If we believe that the Christian way is smooth, we make a sad mistake. However close we are to our Lord, however faithful our walk in Christ, however zealous we are for the truth, sooner or later tribulation comes. It is one of the fundamental doctrines of the truth: “we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
For some, it is crushing weakness, dire sickness, and the onrushing pains of coming death. For many, it is poverty and destitution, hunger and deprivation. For others, it is the taunts of unbelievers. For yet others, the tribulation consists of loneliness and even betrayal.
Some of my neighbours ask me why Christadelphians seem to be so prone to tribulation, loneliness, and the weakness of the flesh. Why don’t our evangelists have rousing healing crusades and heat up our meetings with lots of clapping and loud choruses? If we are really Christians – so they say – we would be strong and healthy and all our sorrows would vanish each time we answer an altar call.
No, my friends, not so it go. Paul had a “stake in his flesh.” Timothy had stomach trouble. Epaphroditus was “ill near to death.” These were faithful workers for God. The last letter the apostle Paul wrote is quite sad. A dear friend had “deserted” him. “Luke alone” was with him. Another brother had done him “great harm.” At his first defence, no one took his part except the Lord.
The work of God goes on
The gospel is good news, wonderful news. But not all the New Testament is joy and sunshine. Dark clouds are there sometimes. One ecclesia is described as dead. Another as blind. Some in another have gone to sleep.
Yet the work of God goes on, regardless of human failure and despair. Our Master promised: “heaven and earth may pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” And so it has been since he left the top of Olivet so long ago.
Right now, he does not promise any of us a bed of roses. But he does offer us “living water” (John 4:10). We come here to drink deep, beloved.
Here he prepares a table in the midst of our enemies and our cup runs over. He gives us flesh and blood: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:57).
No more sorrow
If we abide in him, nothing, nothing at all, can keep us from his love. And when he sits upon the throne of his glory, there will be no sorrow then. The second death will have no power over us (Rev. 20:6). And “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:4).
So many professing Christians only look for Jesus Christ to be a magician to solve their present problems. But listen to Paul: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Cast down, but not destroyed. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4: 8,17). That is our hope, our certainty, dearly beloved.
When the apostle wanted to comfort the Thessalonian members in their distresses, he simply reminded them that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:14,18).
Difficult days are ahead
I see difficult days ahead for the Lord’s people in this my native land. Some of the problems we cannot help, but some we can. Because things do not go smooth, some have lost heart. Not faith, thankfully, but zeal and courage. It is sad to see brothers treat other brothers and sisters with disdain, as if they did not care for anyone but themselves. The vineyard needs committed tenders of the vines. Because it is not “pruned or hoed, briers and thorns shall grow up” (Isa. 5:6). Remember, beloved, the words of Hebrews 6:8: “that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
We hope the words that follow are true for us: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”
Prayer is sweet
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Whatever our state, let us trust in God and revive our brotherly love.
When I am lonely, I go outside my home to pray and meditate beneath a tree in my yard. There is a wonderful view from there and I can hear the birds singing. Then I cannot be sad, even though there is so much to be sad about. Prayer is sweet. I know it is true what the apostle once said: whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. We must accept the will of God.
That is a marvellous consolation. Before us, beloved, is a feast, a love feast. Come, let us share it, my beloved. If we do, whether we live or die, we will be the Lord’s, for that is His will and good pleasure.