Cactus on Yellow Wall

YOUR COMPANION IN TRIBULATION

Every true Christian is expected to practice his faith in the enemy's territory. Apostle Paul compares the
life of a Christian to that of a battle. "Fight the good fight of faith" is his exhortation to Timothy (1 Tim.6:
12). After 31 years of eventful history with the Lord, Paul could say, "I have fought a good fight" (2
Tim.4: 7). The new convert, if sincere in his pursuit of the Lord, will soon discover the reality of this
fight. Friends turn into enemies and one is forced to repeat what Christ said of Himself. "They hated me
without a cause" (John 15:25).

Such was the lot that John and other Christians found themselves in. Instead of looking upon the godly
John and other Christians of holy faith as assets, Domitian declared them to be traitor and criminals. He
banished John to the lonely island of Patmos, but God encouraged His servant by granting vision and
revelations regarding the future. Though written 20 centuries ago, the book of Revelation is prophetic and
futuristic in nature. God's plan for the future is laid bare before our eyes. What blessed hope it offers to
every persecuted Christian!

The Triune God appeared to John and he wrote what he saw. The way this aged Apostle introduces
himself is worthy of note. Rev .1: 9 reads thus: "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in
tribulation, and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ". Though the only surviving Apostle, he
made no mention of his privileged position. He was content to say, "I am your brother" and then adds, "1
am your companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ". His companionship
with all believers is based on three unassailable facts; tribulation, kingdom and patience. In the order of
experience, we presently go through tribulation and patience, awaiting the kingdom. One in tribulation
and affliction! One in patience and waiting! One in rulership and kingdom!

One in tribulation! Companion in tribulation! Instead of highlighting his own suffering, John linked
himself to all Christians who suffered like-wise. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "There hath no temptation
taken you but such as is common to man" (1Cor.10: 13). Peter, who avoided the very subject of
sufferings in the Gospels, had this to write. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which
is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (1 Pet.4:12) and then in the following
chapter added that "...the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world"(5:9).

Job 14:1 makes a sweeping statement. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble".
In a sin -infested, Satan -ruled world. Inhabited by the fallen Adamic race, rest, peace andJ1appiness are
always elusive. Every human undergoes suffering in varying intensities. The question therefore to be
raised is not, "Am I suffering" but "Am I suffering aright for the right reasons?"

The Holy Scripture makes a threefold classification of all sufferers. Firstly, the sinner without God (Psa.1
07: 17). "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted". Being at war
with God no man can be at peace with himself or others. All our peace treaties fail only because we are
trying to achieve the impossible -peace without the Prince of peace. It is said that since dating began
mankind has seen only 292 calendar years without war. If riches, education, civilization could make us
all good people then our present century must be the happiest of all generations! Prov.13: 15 tells us, that
"the way of transgressors is hard" and Job 9:4 asks us a question, "who hath hardened himself, against
him, and hath prospered?" The evident answer is, "No one". The sinner's suffering is unproductive and
destructive.

Then the Bible secondly speaks of the carnal believer's suffering. In 1 Pet. 4:15 Peter draws our attention
to four kinds of carnal believers. "But let none of you suffer as a murderer or as a thief, or as an evildoer.
or as a busybody in other men's matters". How plain and outspoken is Peter! Here are believers in
affliction -all unnecessary. Here is an avoidable suffering but the believer in carnality exposes himself to
these woes and sorrows.

Firstly, let none of you suffer as a murderer. 1 John 3: 15 settles the question as to who a murderer is:
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer". Hatred is an emotion that may not find expression in angry
words or murderous action. God judges you and me at the "seed level" of thought life. The police force
and the court of justice have a list of recognizable and palpable offences. None of them ever enter, much
less judge, one's thoughts or heart life. Our differences in background and temperaments bring friction in
corporate life. We are not faulted for disagreeing with our brothers. Even Paul and Barnabas, Peter and
Paul had their differences. God does not hold us faulty for disagreement but He certainly holds us guilty
for harbouring hatred, which is, but a first step to all other obnoxious evils of gossip, slander and evil
scheming. We can never say who is right -whether Paul or Barnabas in the matter of John Mark. All that
we learn from the Scripture is that the sharp contention led to a division and God advanced His cause
through two missionary teams instead of one! In the end the same John Mark comes back to Paul as a
useful instrument, for Paul wrote to Timothy, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to
me for the ministry" (2 Tim.4: 11). How often hatred, ill feeling in our hearts lead us to the character
-assassination of others! Very often the battleground of mud slinging at each other is the sacred pulpit
and the innocent congregation who suffer quiet martyrdom at the hand of the hate -filled preacher.

The first recorded murder is that of Cain who killed Abel. It was committed out of hatred; whereas God
planned and neatly executed the offering of His beloved Son after centuries of planning. He was crucified
on the Cross of Calvary to deliver sinners from the pit of corruption. Isaiah says, "...thou hast in love to
my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption" (38:17). The Scripture says, "Christ also loved the church,
and gave himself for it" (Eph.5: 25). God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son! Such an act of
love has no parallel.

All murders are committed out of hatred for human life and dignity. Some use weapons and others use
words. Weapons inflict pain for a short time; words for a lifetime. "Thy tongue deviseth mischief's; like a
sharp razor, working deceitfully" (Psa.52: 2). "...Sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and
their tongue a sharp sword"(Psa.57:4). "Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips:
for who, say they, doth hear? But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them" (Psa.59: 7,8).Why? Psa.50:
19-22givesthe answer. "Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and
speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I
kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set
them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there
be none to deliver". Sharp indictment indeed!

Think of Absalom and the way he discredited his own father .He presented his own father as an
indifferent ruler. To everyone who sought help from the king, he met, embraced, kissed and said, "See,
thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king 10 hear thee" (2 Sam.15: 3) and
then immediately added, "Oh that I were made judge in the land that every man ...might come unto me,
and I would do him justice! " (15:4). He stole the hearts by subtle conspiracy.

Think of the elder son in Luke 15:30. The father ran to meet the repentant son, received him into full
fellowship and began to work on total restoration. That is the heart of a father. The elder son was so
annoyed at the compassion of his father that he refused to go into the house, stayed on the street and
shouted in every one's hearing: "...this thy son...which hath devoured thy living with harlots...". The elder
brother's accusation was totally on assumption. He was unaware of the confession, repentance and
cleansing of his brother. He chose to make public the sins of his brother. Beware how the story ends! The
elder son outside the home! Many of us may not be guilty of the sins of the flesh, but how often we are
guilty of the sins of the spirit! 2 Cor. 7: 1 exhorts us, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God"!

Think also of Diotrephes in third John. Here is a "Me first" spiritual leader who threw his weight around
in bloated self- importance. He was a self-styled dictator who loved preeminence and thus indulged in
"prating " or using nonsensical words. He did such character -assassination of John the beloved apostle,
that he poisoned others from accepting his leadership! This was the story of the first century church and
the lot of the Apostle who walked with Christ.

Absalom, the unnamed elder son and Diotrephes often pass off as full -fledged lawful members of the
Body of Christ. They act like cancer, eating away the vitality of the body and indulge in character
-assassination. As to what happened to Diotrephes we are not told. About the elder son we are told that he
remained outside the home and as for Absalom, the Bible tells us in 2 Sam. 14:25, "But in all Israel there
was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of
his head there was no blemish in him!" How attractive is his physical history! How different was his
spiritual history! Armed with hate and murder, evil speaking and subtlety, he exalted himself to be king
and waged a war against his own father. His end! 2Sam.18: 10-17.Absalom riding on a mule got his head
caught in the branch of an oak, hung between heaven and earth, and was shot through by three simple
arrows. He was thrown like a despised log into a pit and a great heap of stones laid upon him. All Israel
fled, everyone to his tent. With no mourners he departed most ignobly without being desired. Let no man,
no Christian, suffer as a murderer!

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.   Matthew 24: 42