Summary: Paul said that he hoped that he might share in Jesus' suffering. Seriously? Why would he want that?

An extremely nervous patient came for root canal surgery. He was made comfortable in the reclining dental chair a numbing agent was injected around the tooth, and then the dentist left the room for a few minutes while the medication took hold. When the dentist returned, the patient was standing over a tray of dental equipment and in his shock he asked "What are you doing there?"

The man didn’t even look up, "I'm taking out the ones I don't like." (Paula Fontaine Reader's Digest 2/02)

Today we’re going to talk about something most folks would rather not talk about. Suffering for our faith. In our text this morning, Paul tells us that because of Christ “I have SUFFERED the loss of all things”. He also wrote that he hoped that: “I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his SUFFERINGS.”

Now, I got to tell you, that does not seem logical. It wouldn’t make any sense that I would want to suffer as a Christian. And yet… that’s what Paul seems to be saying here. In fact, the Bible repeatedly tells us that we are going to suffer!!!

Jesus said “In this world YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Paul wrote: “For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that WE WERE TO SUFFER AFFLICTION, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:4

And Peter wrote: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, WHEN YOU ARE SLANDERED, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” I Peter 3:15-17

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: "Blessed are those who are PERSECUTED for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others REVILE you and PERSECUTE you and UTTER ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

ILLUS: I just watched a video that talked about Antioch – the city where Paul was ordained to become a missionary. At the time, Antioch was the 3rd most prominent city in the Roman Empire, and the video guide took us to the place where the early church there is believed to have met. It’s a cave. Then our guide took great pains to show various entrances to that cave… not just the main one, but various escape tunnels. Now, why on earth would the church at Antioch need “escape tunnels?” Obviously, because they faced intense persecution and saw the need to escape quickly to avoid capture and mistreatment.

ILLUS: The preacher at Walton, Bill Collins, told of his daughter returning form college in tears. He asked her what the problem was. She said her sociology class had come to the conclusion that he (her dad) would one day be imprisoned for what he believed. He laughed and said “Honey, I’ve told you that for years.”

In fact, our little group of preachers in this area have a pact – we’ve promised to visit each other in prison when that day comes… or at least try to end up as bunkies.

We live in an increasingly hostile world. California has just passed a law that would make any literature opposing homosexuality illegal. That would seem to include the Bible (which is unabashedly anti-homosexual). And it’s coming to a neighborhood near you. Right now, people get angry when we tell them that homosexuality is a sin, or that transsexualism is unnatural or that “living together” is wrong. And people really get bent out of shape when we say that Jesus is only way to heaven.

And we are gonna catch flack because of Jesus. In John 15:20 Jesus said “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you….”

A few years back someone wrote this article: (Southeast Christian Church “Outlook” 8/4/01)

“Jesus. A little name. A small word. But say this little name in public - in a way other than an obscenity – and just stand back and watch the fireworks. You can say "God," as a curse word and you won't get a squeak. You can say "Our Father/Mother in Heaven," and few will flinch. You can say "Great Spirit," and people will nod in approval. You can say "Allah" and you will be deemed tolerant. But say "Jesus" and just wait for the sonic boom. Articles will appear in the paper. Reprimands will be posted from the home office. Lawsuits will be threatened by the civil liberties block.

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