(Exploit of a wounded soldier) Marseilles. France.
I am reminded of a story about a man who carried many soldiers from the line of fire. He himself was wounded, no less than those whom he helped. This is a powerful example of how one can serve the Lord enduring deepest suffering himself.
I know such people in our church, in our brethren. I have also met those who had way less problems than these people, but they were unable to work. There is such a wrong stereotype when Christians think that if we have come to God, then everything has to be all right. But when a problem, pressure, attack, loss come – they sink into deep disappointment and stop serving, waiting for recovery. But I am inspired by those who continue to serve, being wounded, suffering. This is an example of heroism.
Some wait for years till they get better. They lost their calling, they dropped out of the race. But there are those who stand so firmly. When your child died of cancer, and then the next year the beloved husband left, but the sister never even took a vacation – she is standing and serving to this day – this is strength! When your marriage collapsed, your wife betrayed you and went to another man, and this man continues serving the Lord the way he did before, he continues to preach and stand at the pulpit, pray for people, years go by, and he continues to do his work faithfully – this is an exploit.
“It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1). Each of us has areas in which we continue to struggle – health, marriage, finance, children. The Lord didn’t promise He would make us untouchable in this sense. Jesus Hhimself was the “Man of Sorrows” – a Man of suffering, the King of suffering. He served in those sufferings. He was rejected, He took this contempt, and on the Cross changed places with us. This is the essence of the Gospel.
We must grow in goodness: not all people are strong, there are people with a low pain threshold, they can’t endure pain. But perhaps, there’s no threshold, there’s patience. Much can be attributed to this pain threshold like to Satan. Or another version: «God made me this way with low threshold» But maybe we can talk about patience and longsuffering? The ability to endure suffering for Christ’s sake, not because of the pain threshold.
This leads us to the topic of the holy fools, which is unpopular. It will never give thousands of subscribers. Everybody wants rapid success and nobody wants to endure pain. But it’s good that we’re going through it.
The soul hurts much more than the body. Especially when you are experiencing betrayal or a loss. There are times when you are simply dying, your soul hurts so much. You want to sleep, but sleep flees from you, you want to wake up, but you don’t want a new day, because you don’t want to live – this is the way soul hurts. Jesus went through all this suffering. But He continued to save this world.
Once He said to the disciples the following words: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death… I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I distressed I am till it is accomplished.” The disciples walked side by side, but, like little children, they didn’t understand, they only heard that voice speaking from incredible depths. But Jesus couldn’t get comforT in His disciples. He spoke to them, but He was alone. This is God’s loneliness of the King of suffering, Who carried this Cross. He was the Man of Sorrows, all wounded, unjustly betrayed, the King of love. There was no reason why He could deserve all this suffering. But He carried it, suffering, and still continued to serve.
When He hung on the Cross, He began to take care of people. It is impossible to imagine what a pain it is to hang on the Cross! But He begins to look for His mother with His eyes, finds also John and says: “Son, this is your mother,” tells her through pain and groanings “Woman, this is your son.” He passes on the legacy so that they may be granted wellbeing. This is incredible! The criminals scold around Him, Christ turns his head to one of them, who believed, says: “Now you will be with Me in Paradise!” Jesus cares, He serves from the Cross.
It doesn’t matter how you suffer, it is important what you do in this suffering. And many are ready to give everything – any money to avoid them. I don’t judge anyoen who suffers pain; no one who suffers should be judged. But each of us behaves differently. We dodn’t know ourselves, only the human spirit knows, what is inside man.
Paul and Silas got into prison, their feet were fastened into stocks, but they sang there. The only thing they could give to God was their song. In this kind of suffering they still served .
If to have us in one place and give each one the same dose of suffering – one will rise and serve, and the other will complain that they are not serving him. I was told a story of persecuted brothers, how, during a famine, they decided to give their sugar to the children. But of them one young brother got angry that having no children, why he should give sugar. And in before all the people he fell and was eaten by worms instantly, like Herod. This is how it happens. God does things like this.
When under pressure all people behave differently. One gathers his last strength to help his brother. And the other groans and exaggerates his suffering. This is where real faith begins.
Boasting is not useful at all, it is a dangerous occupation. This is insanity and foolishness. Fools boast. It seems to them that it is prestigious. Paul was a seasoned warrior. And he knew that pride got in the way of receiving revelation. We will start to brag about our spirituality. Therefore, he put himself in a position of humility. He says that he still needs to come to the visions and revelations of the Lord.
I want to come where we haven’t been. Therefore, I do my best to preach the pure Word. It doesn’t matter if it is positive or not, popular or not. I know that serving in suffering is one of the best things. You don’t wait for the suffering to end, you don’t wait for someone to set you free, but you rise and serve – with pain, fear to die, bad mood, etc. If there is no healing evangelist and the pain continues – get up and serve!
I remember one day my brother said to me: “I can’t take it anymore!” Some kind of another attack came forth, and there was no more strength. And then I answered him: “What difference does it make where you die — if you’re going to die — lying on a couch or with a sword in battle?! Let’s die with the sword in battle, so that the sword sticks to the hand! Let us die in the battle together, like warriors, let us die in the battle! Strengthen yourself! Be strong! Be strong! Be strong!” I began to shout to him in the spirit. And he got up, woke up and said: “You have strengthened me! Yes! Let’s die like warriors! ” This is prescious. This is life.
How long will you last? What is your patience threshold? The threshold of love? The threshold of constancy in love? The threshold is to be to the end, to death. Usually I sign the Bible like this: “Be faithful to death.” I think this is the best wish.
And I will ask you, brother and sister: “Will you be faithful to death? Will I see you in heaven? Will you be faithful to death.” As Christ was, “until the death on the cross.”
For me, there is nothing more important – when you yourself are a sufferer, but you keep serving. No man experienced greater pain than Jesus did. But He served us. Think about this, so as not to be exhausted in your faith. “Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12: 3).
“And I know such a man – whether in the body, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard unexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast of such a person; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities”(2 Corinthians 12:3-5).
Paul holds this experience. We spoke before that we must hold the future before us, hold the radiance. But this man held his past in the Lord — the revelation of Jesus Christ that he had. Sadly, some people’s beginning is stronger than the end. But in reality it is the end that saves. Don’t talk about your former exploits if you are now living according to the flesh. It doesn’t matter anymore – you are not an overcomer. It is “NOW,” says the Lord. Not what was, but what is.
Some commentators say that Paul establishes sort of a culture here speaking of himself in the third person, in order to teach not to boast. I don’t find convincing evidence for this. There were a number of times when Paul freely shared revelations – that he saw Jesus, that he had the secret of stewardship. But here he speaks not of himself, but of a man. This is not the essence of the Gospel. Paul said that he was strong not in the letter, but in the knowledge. If we think that he boasts of another man, we need to understand that one should not boast of yourself, but of brothers. There are people, I know such, who are worthy to serve an example. And I’d rather not to boast of – myself.
Sometimes it is good and right to give your testimony if it is truthful. But Paul watched that people would not think more of him than he really was. An uncircumcised man always tries to exaggerate so that people think more about him. He knows who he is, but how nice it is when people think of you that you are spiritual. How nice it is when people admire you – how humble, spiritual, anointed you are.
Sometimes I love to boast of my brothers and sisters, they admire me, and I can set them as examples in certain spheres. As Paul said, he will boast of another man.
“For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. – We need to decrease, and Him increase. – And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure”(2 Corinthians 12: 6-7). Paul watched that no one would think of him more than he really was. And there was some kind of messenger of Satan – some people have gone as far as to deny that it was something negative with him, they spread such intricate fables. But Paul specifically says that it was “a thorn in the flesh,” that is, pain, and it was an angel from Satan, whom God allowed to him in order to humble Paul – so that he would not be exalted by the abundance of revelations.
I have known many powerful spiritual people who took medicine while in the ministry. Why didn’t Paul heal Timothy when he talked about his illness and taking a little wine? Why did he move with Luke, a doctor, and didn’t force him to quit his practice? Perhaps, we need to go a little further inside than just visit a healing conference…
There is a secret of our weaknesses. There is a secret about the reasons of humbling powers that are allowed to us. There’s a number of reasons why we fall and get humbleвб among which there is God’s reason. Some of the things on the list of reasons why we fall and suffer there is the signature “God”, even if it was the hands of the devil. The devil gave something, but the signature of the “head physician” is “God”.
There is that which is allowed for the glory of God. David says: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” “He who has suffered in the flesh ceased from sin.” How do you like it from this side? When something hits you, you go «O, Lord!», aтв prayer in your life begins. You really begin to pray fervently, give up evil habits, no longer up to them. And the process of restoring your inner man begins – you will even call a priest to confess, because you are afraid that it may be an incurable disease. The restoration of a man as a saved one begins, because when we do not fear God we can allow many wrong things that lay us up.
May the Lord show us the reasons for our suffering. For God to show us the author of suffering in certain areas. There is a cheap teaching that all suffering is from the devil. This is silly. The Lord wants to correct all things so that we understand. Maybe sometimes you don’t have to dig so deep – we and our “why” get all the heavens, the pastor and everyone around us.
One day a prisoner strengthened me with his powerful testimony. At the beginning of its journey, our church gathered money for a van, we bought it, but on one of the trips we had an accident and the van was crashed. I was driving then. This happened before my trip to Moscow. I couldn’t even go there, I felt so ashamed before my brothers and sisters that the van they gathered the money for was completely broken and couldn’t be restored. But the brothers convinced me to go because otherwise we would loose the spiritual battle. It was a conference of the persecuted brethren, there were brothers who had been in bonds for Christ for decades. I spent two days at this conference, but I didn’t hear anything – I felt so bad because of what happened. And so one brother, an elder, a prisoner, told me his story. He was in prison for 25 years, when he got out – he found out that his wife had gone insane from grief, and his daughter was taken to an orphanage. And all he had to do in prison was to deny Christ so that he could be released. No. And here is “why” that haunted me. I asked him: “Brother Kostya, tell me why God did this to you?” He said, “I don’t know.” I realized that I was looking in the wrong place. I am looking for “why” – this is my uncircumcised pride. I’m looking for someone to blame. Maybe I’m looking for the fault in God, outside myself, looking for reasons. I realized that I was looking in the wrong place and for the wrong thing. This man, who had endured such suffering, didn’t ask why. He simply loved God and accepted from Him everything He gave. It broke me because I realized – I am such a midget compared to this giant who continues to serve, having suffered so much, although the internal contradictions in him are not resolved! Lord, give me the strength to put all my trust in You!
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-9). How do you understand this? How is it – for the strength to be made perfect – one has to be in infirmities?
One young lady saw spiders in visions. She drove herself to the point when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Then she began to see one clown, some demon became attached to her. And she decided to overcome. She graduated from a higher institution, received a diploma, and then began to help the same kind of people. And once in an audience, where she spoke about her successes and achievements, she said: “I have learned to overcome, but you will never guess that he is now here among you.” This testimony touched me. She won, was able to find the strength to live on like a normal person. It’s incredible.
How can we live with suffering? Not rushing around anxious to toss them off, but learning to live with them and go through the pain. How did Paul live with this thorn? Satan hated Paul, and he was allowed to touch the Apostle. Imagine how he hurt! He thrust this knife «up to the hilt” into the Apostle. But Paul continued to live with it and minister to people who were suffering less than he did. He kept on and on to serve with a thorn in the flesh. This is what we must learn! And not rush around to get rid of the pain. I mean not only medicines.
“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). Look, does Paul say he is healed and is serving? No! He says: “Look, I am not healed, but I stand and serve you!” That’s what that means!
One sister in a wheelchair said that God didn’t heal her in order that she could continue to minister to people like herself.
Let go of suffering if you make it. But if you don’t, if your trauma lasts for years, don’t quit the ministry. Perhaps you don’t know the nature of suffering – it doesn’t matter. I am well pleased in weaknesses: this is when you suffer, but keep going; when you are not accepted and loved, but you love and go; when you have nothing to give, but you give; in persecution, when you have no time for other people, but you still save others.
For when I am weak, I am strong. Blessed be the thorns in the flesh. Today I bless your “thorns”, I bless your souls. If you can’t get it off yourself, stand up and serve!