431) Patience in Suffering

By Johann Gerhard (1582-1637), a German Lutheran pastor and professor of theology.  He wrote dozens of books, including Sacred Meditations, a collection of 51 meditations published in 1606.  This piece was taken from the chapter 41 of that book, The Principles of Christian Patience.

          Rest in the Lord, and bear patiently the cross imposed on you by God.

     Think about the terrible sufferings of Christ.  He suffered for all, even for those who despised Him and trampled him underfoot.  He was delivered up, stricken, and forsaken by His heavenly Father.  He was deserted by the disciples whom he loved, and rejected by his own people, the Jews, who chose to have the robber Barabbas released instead of Him.  He bore the sins of all mankind, so the whole human race is guilty of sending him to His death.  And, he suffered in every conceivable way.  His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; He sweat great drops of blood; His head was crowned with thorns; His lips tasted the bitter gall; His hands and feet were pierced with nails; His side was lacerated with the spear; His whole body was scourged and stretched upon the cross.  Jesus suffered hunger, thirst, cold, contempt, poverty, insult, wounds, and the awful death on the cross.

     So consider how unseemly it would be for our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer such great pains, and then for us, his servants, to expect and demand that we live in undisturbed joy!  Oh, how unseemly it would be that our Savior should be severely punished for our sins, and then that we should continue to delight in them!  No, but rather as it was necessary for Christ to suffer and then to enter into his heavenly glory (Luke 24:26), so also we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).  

     Let us remember that as children of God we are heirs not only of the joy and glory of the future life, but also of the sorrow and the suffering of this present life, for “the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Heb. 12:5-6).  Great, indeed, are the mysterious influences and blessings of our afflictions, since by them God calls us to contrition for our sins, to a true and holy fear of himself, and to the exercise of patience.

     Think of the inconceivable reward held out to you!  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).  Whatever our sufferings may be here, it is only for a time, but the glory that awaits us is for ever and ever.  God knows perfectly all our adversities, and will one day bring them all to an end; and God will then wipe all the tears from our eyes (Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4).

     To this eternal glory, O Lord Jesus, lead us on and on, and to its blissful enjoyment finally bring us!  Amen.

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Acts 14:21-22  —  (Paul and Barnabas) preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.  Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Romans 8:18  —  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Psalm 30:5  —  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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Grant, almighty God, since the dullness and harshness of our flesh is so great that it is needful for us to be afflicted in various ways, that we may patiently bear your chastisement, and, under a deep feeling of sorrow, flee to your mercy given to us in Christ.  And then, not depending upon the earthly blessings of this perishable life, but relying only upon your Word, we may go forward in the course of our lives; until at length we are gathered to that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

–John Calvin  (1509-1564)