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When Christians Suffer

Greetings All,
     This week's "thought" is about enduring afflictions. It comes from a book entitled:"When Christians Suffer," written by Thomas Case (1598-1682).  And what makes his writing strike home with greater force to comfort the afflicted, is the fact that the author does not write from the soft, cushy, air conditioned setting of a university or church office.

It was written from the prison cell into he had been cast in in 1648, in the Tower of London, for being true to Christ and his conscience at a time when many others willingly compromised their faith, and the truth, in order to keep their pastoral positions and possessions.
     As Thomas Manton (a friend of Mr. Case) wrote: "To treat of afflictions when we ourselves flourish and abound in ease and plenty is more like the orator than the preacher, and the brain than the heart." 
     Case, then, writes from the heart, not just the mind; from experience, not mere theory.  He lost his charge (church) and possessions, and thus he writes from the perspective of one who learned these truths firsthand.  I offer you six of the insights he gained, hoping they will encourage you.  For as Case himself put it: "Discourses on affliction can never be out of season..."  Enjoy.

     "The FIRST lesson God teaches us by affliction is to have compassion for those who are in a suffering condition.  We are prone to be insensitive when we are at ease in Zion!  This is partly out of the delicacy of self-love which makes us unwilling to sour our own sweet blessings with the bitter taste of a strangers' afflictions. For this very reason God brings a variety of afflictions and sorrows upon His children. He suffers them to be plundered, banished, imprisoned, or reduced to great extremities, that by their own experience they may learn to draw out their souls to the hungry, and to be able to say within themselves, "I know what it is to be plundered, starved or cast into prison"...
     SECOND:  Through sufferings God teaches us to prize our outward mercies and comforts more, and yet to dote upon them less.  We need to be more thankful for them, and yet less ensnared by them.  We can undervalue our mercies even while we glut ourselves with them.  Behold, while men fill themselves with the mercies of God, they can neglect the God who gave them. When God is most generous in remembering us, we are often most ungrateful in forgetting Him. To enable us to put a true value on the mercies that our foolish, unthankful hearts delight in, God often takes them away, that we may learn to prize them by having to do without them....
      FOURTH:  In affliction we learn humility and meekness of spirit.  God led Israel into the wilderness to humble them. Pride is a disease that naturally runs in our veins, and it is nourished by ease and prosperity. To tame this pride of spirit God takes a believer into the house of correction, and puts his feet in the stocks, and there teaches him to know himself (Deut. 8:3).  A man by trouble comes to know his own heart, which in prosperity he was a stranger to.  He then sees the weakness of his grace, and the strength of his corruption, and this lays him in the dust... Truly when a man has learned this lesson, he is not far from deliverance...
     SIXTH:  The school of affliction teaches us to pray.  He that has never prayed before will pray in affliction... Affliction causes men to pray more frequently.  God's people are full of the spirit of prayer, and God draws it out by affliction... In prosperity every trivial matter distracts us from prayer, but affliction keeps us on our knees... In affliction we learn to pray more fervently and earnestly...
     FIFTEENTH:  God teaches in affliction the one thing that is necessary...  Affliction reveals how much we were mistaken about our "necessities."  In our health, strength, and liberty, we think this thing must be done, or that thing must be done. We think riches necessary, honors necessary, large houses necessary... and the like. But in the day of adversity when death looks us in the face, when God causes the horrors of the grave, the dread of the last judgment, and the terrors of eternity to pass before us, then we can put our mouths in the dust, smite upon our breast and confess: "O how I have been mistaken!  O how I have fed upon ashes and deceived my heart.  How I have made the unimportant the main thing, and the main thing unimportant."  In a word, Christ alone is the one thing necessary and all other things, at best, are maybe's (Philippians 3:8-9)...
     TWENTY-FIRST:  In the day of affliction God reveals to the soul the fullness of Jesus Christ.  There is an infinite fullness in Jesus Christ. There never was a king anointed with such power. There never was a prophet with such wisdom. There never was a priest with such grace and righteousness. God gave Him the Spirit without limit (John 3:34). It is infinite fullness which fills Jesus Christ as Mediator, that we of His fullness might receive grace for grace. But we do not always have a capacity to receive or to see that fullness. The reason is that we fill ourselves so much with the world in our prosperity. We seek the pleasures and profits of the world, and have no room for Christ... The world glitters in our eyes and there is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him (Is. 53:2).  We are very prone to love the world and be satisfied with earthly things themselves, instead of these leading us to be more fitted to walk with God.  The greater our love for earthly things, the less our delight in Jesus Christ.  This is our sin and folly -- that we do not fear the unlawful use of lawful things.  We do not see the snare for us to be encouraged to love earthly things in a way that only God should be loved. This brings great reproach to Jesus Christ. 
     But when God spreads sackcloth over all the beauty of the earthly, and by some flashes of lightning strikes us blind to the world, then we can discover the beauty and excellence of Christ. For His beauty infinitely transcends all the beauty and excellence of the world.  When the God of heaven has famished all our gods on earth, and has starved us of our creature-comforts, in any way whatsoever, then we can hunger after and taste the sweetness and the fullness which is in Jesus Christ... Truly God sees it absolutely necessary to exercise us with a severe discipline that He may endear our hearts to Jesus Christ, and seclude us from the world, that we may study and know deeper of His fullness."
     The book has over 40 things that God can teach us through affliction. I have listed only six (and even those not in full).  Should you desire to read the rest, it would be well worth the time it would take to read this small (three inch by four inch), short (122 page) booklet.  For if you have not suffered, someone you know has, or is, and the insights learned by Mr Case can help comfort and give hope to all who may be afflicted.
In the Bonds of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff