FACING The Tribulation
3. Birthpangs Of
To many people, one of the most enigmatic and astonishing statements
in the Bible is this:
author [originator] and finisher [perfecter] of our faith, who
for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of
God (Heb 12:2).
thing to me for a long time was how Jesus was able to volunteer to
go through that ordeal of crucifixion.
How could Jesus
endure that ultimate hardship and agony of agonies? It briefly
explains, but you can easily read right over it. I’ll come to that
in a moment.
But, first, notice
that the cross was an ordeal that Jesus did NOT want to go through!
He despised it! He dreaded it, because He knew how horrendous
it was going to be:
I have a
baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is
accomplished! (Luke 12:50.)
That’s why in
prayer in the garden, He agonised! The account says He “was
sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matt 26:37).
These words of
Jesus, recorded by John are an understatement:
Now My soul
is troubled... (Jn 12:27).
Jesus was going
through mental torment, knowing what awaited Him! But He didn’t
bottle out. He didn’t run away. He didn’t cave in. How could He go
through with it?
1. Was it down to
the encouragement from the Father’s audible words? John recorded
Then a voice
came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it
[God’s name] and will glorify it again.” Therefore the
people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered (Jn
2. Was it due to
His communing with the Spirit for so long in the garden – three
hour-long sessions? (Matt 26:40-44.)
I would answer
“yes” and “yes”. But that is not the entirety of the reason.
3. It says in
Hebrews 12:2 that He was able to endure the torment because of the
joy that was set before Him. It’s not a joy which you and I are
familiar with in the physical. It was deeply spiritual.
This joy was
inseparable from His love for all.
Jesus knew that His
death would pay the price of sin for all humanity and put an end to
suffering and all the other consequences of sin. By enduring the
pain, the anguish and the rejection – “the shame” – wonderful,
liberating utopia could come in due course. Without His death, there
could be nothing but misery for every generation and person from
But, by His sinless
death, He could vanquish all evils, all sickness, all demons, and
Satan, the dark prince of those evils. That goal was the jewel of
joy that He could see at the end of that dreadful tunnel.
Jesus knew that, by
going through with it, He could bring salvation to all who could
accept it. They – you and me – would love Him for it. His love for
you and me was so great that He willingly took that fate.
4. He was looking
forward to dying. He was not looking forward to the suffering that
preceded it. But, to know that it would not be long before He could
die, there was joy in knowing that He would soon be with His Father
again. He couldn’t wait for that sublime moment of complete reunion.
All this was part
of the joy that was set before Him. It enabled Him to endure what
you and I could not have done. And it gives us hope in our
For, make no
mistake, you and I must also suffer, endure hardships, experience
pain or agony, mental anguish, emotional distress, bereavement, and
all the various experiences that are common to this mortal life.
They are part of the maturing process.
To endure (Matt
24:13), you must be prepared.
I summarise what
you must prepare for:
3. Be Prepared For Hardship
Hardship is a fact
of life for us as Christians in this present evil world which
doesn’t accept us and which hates God and His truth. So you can’t
expect to have an idyllic life here and now. Paul wrote that:
If in this
life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most
pitiable (1 Cor 15:19).
are many pitiable Christians who are motivated by hopes in this
life. To them, their jobs, ambitions, homes, money, personal
pleasures, pastimes, and physical pursuit are the sole measure of
life’s value. They think Jesus has come to bless them in this life
and make them physically ‘abundant’, as they say He promised in John
That isn’t true
abundance. That’s poverty!
and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in
the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).
The abundance Jesus
was talking about in John 10:10 was not about earthly possessions,
whether material, financial, friendships, relationships, or related
in some other way to your human physical life. He was talking about
heavenly riches and heavenly abundance – not things in the earthly
sense, but things of the Spirit; things out of this world; things
that would blow your mind, they are so wonderful! (Ps 16:11.)
That’s why we are
not permitted to know about them all now. Besides the spiritual
abundance which Jesus promises those who want it and labour for it,
He also promised this:
I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the
world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world (Jn 16:33).
desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2
If the world
hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you (Jn
15:18). Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not
greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also
persecute you... (20).
Hardship in this
life for us as Christians is, for many, linked to persecution. The
Great Tribulation is just ahead, and we must soberly expect it.
remarkable letter to the Galatian believers, he explained that the
sons of the freewoman are persecuted by the sons of the bondwoman
(Gal 4:29). It has been that way ever since the beginning, when
Satan injected his enmity into his offspring against the offspring
of the woman (Gen 3:15). The woman figuratively depicts those who
accept God’s ideology.
There is a
never-ending struggle between the forces of good and evil. It is an
unavoidable fact of life on earth, where Satan invisibly rules.
You may not realise
it, but the persecution and slaughter of Christians in the 20th
century exceeded that of every century before it. It will intensify.
Great Tribulation Will Be Soon
Tribulation is soon to come now, to fulfil Jesus’ words. We know
this from the many dreams (night visions) which He has given
prophets and others true to His Word, as well as worsening world
will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there
will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows
birth pangs]. Then they will deliver you up to
tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations
for My name’s sake (Matt 24:7-9).
Mark wrote Jesus’
words, adding more:
the beginnings of sorrows. But watch out for yourselves, for
they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in
the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for
My sake... (Mark 13:8,9).
The persecutions of
the Great Tribulation will be religiously fuelled. It’s hard to
conceive of it at the moment in the West, which boasts its tolerance
of almost every religion under the sun. But intolerance of
Christians is coming. That’s why Jesus prophesied of it – for the
many Christians living today, who would otherwise not realise what’s
revelations are given to warn of what the natural mind cannot
The trouble is,
most Christians have been lulled to sleep by false ideologies of
‘smooth things’ (Is 30:10) – prosperity gospel preachers, who pander
to the carnal nature, promising easy times, better and better
things, an ever-expanding church, with greater exploits and more
numbers, expanding and increasing, ad nauseam... It’s a mix
of truth and error – half truths that please the audience, improve
ratings and bring in the money, so the preachers can continue on
They leave out
Jesus’ warnings of judgement, of persecution, of having to lay down
one’s life for Jesus, and of all that that entails. If they mention
some of it, it’s only in passing. It doesn’t prepare the Church for
Yet Jesus was very
clear in His theology. Either you are willing to lay down your life,
or you are not worthy of Him. And he who seeks to save his own life
is going to lose it – for some that means for eternity! Either way,
death is a very real prospect that faces all believers at this
tribulation and persecution are the precursors to that eventuality.
We cannot afford to avoid this issue. It’s deadly serious!
But it’s not all
Normally, you would
expect persecution’s twin to be sorrow and suffering’s to be
despair. And that is true for the natural man, but not the heavenly
man. Jesus went through both those emotions. But He looked to the
One who is all-knowing and received fire in His spirit. That fire
placed within Him a joy that saw Him through His terrible ordeal.
In fact, it’s one
of the amazing paradoxes that a Christian endures persecution and
suffering with joy. Suffering in God’s service ignites joy. That’s
not a natural response. It comes with the Spirit.
“What I have
called the double-barrelled aspect of persecution – suffering /
joy – suggests that there is some- thing about the Christian
suffering of persecution that is uncommon. Normally, we expect
the associated characteristics to be suffering / sorrow or
suffering / despair. A recent  news story carries the
account of an Irish hostage just released from captivity in
Lebanon. He describes his experience as ‘a crucifying
loneliness, a silent screaming slide into the bowels of ultimate
despair.’ What is it that could bring joy into
unpromising circumstances like that?
in the midst of terrible suffering comes from putting the
suffering in its true context. And its context is the hope –
‘the joy that was set before Him’ – that resides in what it all
means.” (A Fragrance of Oppression, p 122.)
What does all this
hardship, persecution, and suffering mean, when we endure it for
It means this. If
you are prepared to suffer for Christ, you will be with Him for
eternity, glorified with Him, and sharing all that He shares with
those who love Him likewise. Here’s the promise:
endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us (2 Tim 2:12).
This is another
promise and paradox:
should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do
not be afraid of their threats or be troubled (1 Pet 3:14).
How do you explain
that – you are blessed!?
If you are
reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you... (1 Pet
answer: Jesus is with you. His Spirit comes in more fully – if you
look to Him and trust in Him – to bear you up and help carry your
burden. Jesus promises:
you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of
evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly
glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted
the prophets who were before you (Matt 5:11,12).
You can’t have that
joy if you are physically minded. You will just despair and get
depressed. But if we are spiritually minded, and look for the coming
of the Kingdom of God, we can share in that joy that Jesus
experienced that saw Him through His terrible ordeal.
If you read the
accounts of Christian believers in totalitarian countries, who have
been imprisoned for their faith, beaten, tortured, persecuted to the
‘nth’ degree, you see a new kind of person. It’s not the common
cross-section of a Western believer, who, more often than not, lives
for the moment. You see people who are living for the beyond, who
know that there is nothing worth holding onto in this life, other
than for the purpose of spreading the truth about the wonder of
Christ. You can I can learn much from them. For it will be our turn
next to witness for Jesus.
Hardships Have A Divine Purpose
This account of a
Chinese woman imprisoned for being a Christian illustrates how God
will help you in similar circumstances:
great persecution, another affliction came upon me that I could
hardly bear. One of the cell mates would humiliate me every day
and I soon considered her my adversary. Because I loved the
Lord, I showed love to her in every way. I served her, brought
her tea, water and washed her clothes. I did not feel
embarrassed at all to do these things, but she did her best to
rouse my anger and continually cursed me. The most painful thing
to me was that she would not allow me to pray, for every time I
knelt down to pray she would stand at my side shouting and
cursing me. Whenever I shared the Gospel with others, she would
immediately interfere and create a disturbance. Then she would
run to the administrative offices to report me.
One day, I
was unable to bear it any longer. I fell on my bed and began to
sob uncontrollably. I asked the Lord to take me home. ‘Lord, why
have you put me in this situation? I ask you to take my soul!’
That evening, the Word of the Lord came to me: ‘Verily,
verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the
ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth
much fruit.’ (Jn 12:24.) Then I saw that I was weak and
pitiful. I recalled all the work the Lord had done in the prison
in the past.
that the warden transfer me to another cell. The warden, aware
of my situation, transferred me to cell number eight. When I
arrived there I felt like I had ‘crawled out of the pit to fall
into the well.’ For all the prisoners in this cell were
extremely wicked and there was not one good person among them. I
then realized that the persecution I received from my previous
cellmate was of the Lord. The Lord had used her to force me to
leave that cell and pioneer in this place. For in almost every
part of the prison there were many believers, but this one cell
was full of darkness. I earnestly interceded and fasted for the
work in this new field.
The work was
very difficult. Each time I began to witness to the inmates I
met with opposition. I felt very discouraged and everything
within me cried out to the Lord. One day a young girl whose bed
was next to mine fell sick. I was genuinely concerned, and took
it upon myself to care for her. As a result she accepted Jesus.
Then two more inmates believed. Soon, one of my cellmates
reported my activities to the authorities. ‘From the time Chan
entered cell number eight, she has been preaching Jesus, praying
and singing all night so that we are unable to sleep.’
came to search my cell. In my hand was a copy of Streams In
The Desert. I quickly passed it to the sister two beds away
and she hid it under her belt.
How I thank
the Lord, for even with 20 pairs of eyes on me and under the
hawkish glare of several guards none of them seemed to have seen
me passing the book to the sister. Hallelujah! I immediately
thought of the scripture, ‘If God be with us, who can be
against us?’ (Romans 8:31.) I was elated. The guards
searched for a long time but could not find anything. They led
me to the offices where they reprimanded me. Then they took me
to the cell in the basement and prepared to lock me up there.
But as the cell was flooded they took me to the observation room
above where they keep criminals who have committed serious
crimes. Prisoners who were especially stubborn or who had
violated prison regulations were kept here as punishment.
day, four more people joined me in the cell. We were not allowed
to speak to each other. The Lord especially watched over me. I
took advantage of every opportunity to preach the Gospel and
with great joy all four of them accepted the Lord. One night the
Lord gave me a revelation in which I saw the prison warden
wanting to speak to me and demanding that I confess all my
activities in cell number eight.
morning I told the guard outside the cell, ‘Today, I will be
brought out for interrogation.’
asked, ‘How do you know?’
whom I serve, told me so last night.’
At 8.00 am I
was summoned to the offices. Four cadres sat there waiting for
me. I sat before them on a small stool.
you considered carefully?’ they began.
considered carefully,’ I replied.
honestly give an account!’
‘What do you
want me to give an account of?’
yourself know!’ they retorted.
done anything wrong or anything bad. What can I say?’ I pleaded.
they all exploded and jabbing their fingers at me one of them
screeched, ‘Chan, you still so obstinate. You have an
opportunity to speak, so why don’t you speak? Since you have
carefully considered, why don’t you honestly give an account?
Where did the book come from? Who gave it to you? Chan, if you
refuse to speak you will get a thrashing.’
joy filled my heart and I silently prayed, ‘Lord, allow them to
beat me and hit me! If they do this I will be greatly blessed to
be considered worthy to suffer for Your Name’s sake.’ [What a
contrast to the soft Western Christian who fears pain and
suffering, and who would pray the opposite!]
continued their verbal volley, and after asking me several
questions surprisingly said, ‘You may return to your cell.
Carefully reconsider and at a later date come back here to make
your report.’ That was how the interrogation ended.
later, they called me in again in the evening and said, ‘You
should give an honest account! You have done nothing else, but
just because you believe in the Lord you have caused us
unnecessary work. Every day our time is taken up with dealing
with this matter.’
‘Lord, I obey You and I will do what You want me to do!’ Then
the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me, ‘Be faithful unto death!’
(Rev 2:10.) Thus I was strengthened. Even though I had suffered
much already the Lord especially protected me that day from
further punishment. Many sisters had been praying for me.
On a third
occasion I was asked about the book and my Bible. I did not give
them any information. In the end they simply sent me back to the
observation cell to ‘reconsider’.
I thought of
three things they could do to me: (1) I might be sent to the
northwest. (2) They might increase my sentence. (3) Perhaps I
would be given the death penalty. I prayed to the Lord and
joyfully said, ‘Lord, if they send me to the northwest, I can
praise you aloud. If they increase my sentence, I can learn more
lessons in prison. If they execute me, I will truly be grateful,
for I can soon return to You and quickly end the pain of being
separated from You.’
time the interrogating officials were demanding. ‘You must give
an account now. What book do you normally read?’
that when I first entered prison in 1982 I had brought with me a
certain novel. Then I did not know why I had brought it, but now
I could answer, ‘It is a certain novel. If you don’t believe you
can see for yourself. It is under the front of my bed.’ They
found the book and brought it to me.
‘This is evidence that those who have accused me have fabricated
false testimony to harm me.’ There was nothing else they could
say, so they allowed me to return to cell number eight. The Lord
said, ‘But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or
what you shall speak...’ Matthew 10:19-20. The Word of the
Lord is so real!
I was in the
observation cell for 50 days and in that period altogether five
prisoners were brought in. I preached the Gospel and loved them
and they all believed... (Lilies Amongst Thorns, by
Danyun, pp 121-124.)
Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that
they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with
eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10).
therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ
(2 Tim 2:3).
Persecution, A Norm For Christians
Jesus said that:
deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be
hated by all nations for My name’s sake (Matt 24:7-9).
And Peter said
since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also
with the same mind... (1 Pet 4:1).
hardship and suffering is the package that is a norm for Christians,
which we must accept. We are to arm ourselves – to EXPECT it,
steel ourselves for it, and even embrace it.
If Chan could do
it, so can you. Leave behind the cares of this life, and prepare for
the next life where you will see and experience things that will
make all the sufferings of this world pale into insignificance.
That’s impossible for the physical mind to grasp. But, accept it by
the Spirit as you let yourself die to the things that previously
Eye has not
seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the
things which God has prepared for them that love Him (1 Cor
2:9). But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For
the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God
And the Spirit
makes it possible for you to have a new mindset, one that rejoices
in sufferings because the reality of God’s heavenly kingdom is being
birthed more in you.
wisdom among those who are mature (1 Cor 2:6).
The day is soon
coming when this will happen:
say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon
them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not
escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day
should overtake you as a thief (1 Thes 5:3,4).
Your deliverance is near.
with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth
are the labour pains of God’s heavenly Kingdom which will soon fill
Jesus led the way
(Matt 26:39). Chan and many other martyrs showed it’s possible. We
Continued in part 4...