I am currently reading Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper. Chapter 3 is on suffering. As I think about my life as a American Christian, sometimes I feel bad (honestly) that I don’t suffer. There are so many “comforts in the den” as Piper puts it. I can pray for missions, yes. But it just doesn’t seem the same to me. Second Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Where is it? How does it come here in America?
Piper writes that it can “range from the slightest ostracism to agony of torture and death” (80). I have been ridiculed before and yelled at, but not ostracised. And lately, I have noticed myself prayer for suffering, as if to prove my own faith and endurance — by God’s grace — to myself. And to show the world how beautiful, worthy, and joyful Christ is. I want to be like Paul when he wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24). Piper then writes, “Christ’s afflictions are not lacking in their atoning sufficiency. They are lacking in that they are not known and felt by people who were not at the cross.” I want to make the afflictions of Christ known by suffering, in whatever way God has planned.
I take this all in as I prepare to go to South Africa this July and then move there next January for a year. If you haven’t heard, there has been a mass exodus of Zimbabweans to South Africa because of financial instability. Instability is doesn’t do justice to the situation. The inflation rate, believe it or not, is over 1 million percent. The cost of a chicken is 12 million Zimbabwe dollars. A loaf of bread costs what 12 new cars did ten years ago. Most of the people have fled to Johannesburg, about 45 miles from Pretoria, where I will be. There have been mob riots at police stations and according to the story in the link above 42 people have been killed. Right now, South Africa and the surrounding area is a region of unrest. It is in turmoil. The people there need a living hope. They need an imperishable treasure. They need Jesus.
And as hard as it is to confess to the Lord, I am willing to go there, make his name famous, and risk persecution and suffering to do it. Though I won’t be in the midst of the situation in Johannesburg, no doubt the effects will be felt in all of South Africa’s major cities.
Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
– Hebrews 13:12-14