What did Jesus really ask his disciples to do when he said, “Follow me”? We might answer this in different ways. We could say he was asking them to become his pupils. After all, a disciple is one who follows. We could also say he was calling them to be fishers of men. That is what Jesus specifically said he would teach his disciples to be (Matthew 4:19). However, would any of us say that Jesus was asking his disciples to live a life of suffering? Would any of us say that Jesus still asks us to live a life of suffering for his name’s sake?
Over the last two weeks, I have written on “the zone of entire consecration.” In his book, The Secret of Spiritual Power, G.D. Watson defines entire consecration as “…giving ourselves up a free-will offering to God, of making a quitclaim deed of ourselves and all our effects” (61). He goes on to explain that there are three “great lines of consecration” by which we enter “the zone of entire consecration.” In part one of this series, we considered the first great line of consecration: “to be anything the Lord wants you to be.” Last week, we looked at the second line of consecration: “to do anything the Lord wants you to do” (66). Today, I want to share some thoughts on the third great line of consecration:
“To suffer anything the Lord wants you to suffer.”
I think we would all agree that the call to discipleship is a call to bear the cross of Christ; and, in that understanding, we would agree that that means we should live a life fully surrendered and consecrated to God. However, in our considerations of what it means to be wholly consecrated to God, do we include suffering? In other words, what if to suffer for Christ’s sake is one of the primary aspects of what it means to bear the cross of Christ?
Consider this, when the obscure Damascene disciple, Ananias, was directed by Jesus to minister to the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, he was told, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Everyone likes the first part of these verses. Can you imagine being chosen to stand before kings for the sake of Christ; traveling around the known world, preaching to large crowds? That would be a major resume enhancer. It would definitely get you speaking invitations to the latest conferences. It would be living the dream!
But what about the second part, verse 16: “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My names sake”? Do you realize that Jesus didn’t present his call to Paul as the fulfillment of some dream or a great life that he would really want to live? Do you realize that from the very beginning, Jesus called Paul to suffer for his name’s sake? And, can you imagine being Ananias, fearfully conveying the message, “Hi, my name is Ananias. I was sent to you by the Jesus who appeared to you while you were traveling here to Damascus. Jesus has sent me to tell you that he has chosen you to be a world renown preacher of the gospel, and you’re going to endure major suffering in the process”? That’s not exactly the most seeker-sensitive message around. What if we were to take this approach in our soul-winning efforts? “Hi, my name is Pastor Mark. I’d like to invite you to come to our church and hear about how much you must suffer for Jesus. Can we count on you for this Sunday?” That would be absurd! But is it absurd? NO! In fact, it is a reality that every believer must surrender to if they are to live in “the zone of entire consecration.” The Lord calls us to suffer for his name’s sake. The suffering will take different forms at different seasons, but we will suffer.
In Mark 6:53 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” These words obviously conjure up for us images of the cross; images of intense suffering. And, what was the response of his disciples? It offended them, and they said, “This is a hard saying…” (John 6:60-61). John then sadly states, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).
However, there was a different response from the twelve. After the crowds “went back”, he turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you also want to go away” (John 6:67)? But these men had reconciled with the fact that to follow Jesus meant they would enduring suffering. Peter boldly answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69). In other words, their faith in who Jesus was, was so certain, that they were willing to suffer anything for his name’s sake.
Today, Jesus is still showing those of us who would follow him “how many things [we] must suffer for [His] name’s sake.” And, if we would enter “the zone of entire consecration”, we must surrender to suffer anything he wants us to suffer.
What has the Lord shown you that you must suffer for his name’s sake? Leave your comment below.
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All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.