What a way to live. Even when he was not in jail, the Holy Spirit would tell the apostle Paul in every city: chains and trouble are coming. He could truly say 'remember the prisoners as though bound with them' for he was bound in the spirit, as was Jesus, when he approached Jerusalem and virtually every day of his life.
I wonder, are we so 'bound' today? Headed for 'Jerusalem'? Going there to die? Heading for chains and trouble and death? Our Master is. But you say, wait, there are some who are called to this suffering business and some who are not! This sort of thing in the first century was for Paul and the other apostles, who laid the foundation. Surely not all believers were or are called to suffer.
I agree. Those who are called to reign with Him are the ones who are called to suffer with Him. Are we people who love to go about bragging about how we will be a 'king' with Jesus some day, and in fact are a king right now? Do we have scars to prove it? Paul tells Timothy, "If we endure, we shall also reign with him..." Apostles Paul and Peter, who are the featured "sufferers" of the Book of Acts, both write to the church informing it that we have been called to join their suffering ranks if we are to be reigning some day.
No, it is not true that we are not called. It is only true that we don't want to hear the call, because it does not fit our comfort level. Here is the call:
First from Spirit-filled Peter, who rejoiced that he was worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:40-42):
I Peter 4:12 ff: "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."
Then Spirit-filled Paul, who after 39 lashes from a Roman guard, and a painful evening in a Philippian jail, was singing with Silas so loudly that the prisoners in adjoining compartments could not help but listen (Acts 16:22-25):
Philippians 1:27 ff: "To you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me."
No one to lash us or throw us in jail yet? No one who will burn our house down or take away our income? Let's not panic, but rather, while we still can, let us be the ones who are called to "remember the prisoners, as though we were bound with them..."
That way, no one is left out of the suffering church who wishes to reign with Jesus. My own experience so far has been that the more I ask Jesus, "How can I truly relate to, 'remember', those who now suffer?" the more He shows me. Some of the responses are not too cheery. But what is good about this is that when the fire does fall here (and can it be much longer?) we who have practiced this relationship will be ready.
Yes, what a way to live had Paul. No matter what God showed him or gave him, he could say (Acts 20:23-24) that he was not moved. Unfortunately for too many of us, we listen to the things the enemy tells us are coming, and believe him. That is what the Bible would call "fear." We can believe the lies of the enemy about our future and cower in a corner threatened by it all, or believe that, even when God Himself says difficult times are coming, He will give us the sufficient grace he promises to endure. And that's what the Bible would call "walking in the Spirit." It's the only way for the believer to live.
Look for Bob Faulkner's home page on http://sermonaudio.com - There you will find a combination of love for the Scriptures and a desire for North Korean believers to have their needs met. There are nearly 300 blogs, over 200 Bible teaching MP3's, lists of resources, NK picture albums, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosen together! Contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Would love to fellowship with believers who respond.