Affliction’s Reward

burden bearer

Acts 9:5  “Who are You, Lord? ” he said. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied.

Burden-bearers and suffer-sharers are life-givers.

Consider the term caregiver. My aunt is currently the caregiver for my grandmother. She gives to care and cares to give. But it goes a little deeper than that. Real caregiving is extending her life. Yes, the ambiguous use of the term “her” was intended. The care my aunt is giving certainly is extending my grandmother’s life. But the care being given is also an extension of my aunt’s life. My aunt is extending her life to my grandmother. And it’s more than lending it. She’s giving it. There is no way for my grandmother to pay it back. Simply put, burden-bearers and suffer-sharers are life-givers.

Jesus is the best in that category.

A study of this verse radiates that hope.  Saul is on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians when he’s apprehended by Jesus.  Jesus has already died, resurrected and ascended. He’s not there but His voice is clear, “I am Jesus, the one who you are persecuting.” Wait a second. Jesus isn’t on earth and Saul’s never even met Him. But he’s persecuting Him? Yes. And in that answer is the joyous truth that He is not removed from our plight. Whatever Paul was doing to Christ’s people, He was doing to Christ. Our affliction is His affliction. Our trial is His trial. Our suffering is shared.

When we “share the suffering of Christ” (1 Peter 4:13), we are  not just enduring what He once suffered.  We’re sharing what we currently suffer. And He endures it with us. He is the great suffer-sharer and burden-bearer. This word share is κοινωνέω koinōnṓ; to communicate, participate in, be a partaker of. It’s derived from koinōnía meaning to fellowship or share with.

There is fellowship with Christ in the sharing of our sufferings.

The proximity, frequency and intensity of fellowship have certainly increased between my aunt and grandmother. Shared suffering and fellowship rise together.

Whatever you’re going through, rejoice!  If it’s sickness, He’s bearing it with you. If it’s poverty, He’s in it with you. If it’s heartbreak, He’s broken with you. But rejoice mostly in this: As the ultimate Caregiver burden-bears and suffer-shares, He does what all caregivers do; He extends His life to yours.

Compartmentalized

Boxed in

Acts 8:4 So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news.

Like compartment syndrome, when the pressure is turned up, the Good News stops flowing from people who’ve compartmentalized their faith.

Years ago, I presented some information to a few hundred people about the importance of collaboration.  One of my slides had a number of overlapping circles, each circle representing a sector of community.

Business. Social Service. Government. Faith.

Later, I realized the problem with that slide. Although businessmen are not social workers and social workers are not politicians, they may all be people of faith. Faith is not a department or a line of work. It’s a way of life.

We tend to compartmentalize, but compartmentalizing the Church is to compartmentalize the expansion of the Kingdom.

And compartment syndrome is dangerous. Medically, this occurs when pressure builds within a compartment of the body to an extent that blood flow is occluded or squeezed off. The result is more toxicity, more swelling, more pressure. Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency.

Two things create the environment for compartment syndrome; a compartment and pressure. At different times in life, we all feel pressure. Natural disasters, economic challenges, policy changes, job loss, family demands. The list is virtually endless.

Like compartment syndrome, when the pressure is turned up, the Good News stops flowing from people who’ve compartmentalized their faith. And just like compartment syndrome leads to the death of tissue in the human body, compartment syndrome in the church leads to the death of faith.  When persecuted, the person who has compartmentalized will simply excise that compartment.

How do you avoid spiritual compartment syndrome?

Don’t compartmentalize.

I just read an article about an Indiana policeman who is being sued a second time for sharing Jesus with people during traffic stops. Although I can’t say I recommend his technique, he’s a perfect example of a Christian who doesn’t compartmentalize his faith. He’s literally being pursued by the ACLU. The pressure is on, but because he hasn’t compartmentalize his faith, he shares the Good News as he goes.

The disciples did the same. In this passage, they were being persecuted, the Greek literally translates as “pursued”. Have you ever felt pursued? Put yourself there. It may be hard to imagine your life in danger because of sharing the Gospel, but it was very real then and is still very real in many places around the globe today. How would you respond?  A person who’s compartmentalized his faith would either shelve it until a season more amenable to share it or he may excise it completely.

But for these disciples, the Good News of having been born again and forgiven of all sin was intertwined with the very essence of life.  There was no faith compartment and so no matter the pressure, the persecution or pursuit, they continued “preaching the message of the good news.”

Let the Good News of what God has done for you permeate every area of your life.

Keep yourself from getting boxed in. Don’t put Him in a box.