Paul talks about suffering as being a gift Philippians 1:29 that accompanies our belief in Christ. To suffer is about apart of our ministry and calling.
"Churches committed to programs can grow numerically, but they don't nurture biblical Christians who understand the implications of belonging to the body of Christ." This is altogether too true of the church today. The church is too concerned with power and growth financially and numerically. Of course one wants the church to grow numerically, if those numbers truly reflect the amount of souls and hearts that are trandformed to Jesus. Growth for the skae of growth is a lie to ourselves and the people around us. If we labor for months and one live is saved for Jesus should we not rejoice for that one the same no matter what the circumstances?
As to the idea of suffering, I think we must see suffering as two fold. We must see the suffering of the unredeemed world different from the suffering of a witness to Christ. As Sarah's comment just below expresses, God does not necessarily want for people to suffer. That is why we are called to do Jesus' minisrty of healing and freeing people from bondage and oppression. But in doing so, the ones who witness to Christ will suffer and be persecuted. As one's suffering is alleviated another may have to endure. Sound familiar? Jesus endured the pain of our transgressions to save us. As disciples of Christ, we may need to endure pain, persecution, and suffering in order to free others from their's.
Thank you so much for this Mr. Fernando. While I'm sure that the suffering and frustration that I've witnessed and experienced as a Christian in the United States in minuscule compared to what you deal with, it's a huge encouragement to hear your opinion on it. It seems like I often get the message that if a person or ministry is suffering, or having technical or financial troubles, then it is because they are doing something wrong and should change the error in their ways in order to be "blessed." I've always felt that this was not true, but it is tiring to hear again and again. So thank you again for this article.
I agree completely with what this article has to say about suffering. Christians are not to avoid or fear suffering. How un-Christlike! If we are truly following Christ we will embrace suffering the way he did, with joy and gladness. For the sake of the lost and the glory of the Father, Jesus became the suffering servant, taking on all sin and pain. As his imitators, we can expect to partake in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and through that exercise to know the power of his resurrection.
Kathleen Devine Linnen
I am trying to obtain admission to Hosanna Bible Training Center. Through prayer and fasting my childhood "want" is still in my heart, and after reading this article the want is there even more. My dilemma: I am 54yrs old and disabled but I do believe in healing which the Lord has been working miracles in me, physically and especially spiritually. Am I too old to do missionary work? I know I can evanglize anywhere but I have felt Akron Oh. is not enough, I want more. I know the Lord's will be done in the final desicion but would like feedback on my question.
There is physical, spiritual, and emotional suffering. I would say the most painful
suffering was similar to Jesus's when He wept over Jerusalem. When we are helpless
in witnessing to the lost............we need to pray that the Holy Spirit would open their
hearts, minds, and eyes to accept Jesus Christ. God doesn't send people to Hell, they
chose to go there. We can only let God use us to the best of our ability.........plant
the seed, and perhaps another will see the harvest.
At the risk of sounding academic, is this not whhat lies behind Luther's "Theology of the Cross" and his opposition to a "theology of glory". It is also seen in his concept of the "hidden God".- where was God when Jesus hung on the cross? Right there, doing his greatest work!
Thank you brother for reminding us all of the truth of God's word.
This understanding of suffering and vocation really rubs me the wrong way. I do understand that we feel closer to God when we are suffering, however that is not a valid argument for suggesting that you are not an adequate or faithful Christian if you are not suffering (enough?), carrying your Cross. I believe there are times when that suffering may be involved in witnessing to others the gospel of Jesus Christ. I DO NOT believe that God wants for His people to suffer. If that were the case, why would Jesus have bothered to heal the sick and the lame. Were those who were healed less close to God in that moment because they were no longer suffering? Nothing in the parables suggest that at all. There is too much suffering in the world and I understand the gospel to be the balm that heals our wounds. Granted, there are parts of the world where people suffer for their witness. But, we are not called to suffer so that we may boast. We suffer because that is the effect of sin in the world.
Cody C. Lorance
A profound and insightful article. The recent Lausanne Blogger Network Interview with Ajith was even more so. "Ajith Fernando: Toward a Theology of Frustration and Fatigue" can be seen here:
I want to commend Ajith Fernando's very searching little booklet on spiritual leadership called AN AUTHENTIC SERVANT (Didasko Files series). It is just 24 pages long - a radical and a from-the-heart call for Christians to see spiritual leadership as cross-centred and sacrificial .
An article of this magnitude needs to simmer in my soul for it's full effect. I will add this one comment, as a pastor I have had the privilege of teaching at a seminary in Africa the last 4 summers. This article exposes two things I have observed. to my joy and encouragement I have met men and women who give so much in service of the King. Much of what my world calls suffering, they do not even give a second thought too. Most of them have walked the way of suffering and their lives shine with a trust in the Lord beyond what I know. But there is a lure to study in the States, and something within me responds, "No don't do it...."
John Gathuku, Kenya
This article shot me dead. though i have lived in Africa all my life, seems i have never been cured from the strive to perform and measure ministry 'effectiveness' with postmodern management parameters. I have suffered frustration at the slow pace that organisational frameworks operate within because of people factor. I have almost given up on students/friends that have left the way of truth.....despite the fact that i know, believe and preach that relationships are central, i often struggle to stop and work along a stubborn or difficult person..... and this sometimes feels like 'wasted' time in the course of our ministry. I fully identify with the young Sri-lankans who opt to move out to start their organisations to fulfill their 'vision'.
Velaphi Hlabangana, Tanzania/Zimbabwe
A leader's schedule is shaped more by the people's needs than his/her own. "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work". Others pay the price of identifying with our people and ultimately have a deep impact on the nation. Discipleship is all about forgetting our selfish comforts and striving to bring other nearer to God as well as the fulfillment of their needs. Most of us tend to think we outta be served, "A leader should not seem to be less fortunate than the community he leads", I say leaders of this nature are just in it for their own benefits and they are not serving the God our worship but mammon. the article is enlightening and points out a true fact, as cold as it is, suffering is part of serving but it also keeps us closer to God than we realize. God Bless
What an excellent and insightful article! Though I've always served in the U.S., the article makes me think about how I have not wanted to strive with those harsh critics that seem content on spouting off their complaints with no regard for people's feelings and yet, the author says strive we must. This is part of the suffering to which we're called. Also, a point well-made about achieving and milestones. When put in proper perspective, we learn to continue the work without looking for great success. Such a hard lesson though when you want to achieve much for the Lord. It feels like you're settling but it comes down to seeing success through God's eyes and not becoming "weary in well-doing".
Crishanthi Manoharan, India
Way to the crown is the cross. It is easy to pray "God let your will be done" but not so when you know the will of God. Jesus knew the will of God and he submitted.He saw our faces. It's in the suffering that we see the unfailing love of God according to our specific needs as we keep looking at His face. His promise to never leave or forsake us until the end. The gates of hell shall not prevail
Robert Lal, India
This is a good piece of writing what Bro. Ajith has eperienced and collected for the benfit of budding evangelists. I would like to add what Apostle wrote Paul after serving Lord Jesus in many newly founded Churches and experiencing many unbearable suferrings, like getting stonned, snake bites, stripes, fastings, sleeplessness, starving , facing weather threats in his missionary journey, threats by robbers etc .. etc. And even then he writes at 2Corinthians 4:17"for our light affliction,which is but for a moment,is working for us a far exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
John Loughry, USA
The Lord prepares each of us who "Love The Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and spirit" to love Him, our spouse and neighbor as, or I think, greater than, our self. So we should love each other and accept the path, the actions, The Lord has for each of us. Not to judge each other, but to encourage each other to live in the love of The Lord as The Lord guides us.
Maaza Mekuria, USA
I did meet Libby Little a few days before the martyrdom of her wonderful husband. We watched her address at Urbana and were blessed greatly by her faithful example. We were praying that God would protect the mission in Nuristan. Our prayers were answered but the decision was to take our dear brother and his colleagues to the presence of God almighty. There they will receive their eternal gift of life indestructible.
May he make us all faithful in His sight! May God comfort the Libby and and the rest of the family with His eternal Spirit. May God bless the people of Afghanistan with even more Tom Little's.
Luz Ambrocio, Guatemala
The pain and suffering in the ministry could become unbearable with out God and the love and prayers of his people, thank you Libbi, thanks all those that are serving and suffering with those the need the most. God comfort and strengthen you .
ONLY The Name of Jesus warm your heart when the cold actions of people with out the right directions touch our life.
Amelia James, Papua New Guinea
Thank you to you Libby for your story. It has encouraged me that having your hand bag stolen on the street or someone holding up a family at gun point for their car is nothing compared to what families like you are living day in and day out, out there where the sound of gun fire is just outside of your gate. May God always keep you and your family safe in His Mighty Hands and may is Wonderful Holy Spirit comfort those around you. You have truly encouraged me. Yes The name Jesus is so powerful that it can ease the terrified heart.
Dale Porter, USA
Thanks for this blog. I am a born again Christian but to tell the truth I do not like pain or suffering. I want the bed of ease. I am a new ministry leader (3 different ministries) and many times I just want to "throw in the towel". I deal with "attitudes/spirits" that are ungodly. But I read an excerpt dealing with growing strong in Christ. How can we grow if we don't have "growing pains"? The pains are part of learning and stretching our christian muscles. I want to see others grow and if I leave (disappear to do other things) I will not obtain the gift God has for me when the suffering is over. Even if there is not a gift, the love of Christ has been bestowed upon another human being. Thanks so much for just putting words to what the Body of Christ needed to hear.
Fred Wachtman, USA
How much this message is needed today. We must be on the verge of last day troubles. Few Christians are prepared for the suffering waiting us. We need to consider the last beatitude carefully and with sincere consecration. My own pastor is still preaching the prosperity gospel when he should be preparing us for trouble ahead. At my suggestion he has just now begun after a personal failure when persecuted for righeousness at which he got angry. Jesus said to rejoice at such persecution. May we learn to sincerely pray for our persecutors. God help us.
Richard Brown, United States, Haiti
How can I shout AMEN loudly enough for all to hear?! A theology of suffering is so missing in our churches in America that I was asked after the Haiti earthquake, Why don't you wait until everything is cleaned up before you return? I could not believe my ears. As our brother from Nigeria says, we are misunderstood and sometimes even looked down upon for not making riches our priority over ministry to the needy and Kingdom building. Everytime I have opportunity to teach and preach I bring up this matter of "groaning" during the birthing of righteousness as Paul writes in Romans 8. Thank you for your courage in ministry Ajith and for your accurate teaching on discipleship.
hanna collison, australia
I'd love to send Libby a note of encouragement and want to thank her and her family that she obeyed God and experienced His staying power in a country where very few would stay to help. Libby you encouraged me. I know that your own suffering now with the death of your husband is just an extension of what you have suffered fo years with your Afghani friends and that God will use that too for his glory. May God be your very steadfast companion and may the Holy Spirit comfort you and all who are so deeply touched at this time, I love you, my Christian sister, so far away, in Christ Hanna Collison
When I read the article, I cried in my spirit. But at that same time, I could see how Jesus encouraged you to face such sufferings for bringing some one to christ. Though you undergo painful situations, the hand of Jesus is with you always. Immanauel..
Ephrem Hagos, Ethiopia
It is apparent that there is still little or no Christian curiosity whatsoever in the cross, as the "tree of life" or the divine means of perfect and transfigurative death of Christ's self-revelation in his divine identity and authority (Matt. 16: 13-18-28: 26: 63-64; 27: 50-56) once well known in apostolic times (Acts 1; 2; Rom. 6; 1 Cor. 1: 18-31; ... Rev. 5).
Gloria Marsolais, Canada
Libby, your words have become my prayer for you and your family and friends and those of the other martys as my heart aches for you. "May the fruitful door of opportunity to embrace suffering in service ...and embrace those who are suffering, remain open for the sake of your kingdom." and Father forgive us who know nothing of this level of commitment and cost for our petty complaints when things do not go easy or how we would like them and open our eyes and hearts to real service, real love. God's peace and comfort.
Ananda Kumar, USA
Ajith's point is consistent with the words of Jesus in John 15:2b, which says "every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." Rev. Tim Keller in one of his sermons says that there exist within Christians residual enmity with God. Suffering is God's way of often exposing and removing the vestiges of our enmity with God so that we become cleaner vessels appreciating His love, grace and forgiveness in a new way!
Glyn Carpenter, New Zealand
Ajith's words are filled with wisdom, grace, and truth. I know this wrong attitude to suffering which he describes exists in my country, not least because I wrestle with it myself.
When the stress of work impacts health, when there are no visible results, when there are offers to do something different which offers the prospect of more immediate results, - how long should we keep going?
The obvious answer is "until God says to change". But this must be based on a clear revelation and relationship with God, otherwise we delude ourselves and baptize our "man-made" decisions with "God-talk". Meditating deeply on the life of Christ and those who followed him, is a vital part of knowing God's will.
Samuel Escobar, Spain
It has been a rich and edifying experience to read Ajith's paper and the responses from three different parts of the world. I have the privilege of knowing all of the authors except Mrs. Little, and this has added a note of authenticity to what they have written. May the Lord in a special way comfort and provide strength to Mrs. Little. Thank you brothers and sisters!
Sangmok Shin, Korea
I am so sorry to hear that your husband, Tom passed away 6 August by brutal violence. I will pray for you and your 3 children. Korean church is trying to understand how your suffering is big. Our father God knows your doing and serving in there. I pray God would comfort you and your family. May God continue to bless you all. God will take over that land sooner or later.
Thank you for speaking the truth. Our family tried counselling for a situation. It failed because of the high cost and the need for-one-on-one accountability, love and encouragement. I will be (kindly) sharing a copy of this article with the Pastor who referred us. Truly, as the Body of Christ we need to do things differently. Jesus commanded us to "lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (I John 3:16) Love costs, love takes time, love listens, love cares, love never fails. (I Cor. 13) May God richly bless and use you Dr. Fernardo. You have spoken a powerful message that is depserately needed in our day and age of the "quick and easy." I will be pondering this article for some time.
i will to know why some people think or down look the truly believers that doesn't count riches to they most foce in life
Keith Lilley, USA
"...apples of gold in pictures of silver." A word we really need to hear. You are so very right when you address the problem of people leaving their church because they don't fit the program, or they don't agree with the pastor, and how they miss out on an opportunity to grow by perservering, you see this also with so many marriages being abandoned, because it is hard, and we don't like to suffer, but how else to find out that His grace is sufficient, even in the most dire of circumstances.
Suffering is a virtue that we mature into hardly ever by choice, but when we do
we have gained so much that now we have much to give, in comfort, grace and wisdom, not to mention our own brokeness.
That is why we can count it all joy, because we know that the Lord is working in
us that which is wellpleasing in His sight. Ajiths word to us encourages us to let the Lord lead us through that path.
Thank you for that.
Emily D. Frank Gwion, Liberia, West Africa
Dear Dr. Fernardo,
I often asked God, Why? Why are these things happening to me, your servant? Am I wrong to choose to serve you?
Now, I know that "To Serve Is To Suffer". The only thing that I am asking for now is His Spiritual backing, power, and wisdom to endure at the End.
I am very touch by your article. Is there any possibility to work with you or stay in touch with you. My husband is Mexican and wants to go to Latin America, we know that we help and advice from mature Christian. When I became a believer, I was taught all the time about The Cross and suffering. But ministry fell apart. I know that without The Cross and suffering there will be no truth about God given to the peole.
I would appreciate if you do not publish my comment, but I would like to know how to contact Dr. Fernando
Matt Stephens, United States
The world needs more humble men of God like you, who are not caught up in the hoopla of worldly success that so pervades our contemporary Western church culture. Thank you for your article.
I just preached on this very topic last night... after living it for the prior two days. Some of the suffering is the result of spiritual warfare. Satan is hell-bent on thwarting our God-honoring, kingdom advancing efforts. He launched an all-out assault on me two nights ago—body, mind, and spirit. By God's grace alone, I emerged victorious in mind and spirit when the daylight broke the horizon. But my body was left weary.
Thank you, again, for writing this. I needed to read it. I only wish I'd done so yesterday instead of today! :-)
God bless you,
Sione M. Veituna, Tonga/Fiji (South Pacific)
Thanks Mr. Fernando. Great to see a fellow Asbury Seminary Alumni as part of the greater team in changing the world for Christ. Not just the world per se but the Christian world as well... Your article is so relevant and every Christian workers should take heed of what you talk about. What you said in the following is so true... even here in the South Pacific.
"Young Christian workers who come back to Sri Lanka after studying in the West struggle with this. They are highly qualified, but our poor nation cannot afford to give them the recognition they think their qualifications deserve. They cannot use their gifts to the fullest because we cannot afford pure specialists. They struggle with frustration. ."
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on this issue.
Great article: esp on community and committment.
I hear world leading Christians make comments like "tell people who leave not to get hit by the door they are walking out". I see pastors getting rid of people who "dont have the right DNA." I watch young people getting removed from servant ministry because they dont have the right "brand of faith".
Waldean Wall, USA
I think we need to define biblical suffering. My understanding is that biblical suffering is the turmoil we experience as Christ's love compels us to embrace him as everything to us. This turmoil can take many different forms (physical suffering, emotional suffering, etc.). It's easy to think of suffering as some dreaded, bad thing that happens too us - but it's not. Suffering is a gift (Phil 1:29). Suffering is proof of Christ in us. The amazing thing about Jesus as our example is that he moved toward suffering voluntarily - not a burden - the glory ahead does not compare with sacrifice here.
Jorlyn Mae Empeno, Philippines
I know, suffering can be use to let us draw more closer to God and for those didn't understand God's love they will interpret it as God's own way of punishing them. Therefore, let us spread the Love of Christ for them to understand that there is a joy after sufferings.
I'm so blessed to read this article. Thanks!
Ofa Kaufusi, Kingdom of Tonga
Thanks for being here to help me learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit
God is truth. The devil is a liar. God cannot mask himself as a liar. The devil attempts to provide the illusion of truth, but under scritiny: he does not stand up.
Martin Luther was truly a man of God, but he was a man with finite knowledge and finite understanding - just like all of mankind. His point of view was quoted. It does not make his opinion truth. Only God's word is truth. The bible gives us God's truth. God says that we get both suffering and joy. God's word puts no great spiritual weight on either. It simply says joy feels better than suffering.
What we do in our lives, regardless of our station, to honor and glorify God is the weight. God says over and over that obedience is pleasing, greater than sacrifices. Knowledge of God is life - not head knowledge, but true solid relational knowledge of God is His desire for all of us. God is not as interest in the things that man considers to be 'religious' as He is in the condition of our hearts.
Peter Tan, Singapore
Thank you for bringing us back to the basics of discipleship. Indeed a culture of affluence had led many Christians (including those in my nation) to believe that suffering is not the will of God and that if we suffer as Christians, something must be terribly wrong with our lives. There is truly a need to instruct believers on the Way of the Cross. There is no Resurrection without the Cross!
I don't know much but here are some thoughts:
There is no suffering in love.
The plane of love is above the plane of suffering, that is where love takes us.
Service with love is always a pleasure, not a suffering.
It is always a pleasure to serve a lady?
colin spratt, Australia
Thanks so much for being here in our Lord's service, may he keep you encouraged so as not to lose hope , always.
colin , Australia
Thanks for being here, May God enrich you all and keep you from fear of failure.
Suzanne Pantzer, USA
What a shocking title/quote. May we have eyes to see the Truth and the Way and the Life...our Lord Jesus Christ...clearly.
John T Pettit Jr, United States
For nearly fourteen years I wrote a daily devotional. My address book included one Email address in Sri Lanka. I appreciated so much this persons replies when it suddenly stopped. I did not want to assume the worse, but I was concerned.
Peter Houston, South Africa
Yes! We need to regain a theology of discomfort, of the Cross, rather than Comfort. But the problem is that it's uncomfortable... Here is a blessing prayed at my wedding some years ago. Not the usual health and wealth and comfort blessing:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart;
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace;
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Dan Carter, USA
Again, Ajith knocks my socks off. I have followed his ministry for many years and am always blessed by his humility and perspective. I recently preached a series on I Peter and was intrigued by his declaration that Jesus suffered, giving us a model and a calling to do likewise. Additionally, Paul was informed, at the time of his calling that he would suffer for Jesus, which he alludes to in Colossians, in terms of filling up what is lacking of the afflictions of Christ. Comfort really has no meaning aside from affliction and suffering. Surely suffering for righteousness - perhaps even for our own sin and rebellion - proves to be redemptive in this age.
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