The Banner Of Truth 2014
Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. (Psalm 60:4 )

"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
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An Interpretation of Kingdom Suffering
By Al Stoner

 

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (II Th. 1:4-5).

           

The Phenomenon of Suffering for the Believer.  The suffering of which we speak is real, it is substantive, and not imagined.  It is the like experience of all who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That, in itself, is a witness to its reality.  The suffering is identified and witnessed to numerous times in the Word of God. It has been the common lot of all, who in prospect of the coming Redeemer, have believed in God since the world began. Those who are now living by faith are also suffering with Christ (cf. Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:11-12).  His suffering to put away sins ended when He gave up the ghost on Golgotha (cf. Mk. 15:37; Lk. 23:46; Jn. 19:30).  Now He suffers in fellowship with those who are suffering for His Name’s sake.  He is “able to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities”, having been “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (cf. Heb. 4:15).
 
These sufferings are called “the afflictions of Christ” [like His in kind, but certainly not in magnitude], which are “filled up” by the believer in Jesus (cf. Col. 1:24).  This filling up does not add anything whatsoever to Jesus’ sacrifice in our behalf.  This believer’s suffering is a readying of him or her for eternity, and for the world to come.  The suffering also enables him or her to effectually minister to those who share the same glorious destiny.  The suffering is “for His body's sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
 
That Which Causes the Suffering. Encounters with things temporal and things contrary to the will of God are primary causes for the suffering of which we speak. The confrontations with, or recollections of, misrepresentations of the truth will often bring on the suffering.  Those who have believed on the Son of God are presently being cultured to live and reign with Christ in an eternal world, in a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 
 
Living by faith (Rom. 1:17) and having the heavenly treasure in an earthen vessel (II Cor. 4:7) make for conduciveness to frailty and fragility. “We are weak in Him” (II Cor. 13:4). “We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:11).   Confrontation with, and involuntary exposure to, things that are not right, and things that are not true are a cause of suffering for the believer in Christ.  As one grows in the faith, and increases in the knowledge of God, one’s sensitivity to these matters is greatly heightened.  Righteous souls, like Lot’s, are vexed from day to day by the unlawful deeds of the ungodly.  And such ones stand in need of constant renewal of spirit.
 
An additional dimension of suffering is caused by exposure to things that are temporal, and are passing away.  That which those of this world take great delight in can no longer satisfy those who are believing in Christ. We that are in Christ “have eternal life” (Jn. 3:15; I Jn. 5:13), and “have tasted of the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5).  As we live and walk by faith, our spirits are being cultured for eternity, and things that are everlasting.  “The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I Jn. 2:17). The things of which we speak here are not only Bible teaching; they are also absolute reality. Both the consideration and memory of things and places related to the present world no longer satisfy, and sometimes even become a burden, and source of vexation and casting down.
 
The Nature of the Suffering.  Suffering is an appointed work that is done, for the most part, alone.  The aloneness is one of the things that makes suffering to be what it is.  In this acute aloneness we are given occasional confirmations that others have passed through the same troublesome waters, and particularly our exalted Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is comfort.  That which comforts the believer is not merely relief from trouble, but also the confirmation, that the trouble presently experienced is substantively akin to that which Jesus suffered, and that greatly sweetens the cup of suffering.  If one can but see the connection of his or her suffering with Christ’s suffering, there can be rejoicing that one has been counted worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake.
 
For the one who is walking in the narrow way that leads unto life (cf. Mt. 7:14), there are frequent inward buffetings, chastenings, afflictions, groanings, times of being misunderstood, yearning, weeping, and sighing: all of which are expressions denoting either the cause, or the result, of suffering for the believer in Christ.  Sometimes in our troubles it seems like we are being “emptied from vessel to vessel” (Jer. 48:11), to borrow some language from the Prophets.
 
But we praise God, that He Himself is “the God of all comfort”, who comforts “us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Cor. 1:4).  Prior to sins being put away by the Lord Jesus Christ, God, in keeping with His own holy Character, was never able to express Himself freely in this consolatory manner.  Because of the evident difference between God’s dealings with men before and after sins were put away by Christ, men have attempted to explain this away by saying, “That was the God of the Old Testament,” implying that the God of the New Covenant is not the same.  But it is indeed the same God over both Covenants, both old and new.  The difference is that now the Lamb of God has come and has taken away the sins of the world.  The so-called “God of the Old Testament” is the One who sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
 
The Reason for the Suffering. The suffering is brought on by a fundamental clash in values (good and evil), and an aggressive conflict between the new creature, and “all that is in the world” (I Jn. 2:15).  Consider the following affirmations: 1] “The whole world lieth in wickedness”, or “in the wicked one”, as John declared (I Jn. 5:19).  2] And the world is passing away (I Jn. 2:17).  3] “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:17).  These three very real circumstances make for constant grating against the soul of him or her that is living by faith in the Son of God.
 
Suffering, a Manifest Token. Those things which often are the most troubling and unsettling to the one who is fighting the good fight of faith have been made to him or her a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.  A token is a readily perceptible sign of something that is less evident, or presently unapparent.  In this case, troubles encountered in the warfare of faith are precursors of a dominion and reign in the world to come.  “If we suffer with Him (Jesus), we shall also reign with Him.”   They are antecedents to the coming glorified state.  “For I reckon that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  –Al Stoner
 

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"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;  and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).