Trials & Tribulation

And So You're Feeling Like Job Today?


The computer world loves acronyms. PGP is the acronym for a popular form of encryption that protects data fairly well. PGP is "Pretty Good Protection". It won't withstand high end cracking, but it does screen out all but the most sophisticated hackers.

The Christian world is loaded with confessed believers who have wrapped themselves in what appears to be pretty good protection. These are believers who attend church most Sundays, keep the ten commandments, give to charity and occasionally attend a church sponsored seminar. Some attend services every week, as well as Bible studies and church activities. Some talk loudly of Christ, and always vote moral majority. Many are sure of their salvation, and all of them are sure of their protection from God's wrath.

This complacent Christianity would be OK accept for one problem: We are in a war. In a war, those on the field who aren't looking for the enemy, aren't keeping their weapons ready, and who cry loudly when they are wounded are a greater burden than blessing. As a result the enemy has built strongholds within mainline Christian churches and not just the lunatic fringe or the cults.

1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: KJV

I was raised to be a pretty good Christian. I was taken to church every Sunday and my parents did a good job of teaching me right from wrong. At a young age I got the urge to shake the tree a bit. I poked at the theology of the church, challenge Sunday school teachers, and to point out those areas where pretty good Christians appeared to be compromised by the world at large. Like many in the sixties, I wrote off the body of Christ and tried to forge my own holiness, apart from the church and all that it taught. I was part of large move away from the tepid commitment of our parents towards some brave new world of absolutes. Unfortunately many of us found absolutes. I joined a cult that preached the second coming. Some sought answers in other forms of political or religious extremes. Some sought their answer in the new hedonism: sex, drugs and rock & roll.

Large numbers of my generation abandoned the pretty good Christian model to try to forge some new paradigm. Most of us came to realize that our new models were seriously flawed. Some have gone back to their pretty good Christian churches, which I tried for a while. Some have tried to deepen their Christian experience. All too many have become lost and cynical. Many point eloquently to the many flaws exhibited by the body of Christ today and throughout history. Christians themselves have built a bulwark against the Kingdom of God.

The pretty good protection of complacent Christianity is entirely inadequate defense against the enemies of God and humanity. Despite many decades of prosperous and peaceful times, most Christians are burdened with hidden anger and resentment, unrelieved grief, self-pity or worse. Many have opened themselves to corrosive thoughts, ideas and practices through which internal tormentors work on them or their children, requiring anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, tranquilzers or other drugs just to function as normal human beings. For such Christians, joy is illusive.

Pretty good Christianity does not work. Worse, pretty good Christianity provides a stumbling block to those diligently seeking the joy of the freedom in Christ.

The Cup of Christ Jesus

The bitter cup that Jesus accepted in the Garden of Gethsemane, (Matt. 26:39-42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11), is the same cup poured upon the disciples that they might pour out unto all the world.

When the mother of James and John ask Jesus to elevate her sons, Jesus reveals their future. Though they don't yet understand what Jesus is telling them that the spirit of God will pour down upon them, and they will drink His cup. But the sweetness of the cup of the Lord is also filled with bitterness. As Jesus knew that He would have to suffer, so too, he knew that the Lord's cup would require suffering of the disciples.

Matthew 20:22 &23: "But Jesus answered and said, 'Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?...Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with:'" KJV (also: Mark 10:38 &39.)

When Jesus offers His cup to the disciples at the Last Supper, He is laying His hands upon them in the same manner in which Abraham blessed Issaac and Issaac blessed Jacob and so on. Jesus is blessing the disciples with His continuing presence that they might come into the sonship of God. While the disciples where still bewildered, Jesus had a very clear vision of what was to happen and what he wanted the disciples to do.

Matthew 26:27-29, &31-32: "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.' ...Then saith Jesus unto them, 'All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.'" KJV (also: Mark 14:23 and Luke 22:17-20)

Jesus knows that they will flee. And so they are instructed to regroup and go to Galilee where He will meet them. For forty days the disciples cower and hide. They do manage to gather, but not in Galilee. At the close of Acts, chapter 1, we see that Peter is speaking to the gathered disciples who number about one-hundred and twenty. They come together finally in one accord and in one place.

Acts 2:1: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." KJV

Now, God is ready to pour Himself out upon them. The transformation is nothing short of miraculous. Peter is suddenly able to heal (Acts 3:7). Peter and John boldly witness of Jesus(Acts 3:12-26). When they are brought to trial for their preaching, even the rulers of the temple where amazed.

Acts 4:13: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." KJV

Peter and the other Apostles openly defy the high council to witness to Jesus in the temple (Acts 5:26-36). The fear that once filled them is now completely gone. The high council, in an attempt to put an end to their teachings, has the Apostles beaten. The effect is not what they expected.

Acts 5:41: "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." KJV

The disciples are now joyful that they are able to suffer for Christ. They had begun following Jesus to be relieved of illness and suffering. Now they gladly followed to suffer for others. Of the original Apostles, all are believed to have been put to death accept John who finished his years in exile on the bleak and rocky island of Patmos.

Perhaps no one provides a better example of embracing the cup of Christ than the Apostle Paul. Following his baptism of the Holy Spirit on the road to Emmaus, he proceeds to become a fierce advocate for Christ, unblanched by beatings, stonings or any other opposition. By the end of his life he able to point out a long list of sufferings and scars. Having drunk the cup of Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul gives himself willingly to "being poured out like a drink offering" (Phillipians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6, NIV) for others. Despite the fact that Paul's vision of God draws him to heaven, yet he endures to serve God's will for others.

Phillippians 2:17: "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you." NIV
2 Timothy 4:6: "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure." NIV

Prosperity Does Not Equal the Kingdom

Facing Trials

Acts 5:40-41: "when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." KJV

Righteousness or the Appearance of Righteousness

The Heart of the Coming Storm

Only the privileged few come to the heart of the coming storm. By dwelling in the center, they are spared the tribulation's agony. They are not spared the tribulation.

Revelations 7:14: "And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." KJV

*All Bible quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

Wm W Wells – Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Copyright © 2000-2002 Wm W Wells. May be copied freely without alteration.