lay your life down and live a life style of service, when you state without equivocation that this is the way of Christ and what salvation is;  “Boy, you done hit a bees nest.”  And if you obey the scripture to figure out a way to move the church in that same direction of love and good deeds, it will be unpleasant.  Go try it it’ll be fun…that is, if you like fellowship with Jesus and His suffering.
Phil 3:10-11  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. NIV

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