Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Preparations for Sufferings

"[W]here are they that sincerely resolve and prepare to be followers of them who through faith and patience 'inherit the promises' (Hebrews 6:12) or take them for an 'example of suffering, affliction, and of patience' (James 5:10)?" [1]*


The Discernment Research Group has been publishing warnings about heresies and the activities of leaders promoting heresies since 2005. Recently we have been repeatedly asked by many believers to delve into the issue of "how do I prepare for the coming persecution?" While the world faith leaders lead their flocks into an ecumenical global church of massive proportions, there is a tiny remnant within each historical tradition or evangelical group that maintains adherence to the Bible. Increasingly we are getting reports about these believers being censored, ostracized, mocked, ridiculed, slandered, shut down and shut out, threatened, and more. Every possible tactic of persecution, short of suffering in the flesh, is now rapidly coming upon those in America who truly stand on the Word of God.

There are those who still hold out that we can change America (legislation) back to a Christian nation, and that this will somehow change the Church at large. But this is a Dominionist pipe dream, born of the hope that by changing externals it will change the hearts of men. This is neither Scriptural nor facing reality. The truth is that religious leaders are rapidly taking the church into emerging spirituality, as we have so often documented in posts on this blog. In one sense these calls to change America are simply "bread and circus" for the people in the churches, giving them false hopes and entertaining them with something to do.

In contrast to this, and in the spirit of exhortation, the following are words of encouragement that tell us how to face the coming persecution without fear or dismay. Below is the first post in a series where we will excerpt, review, and summary discussing in our modern context the classic work of John Flavel "Preparations for Sufferings: or the Best Work in the Worst Times."[2] It is our hope and prayer that we will all stand firm in the days to come. May we be a light shining in darkness, living and preaching the true hope of the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ.


Preparing the Heart

Flavel launches his exhortation on "Preparations for Sufferings" with the following verse:

"Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)


We know from the words that Paul speaks immediately preceding this, recorded in Acts 20, that the Lord had prepared his heart for what was to come, for he testified to the disciples at Ephesus that

"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:22-24)

Commenting on God's providence to Paul in his impending persecution, Flavel notes that

"indeed it was his great advantage, that the will of God was so plainly and convincingly revealed to him touching this matter; for no sooner did he employ himself to obey this call of God, but he is presently assaulted by many strong temptations to decline it.

"The first rub he met in his way was from the disciples of Tyre, who pretending to speak by the Spirit, said unto Paul, that he should not go up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4). The Lord by this trying the spirit of his apostle much, as He did the young prophet coming from Judea to Bethel (1 Kings 13:18), but not with like success.

"The next discouragement was at Caesaria, where Agabus... takes Paul's girdle, and binding his own hands and feet with it, said, 'Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver [him] into the hands of the Gentiles.' (Acts 21:11)....

"But then, last of all, he meeteth with the sorest trial from his dearest friends, who fell upon him with passionate intreaties and many tears, beseeching him to decline that journey: O, they could not give up such a minister as Paul was! this even melted him down, and almost broke his heart..."


In our modern era we would recognize these various temptations as being forms of peer pressure. Seeing that Paul's friends were attempting to dissuade him from following the path that God had set out for him, Flavel notes that it is our duty to obey God. He states emphatically that 1) "divine precept, not providence, is to rule out our way of duty" and 2) "no hindrances or discouragements whatsoever will justify our neglect of a known duty."

Paul's response to these entreaties was simply that "I am ready." Flavel observes that Paul is saying that "God hath fitted and prepared my heart," and that it is a matter of his "will and resolution," that nothing can alter his fixed purpose. God has said, and he must obey.

How do we get to this point where we can stand ready and fitted, and with a fixed purpose of heart? Our prayer is that this series will edify and encourage you in these darkening days.


The Truth:

"And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:" (Hebrews 6:11)


Endnotes:
1. This quotation comes from Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. Ibid. To read more about John Flavel (1627-1691), visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Flavel

*
ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.