If you have a Bible, please open in to Revelation 1.
We're going to be starting in verse 9; looking at verses 9 through 11.
The title of the message tonight is "How to Follow Jesus When You Feel Like Your Life is Over."
I'm going to read the passage here.
It says this: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus,
was on the island called Patmos because of God's word and the testimony about Jesus.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet saying,
"Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches:
Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea."
A question I want to throw out there as we get started here this evening is this: what is the hardest thing you've ever done for Christ?
The question is not: 'What is the hardest think you've ever gone through?'
Or 'What is the hardest thing you've ever done?'
The question is, what is the hardest thing you've ever done for Christ?
Maybe you have forgiven somebody who has hurt you deeply, or maybe you have given up an addiction,
or maybe you have given generously to a cause or to a person.
Maybe you've shared the Gospel with a loved one and been rejected or laughed at.
I don't know what it is in your life, but it is inevitable that if we're going to follow Christ,
there are going to be times when we're going to have to make some very tough decisions about what we're going to do—
about who we're really going to follow.
In this passage we're going to look at tonight, John is about ready to see the first vision in the Book of Revelation.
There is a series of visions that John receives and records—this is what Revelation is all about.
He is about ready to receive the first vision. It's a very important because this is a vision about who Jesus Christ is and what He is like now, what He is doing now.
It's a vision about the exalted Jesus Christ.It is a very important vision.
As I've studied this passage this week, I've just been struck with John's circumstances right before he writes this vision;
what was happening in his life right before he is given this vision of the exalted Jesus Christ.
There are two things I want you to notice before we really get into things tonight.
The first thing is this: John is suffering horribly.
What is happening before he receives this vision?
The first thing is that John is suffering horribly.
And he's suffering primarily in two ways.
The first way he was suffering was that he was boiled alive in hot oil.
John would not be quiet about Jesus.
He loved Jesus. He was following Jesus.
He would not be quiet. He would not bend his knee to the Emperor Domitian.
He would not confess Domitian as God, so they heated up a vat boiling oil and they put him in the vat of boiling oil.
That would have been a very painful thing.
I don't know if you've ever been burned before.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, I was at a friend's house and his parents were cooking a bunch of bacon and there was come hot grease.
He was going to take the grease and put it in a little jar. In the mean time he tripped and he ended up spilling most of it on my arm; on my left arm.
That was not a very positive experience. It was not a very good experience.
It wasn't quite as hot as it was, but it still did some damage to my arm.
And I cannot imagine being dipped in something like that; being thrown in it like John in an attempt for the Romans to kill him.
I just couldn't even imagine that.
I think that the human body is not designed to be dipped into hot oil. That might come as a shock to some of you.
The human body is not designed to be dipped into hot oil; especially an old man.
John is 95; he is approaching 100 years old.
I don't know if you've ever talked to somebody who is really old.
You look at them and you think, 'Man, you wouldn't do very well in hot oil.'
I remember one time in college, I was at a nursing home, and I talked with this older woman.
I knew she wasn't 70. I knew she wasn't 80.I knew she was older than that.
We had a nice conversation and she said that in a couple of weeks or months she was going to be 105 years old.
I said, "No way!" And I said, "You don't look a day older than 100."
She liked that and we had a good laugh about it (at least I think so.)
This week I've been thinking about her a little bit; how frail she was.
I've been thinking about John being an old man, being pretty frail.
He wasn't 23 and an NFL football player.
He was a very old man, so his body would have been horrible.
He was suffering horribly, physically.His body had to have been destroyed.
That would have been a source of a lot of difficulty in John's life. He was tortured, he was dipped in a vat of boiling oil.
The second way that he suffered was that he was banished to the island of Patmos.
Patmos was an island about 40 miles away from Miletus, which is a port in Ephesus.
The Romans basically used it for two reasons.
The first reason they had this island was to put political opponents there.
If there was a politician they didn't like— he was opposing the Romans in some way, but they didn't want to kill him—
they would take him at put him on the island of Patmos.
If you were a political opponent, you still had some freedom there. If they didn't kill you, you had some freedom.
You were able to roam around and do your thing on that island.
The second way they used the island was to punish criminals of the state.
What would happen is that if you were a criminal who committed some crime, they didn't like you for some reason, or they considered you an enemy,
they would take you and they would put you on this island.
And first you'd think, 'Oh, an island in the ocean. That sounds kind of good.'
I don't know what comes when you hear that.
This wasn't like Hawaii. It wasn't like an island in the Caribbean. It wasn't like that at all.
It was more like Alcatraz. That was really the setup.
The climate was terrible. The weather was terrible there.
Where it was located, there were a lot of storms that would come up randomly.
They didn't have a nice sandy beach. It was really a pretty bad place.
There was a scholar by the name of Sir William Ramsay, who taught at Oxford University,
he said this when describing John's banishment,
"…His banishment would be preceded by scourging, marked by perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food,
sleep on the bare ground, a dark prison, work under the lash of the military overseers."
This would have been a very difficult thing for John.
Once he got there, it wasn't like they gave him a nice bed to sleep on. He was sleeping on the rocks—
basically in a dungeon. He was separated from the churches that he was overseeing—
the people that he loved, the people he cared about, and the people that he had sacrificed for.
He was separated from them and they were going through a very difficult time too.
So John was suffering physically, he was suffering relationally, he was suffering emotionally,
he didn't have a lot of hope for the future, and all of his other friends—the other apostles—were put to death.
They died violent deaths. Brutal deaths.
He had just been dipped in a vat of oil.
When John thought about the rest of his life, he probably wasn't all that optimistic.
He probably would have thought to himself, 'This is probably it. I'm probably going to die.'
So John, when he receives this first vision, is going through a very difficult time.
The second thing I want you to notice is that John is worshiping faithfully.
Verse 10 says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet."
There are two phrases there that I really like.
The first phrase is, "in the Spirit".
The second one is, "on the Lord's day".
And "on the Lord's day" just means Sunday—the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The early church would gather on the first day of the week to sing, to pray, to study the Word, and to encourage one another.
The had their church services then—on the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
That other phrase, "in the Spirit", means that he was worshiping. He was pointing his prayers to the Lord.
He was singing, he was thanking God for His goodness, he was working through things with the Lord.
The basic idea is that he was under the influence and authority of the Holy Spirit.
He's not shaking his fist at God.
John has not turned his back on God and said, "How dare you do this to me!"
He didn't say, "I've been following you for 50, 60, 70 years, and you let this happen to me."
He didn't do that. He continued to follow the Lord.
He's having his own little private worship service in a cave; in a dungeon after he has been brutally beaten and boiled in oil.
I thought to myself this week, 'Geez. I've never been through anything even close to this.'
Probably most of us haven't experienced anything close to this. But he continues to follow the Lord.
So I thought to myself, 'How do you follow Jesus? How do you do that? How do you continue to follow Christ when your life is hard?
How do you continue to follow Christ when your circumstances aren't the way you want them to be?'
I think that John knew and believed certain things that helped him to continue.
And I think if we can tap into these things— if we can know these things and believe these things—it will help us to follow Christ.
Even when our circumstances are bad.
Even when things are not the way we want them to be.
So what did John know and what did he believe that helped him to continue to follow Christ?
The first thing is this: John knew tribulation is normal in following Jesus.
This is the first thing he knew.
John knew that tribulation is normal in following Jesus.
Verse 9 says, "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus,
was on the island called Patmos because of God's word and the testimony about Jesus."
The word 'tribulation' is the word 'thlipsis'—which just means 'pressing' or 'pressure' or 'pushing together'.
It was a word that was used to describe someone who would jump on some grapes in order to make wine.
This is the way the word was used.
And sometimes, when we translate it into English, we translate the word 'affliction' or 'suffering'.
But there is just this idea of tribulation. That it's not good. It's a very hard time.
John says this in verse 9. He says, "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation..."
Here you see an air of humility that I think John had.
I don't think that I'm exaggerating here, but I think John may have been the greatest person alive at this time.
He walked with Jesus for many, many years. He was a close friend of Jesus.
He watched Jesus do all these miracles. He was there at the crucifixion of Jesus.
He saw the resurrected Lord. He had planted churches.
Many miracles had been done through him.
He probably was the greatest person alive.
All of the other apostles had died.He is the sole apostle alive.
He's at the end of his life. He doesn't write to them and say, 'I, John, your apostle'
'I, John, your pastor'
He says, "I, John, your brother and partner in..." In what?
In the tribulation that you're going through and that I'm going through.
I'm your brother in it.
We're going through it together because the church is suffering, John is suffering, and he says, 'I'm not above it.'
'I'm not above it. Just because I'm an apostle doesn't mean I'm exempt from suffering.'
He says, 'I'm going through it just like you are going through it.'
See, John understood that tribulation or difficulty for the cause of Christ was not an abnormality.
It wasn't something that was weird.It wasn't this strange that was taking place.
Rather, this was just on the path of following Jesus.You encounter tribulation.
You encounter difficulty.
I love thinking about how there is salvation in Jesus Christ
and how there is grace is Jesus Christ.
I love thinking about how there is joy is Jesus Christ
and life in Jesus Christ and freedom in Jesus Christ.
I love thinking about these things.
But the first thing John mentions, as far as what is in Jesus Christ, is tribulation.
"...your brother in the tribulation this is in Jesus Christ."
John just understood that there are going to be times when
you're going to go through difficulty
because of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:29 says, "For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ..."
This is what Paul says,"but also the privilege of suffering for him."
You've been given the privilege of trusting him and obeying him, and also the privilege of suffering for him.
In John 16 Jesus says, "I have told you these things so that you won't abandon your faith.
For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.
This is because they have never known the Father or me.
Yes, I'm telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning."
Jesus says this. He says, 'Listen, it's coming. If you're going to follow me there is going to be difficulty.'
I think sometimes, as Christians, we think that following Christ is going to be buckets and buckets of unicorns
and rainbows and puppies and kittens and guitars and butterflies everywhere.
This is going to be great.
But Jesus says that you should expect tribulation.
You should expect difficulty.
You should expect affliction for the name of Christ—
for the cause of Christ.
Just like if you were going to be a boxer—you wanted to get into boxing—
you should expect that when you get into the ring, you're going to get punched in the face, right?
Someone is going to come out swinging at you.
They're going to try to knock you out.
They're going to try and hit you until you stop moving.
Sometimes I listen to believers and it's like 'Man, I just want to get in the ring and dance around.
Whenever I get in the ring, someone is trying to hit me.
Stop hitting me man! I just want to dance in the ring.'
This is what boxing is, right?
This is what boxing is.
Sometimes as believers, when difficulty comes, it's like we have no idea.
Jesus says you should be ready for it.
You should just be ready for it.You should expect it to happen.
John knew that tribulation was a normal part of following Christ.
The second thing is that John knew obedience to God's word can induce suffering.
Obedience to God's word can induce suffering.
Verse 9 says, "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus,
was on the island called Patmos" Why?
Why was he there?
John knew why he was there, right?
Why was John on the island of Patmos?
He wasn't there because he picked a fight at a bar with someone who was bigger than him and got beat up.
He's not there because he didn't pay his taxes.
He's not there because he was speeding; going 100mph and got into a car accident.
Why was he there?
John knew why he was there.
This is why. It was crystal clear why he was going through the difficulty.
He says, "I, John...was on the island called Patmos"
"Because of God's word and the testimony about Jesus.
John knew the reason he was suffering was because he was obedient.
The reason he was going through a hard time was because he was obedient to Jesus Christ.
Obedience typically is the source of suffering.
Not all suffering, but a particular kind of suffering.
Just like in Christ, there is a particular kind of joy that people who are not in Christ don't have access to.
There is a particular kind of joy that we have access to because we're in Christ,
but people who aren't in Christ they don't have access to it.
There is a particular kind of peace that we have access to as believers that other people won't experience because they're not in Christ.
And in the same way, there is a particular kind of suffering that we have access to as believers
that other people won't experience.
And that kind of suffering is induced because of obedience.
That suffering comes into our lives, not because of our disobedience, but because of our obedience.
I think one of the most helpful thoughts for me as I've studied this and thought through it over the years is this:
Obedience can induce suffering.
And therefore, disobedience helps you avoid suffering.
Disobedience. What you can do is avoid the suffering.
So much of the suffering that is in Christ is avoidable when you simply disobey Him.
Not outright disobey Him like, 'No, God. I hate you. Give me some drugs. I want to start shooting things.'
Not that kind of disobedience.
Just kind of passive. I just kind of do my own thing.
I kind of live for myself. I go at my own pace.
I set my schedule. I'm in control of my life.
I do what I want.
You just avoid all the suffering that is in Jesus Christ.
I think sometimes, as believers, what we think is this:
We think that doing the right thing will make our life easier.
We think that obedience to Jesus should somehow make our life easier.
It should make our life better.
I would say that is kind of true,
but it's not entirely true. It's not the full picture.
It's only part of the picture.
See, I think John knew something.
I think John knew that suffering in this life,
in a fallen world, is unavoidable.
If you're going to radically live for sin or radically life for Christ or anything in between,
I think John knew you were going to suffer.
It doesn't matter.
If you want to live for sin or live for Christ.
You're going to suffer one way or the other.
So the question is not, "Are you going to suffer?"
That is not the question.
That is not what was going on in John's mind.
I think if you think about it for a second, it makes sense.
Whether you live for sin or you live for God.
Or you do anything in between. You're going to suffer.
So the question is no, "Will I suffer?"
The question is, "What will I suffer for?"
And, "What will the result of my suffering be?"
That's the question you need to ask.
What will I suffer for and what will the result of my suffering be?
There is a famous line that goes like this.
Probably a lot of us have heard this.
"If you choose to sin, you choose to suffer."
That's true. Absolutely true.
You choose to sin, you choose to suffer.
But sometimes when you choose to sin you get pleasure, right?
So it's not necessarily an immediate suffering.
It's not like every time you sin God slaps you with a whip and then you're hurting.
That's not what it is.
In fact, when you choose to sin, a lot of times you choose pleasure.
And there is some immediate short-term pleasure.
It's not an immediate thing.
The idea is that if you choose to sin, you choose to suffer and the result of your sin leads to something.
What is it? You choose to sin, you choose to suffer. It produces something.
Corruption. The first thing is corruption.
It produces corruption in your soul.
Chaos in your relationships and eventually death.
That's what it produces.
There is a lot of times short-term pleasure.
If you choose to sin, you might get some pleasure, but eventually the result in your relationships,
in your soul, is going to be chaos.
It's going to be a deeper love of this world that pulls you away from Christ.
Your heart will not be in tune with Christ as much as you want it to be. God will not be as real to you.
There will be all kinds of struggles that you'll experience in your soul and in your life as a result of sinning.
So, instinctively, we think this should be true:
You choose to obey and you think you're going to be blessed.
But in reality, this is true: When you choose to obey, you actually choose to suffer as well.
You would think it would be the opposite. And it kind of is.
It kind of is the opposite as far as long-term.
But in the short-term, when you choose to obey, oftentimes that is the source of suffering in your life.
So the question is not 'will you suffer?'
The question is what will you suffer for and what will the result of your suffering be?
If you choose to obey, oftentimes you choose to suffer.
Think about John.John chose to obey and he is on the island of Patmos.
Paul chose to obey and got his head cut off.
Jesus chose to obey and they tried to kill him his whole life.
And eventually did.
Again, it's not 'will I suffer?'
What will I suffer for? What will the result be?
You choose to obey, you choose to suffer.
And then the next thing, what does it produce?
It produces intimacy with Christ.
That's what it produces.
That is what will happen.
You choose to trust Christ and obey Christ, you do what he says,
and then over time it will produce an intimacy with Jesus.
The next thing it will produce is joy.
It will produce joy in your life.
It will produce life. It will produce blessing.
You'll be a source of blessing for many people.
You know, the top one: You choose to sin, you choose to suffer produces corruption, chaos, and death.
That is what I would call a bad pain.
It's a needless pain.It's a pain you don't have to go through.
It's something that God doesn't want for you.
But the second one, when you choose to obey, oftentimes there is difficulty that comes with it.
But it's a good pain.
It's a pain that produces something that is actually good in your life.
Physically there is such a thing as good pain.
And physically there is such a thing as bad pain.
If you want to, you could hurt yourself pretty bad.
You could take a hammer and hit every one of your fingers and every one of your toes.
That would hurt a lot. But that would be unnecessary pain.
An unproductive pain.
It's a pain God doesn't want you to go through.
You could take a knife and stab your leg and stab your calf.
I mean, you could cause a lot of pain, but it's unnecessary pain. It's unproductive pain.
You know, if you buy a One Direction CD and you listen to it, it's going to cause you a lot of pain.
It's an unnecessary pain.Pain that God doesn't want you to go through, right?
So sin is an unnecessary, unproductive pain and suffering in your life.
I'm not saying that God can't use it.
Because he is gracious, oftentimes he does.
But that's not the kind of pain that God wants for us.
But on the other side, when you choose to obey and you choose to suffer, that pain is very productive.
That is the pain that God will use to make you like Christ.
That is the pain that God will use to refine your faith.
That is the pain that God will use in your life to help you impact the world.
It is a very productive pain.
I think about obedience this way.
I think obedience is like working out.
Obedience is like exercising.
Think for a second.
People go in and they're pumping a lot of iron—
they're doing squats, and hang cleans, power cleans, they're going curls—
and you think about it, after awhile your body begins to get really tired. You start to wear out.
There is stress and pressure that is put on your body.
So the very act of working out— bench pressing, squatting, clinging— that very action is the action
that is producing pressure and stress on your body.
But it is the exact same pressure and tension and stress that is put on your body that produces a good body.
It produces someone who is in good shape, right?
So as a believer, you can avoid almost all the pain that is in Christ. You can avoid it if you want to.
But you cannot avoid that pain and at the same time experience the benefits of it.
You can't do it.There is no substitute for actually obeying God.
So you can avoid almost all the pain, almost all the suffering that is in Christ through passive disobedience.
Just kind of doing my own little thing.
You can avoid it all.
But you cannot avoid the pain and the suffering, and then at the same time experience the blessing of obedience.
Oftentimes I talk to believers and they'll just say,
"Man, God doesn't just seem that real to me. I just don't have any joy. I don't have any peace.
There's no life. I just feel so discouraged all the time."
And I think there is a variety of reasons that can be so.
But I think so often the reason is because we're skipping out on the struggle of the Christian life.
You're not obeying. You're not doing what he says.
You just take the easy route.
And so what happens is that you're avoiding the immediate pressure that the word of God brings.
But you're also avoiding all the benefits.
You're avoiding the joy.You're avoiding the intimacy with Jesus.
John understood. This is what it produces: life.
I believe John knew that following Jesus would be the hardest, most challenging,
most time-consuming thing in the world.
The biggest pursuit in his life;
that would demand his time and attention.It would demand difficulty.
There would be times of immense discomfort and sacrifice.
The third thing John knew was this:
John knew it would be worth it follow Jesus.
Revelation 1:9, "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus..."
So John knew there was tribulation on the path.
That it's in Christ.
I belong to Christ, so there's this tribulation that I'm going to experience. This affliction I'm going to experience because I belong to Jesus.
He knew it wasn't only tribulation.
He knew it was tribulation that is on the path.
But what is also on the path is the kingdom of God.
He knew that,'If I follow Christ, there is going to be life and joy and satisfaction and tribulation and affliction and difficulty.'
But also the kingdom.
And I think John here, what he has in mind, is that he gets to be involved in the kingdom right now.
We looked last week about how John writes to them as says that God has made us a kingdom of priests.
That was are citizens of his kingdom even now.
That we get to participate even now in the advancement of his kingdom.
And we belong to him forever in heaven.
In the eternal kingdom of God.
So I believe that John was convinced in his soul.
He thought through it. He knew it was worth it.
And I think he saw that, 'I'm not just going through some random, arbitrary difficulty for the cause of Christ.
There is a purpose to my pain. There is a purpose to the difficulty that I'm going through.
God is using it for a purpose.'
I think that John knew. He knew that it was worth it to follow Christ now and that it will be worth it then.
He knew the investment that he was making now was going to pay off.
And here's just a general, basic principle I think you see in this passage and all throughout the New Testament.
And you can easily observe it in life. Here's the principle:
That great cost requires great motivation.
Great cost requires great motivation.
The more something costs you, the deeper the motivation needs to be.
The deeper the reasoning needs to be or you don't pay that cost.
For example, if I said, "Hey, does anyone have a penny?"
There are probably a lot of people who'd say,"Okay, I've got a penny."
And you give it to me and I say, "Can I have that penny?"
Most of you would probably say, "Sure. Whatever."
And then I'm like, "Does anyone have a dollar?"
"Yea, okay. Do I have a dollar bill? Okay, I'll pull it out."
"Okay, can I have that dollar bill?"
Some of you would probably be like, "Okay."
If I'm like, "Does anyone have a ten dollar bill?"
"Does anyone have a twenty dollar bill?"
"Does anybody have a fifty dollar bill?"
"Does anyone have a hundred dollar bill?"
And then you pull it out."I've got a one hundred dollar bill."
"Can I have it?"
Everyone would feel a little bit like, "Uh."
After awhile you're like, "Uh. A penny. You can have a penny, but what in the world are you asking a hundred dollars for? Why do you want it?"
Or if I say,"Hey, do you have ten one hundred dollar bills on you?"
"Do you have a thousand dollars?"
"Oh, you don't? No problem. Do you have a checkbook?"
"Can you just write a check?"
"Give me a thousand dollars?Could I have a thousand dollars?"
See, the more something costs you, all of a sudden you're going to say, "Why?"
If it doesn't cost you anything, you don't need to know why.
You don't need to know why.
But all of a sudden, you start to ramp up the cost to a thousand dollars, you're going to want to know why.
Why am I asking for that price?
Why am I asking for that cost?
If you find out, "Well, I just want to buy 100,000 Tootsie Rolls. That's what I want. It's pretty cool.
It's been a childhood dream to have a bed filled with Tootsie Rolls." You're going to be like, "No way. That's crazy."
"That's absolutely crazy."
But if I was like, "You know what? We can feed 10 kids in Africa for a whole year with 1,000 bucks."
Doesn't that change the offer quite a bit?
It changes, in your mind, how you're going to allocate your resources.
And you might say "Yes" or you might say "No".
You might be like, "Yea, that's a good cause. I'm not going to do that because I want to do something else with it."
But one way or another, that question 'why' is really, really important.
That question 'why' is what, I think, is what generates a heart that is willing to do whatever it takes.
The more I understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, the better it is for my life.
Think about it for a second.
Why should you share the Gospel?
Why should you serve people?
Even people who don't have anything to offer you.
Why should you be committed to fellowship?
Why should you be devoted to prayer?
Why should you be devoted to the Word?
Why should you be on a team to reach people?
That's really what fellowship is.
Why should you give generously.
What I've discovered is this:
the people who understand what God is asking them to do, they've thought through it.
People who understand what God is asking them to do, how God wants them to do it, and why he wants them to do it—
these are the people who go on,year after year serving the Lord.
Many young believers, when you ask them the question, "Why should you do these things?"
A lot of times they say, "It's good. It's a good thing."
Eating a burrito is a good thing. Drinking a glass of water.
There are a lot of things that are good things.
But why should you do that?
"I don't know. Jesus?"
[It's like we're] in Sunday school again.I know it's the right answer.
It's like, okay. Kind of.
But what I've discovered, people what God is calling us to, how he wants us to live it out, and why he wants us to do it—
people who have convictions is their soul—these are the people that hang in there.
Because they've wrestled through the cost.
And they've come to a conclusion.
It's worth it.
It's worth it for me to do it. I know why.
Obviously you've got to believe this stuff.
You've got to believe it before it's really going to change your life.
But we've got to be convinced of the value.
John was convinced of the value of following Christ.
That the investment was worth it.
That the cost was worth it.
He knew why. I think he was convinced it was worth it now and then. Why now?
You might ask the question, "Why is it worth it now to follow Christ, even if it's hard?"
There are a million reasons, but this is one of my favorites.
2 Corinthians 4:8 says, "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
Through suffering our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus
may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death..." Why? Why does he do it?
Is Paul a gangster? He's part of the mafia and he's doing drugs? Why is he under the constant danger of death?
He says, "...because we serve Jesus,"
It was clear. Because we serve Jesus.
So why is it worth it?Paul, why is it worth it for you to do this?
Just be quiet. Don't share the Gospel. Don't love believers.
Don't serve anybody. You'll avoid it all. Almost all of it.
Just be quiet. Don't tell anybody about Christ.
Or just wait for the perfect moment.
I mean, there are so many things that Paul could have done.
You just ratchet it down. You just keep going back.
But he says, 'No, no. Because we serve Jesus, this is what we experience.'
So why was he doing it?
He says, "...so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you."
He understood the purpose to the difficulty.
He got it.
Paul understood. John understood.
He understood the point of the pain,
the point of the struggle.
He understood what was happening and
how God was using it.
See God tends to take the objects of His love and grace and mercy—that's who we are as believers.
We're just the objects of God's mercy, right?
He has put us on display.
He said, 'Man, you are an object of my grace. Thou you did not deserve salvation,
though you don't deserve anything good, I have blessed you with salvation.
I have forgiven your sins. I have made you a son/daughter in my kingdom.'
He says, 'Now you have access to me.'
We are objects of God's grace and mercy.
And I think God, what he does, is he takes the objects of his love and grace and mercy,
and he makes them agents of his love and grace and mercy. That's what He does.
So once we've been transformed by the grace of God,
the mercy of God, the truth of God, the righteousness of God;
what happens is that then, as we learn to follow Him, he wants to express his grace and love and mercy and righteousness in the world.
Through His body.
And so as believers, when we say 'no' to our flesh and 'no' to our desires,
we're willing to fight with our own natural impulses to live for ourselves, and we say 'no' to them and 'yes' to Christ,
then what happens is that we become a vessel that God uses to advance His kingdom.
We become a vessel that God uses to display his grace.
We become agents of blessing for people.
We honor and exalt the name of Jesus through our life. This is what Paul is talking about.
But we have to be willing to go through a particular door before that's really going to happen.
What is that door?
Verse 9 says,"We are hunted down, but we are not destroyed. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."
He says this now in verse 10: "Through suffering..."
Through the doorway of suffering.
Suffering for what cause?It's because they were following Jesus.
They were obedient to Jesus.
What happens is that the world that Paul was living in was not very happy about their love for Jesus.
So it produced conflict with the world.
Not because they were sinning.
Conflict with the world.
And then it produced conflict in his soul.
Their soul. This old man he writes about in Romans 7 wants to go the other direction.
He said 'no' to that and he said 'yes' to Christ.He continued to go.
He says, "Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus
may also be seen in our bodies."
He understood that. This is what he's doing.
But you've got to go through that door.
You've got to be willing to say, "Lord, I'll do what you ask. Whatever it is you ask.
Even if my flesh freaks out. Even if it doesn't make me popular.
Because of who you are and what you've done, because you want to use me as an instrument of your grace and mercy in the world, I'll obey.
I will actually do what you say.
So John knew it was worth it now and he knew it was worth it then.
He was convinced it was worth it then.
There are dozens of passages we could look at.In 2 Corinthians 5 he says,
"So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged."
He says, "We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body."
So Paul says we're going to stand before the Lord.
That someday we're going to stand, you're going to stand, before the God of the universe, to give an account.
And you will be rewarded on that day.
He's going to evaluate every word, every deed, every thought, everything you've ever done.
And you're going to give an account for the way that you've lived your life.
He says you're going to be rewarded for the things that you've done.
And I think that this should give us a deep sense of fear. Not like we're going to hell if you're in Christ.
Just a sense like, "Wow. This is an incredible thing that is going to happen."
And a deep sense of excitement knowing that God sees everything you do.
Everything you do.
And everything done for the name of Christ, done for His sake, will be rewarded.
It will be rewarded, not just at a 1-to-1 ratio, but he's going to reward you 100 times what you put in.
1,000 times what you put in.
And it is so exciting, because when you think about it for second, every kind word you say for His name's sake will be rewarded.
Every little piece of trash you pick up for his name's sake.
Every time you love someone in a Community Group or love another believer or love someone who is lost.
Every time you serve somebody.Even if they don't know you're serving.
Even if they don't appreciate what you've done.
God sees it. He sees it.
Every time you suffer. Every time you read.
Every time you pray.Every time you share the Gospel.
Every time you do what is right for His name's sake, God sees it and he's going to reward you on that day.
It's like it just keeps adding up and adding up and adding up and adding up.
And I think that so much of why God has promised us this is that he is letting us know right now it's worth it to go through it.
It's worth it. John knew it's worth it for me to go through the difficulty.
It's worth it for me to hang on to Christ, even if it means difficulty in my life.
Some people say that's really selfish.
Isn't it selfish to do something in order to be rewarded for it?
Well, I don't think so.I don't think that's how God has set it up.
God, in fact, says that if you're going to follow me, you're going to have to expect me to reward you.
Did you know that's a requirement?
You have to expect God to reward you in order for it to be faith?
Hebrews 11 says, "Without faith it's impossible to please God."
It says, "For whoever comes to God must..." believe two things.
Number one, that He exists.Number two, He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
You have to be convinced in your soul that what you're giving up, what you're sacrificing for, the difficulty you're going through now, is worth it.
And it's worth it, not in a 1-to-1 ratio, but 100 times, 1,000 times, over and over again, it's worth it.
You have to be convinced of that.
Even Moses, it says, "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter and
chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived passions of sin."
Why? Because his attention was on his reward.
He was looking ahead.
See, God has given us this promise to help us keep doing what is right, to keep us moving in the right direction,
to keep our eye on Him so that I'm not waiting to get my reward from you.
So I'm not waiting to get my applause from you.
To get a pat on the back from you.
Because I'm waiting, really, for the day when Christ will return or I'll go to Him and there will be a time when I'll be rewarded.
And it helps me to keep going.
It helps me to keep doing what's right.
Even last night, I was thinking about this.
At 2 a.m. all the power in our house goes out.
And when that happens it's really bad in my home.
The reason is that my kids sleep with noise machines and there's a light on in the hallway.
It's probably costing us a fortune to do that, whatever.
The light is on and they're all setup.There needs to be sound and all this stuff.
So when the power goes off, it's totally silent.
The power goes off at 2 a.m. and all five of my kids are up at two o' clock in the morning.
And Meg and I, we're trying to remedy the situation.
"Okay, just go to sleep. Here's a flashlight. It's going to be okay."
And we lay down. More crying.
We get up and then finally Quinn is like, "Can I just sleep in your bed?"
And we're like, "Okay. Until the power comes on."
And then one-by-one,all five of them hop into our bed.
And so all five of them are in our bed.
We're trying to get comfortable.There are seven people in a bed right now.
It doesn't work out very well.
Minute number one you're like, "Oh this is so nice. I wish we could do this every night."
You're just cuddling at then minute number two I'm like, "Get out of my bed. I don't want you to be here."
At three o' clock in the morning, we're kind of settling in and Titan, my two-year-old, sits up and he goes,
"I've got a booger!"
And I look at him and he's like, "Daddy, I've got a booger!"
His finger is in his nose. "Daddy, I've got a booger!"
And I'm like, "Titan, go to sleep!"
I'm ripping my face off.I'm like, "Go to sleep, please! Please go to sleep."
I didn't do that, but internally that's what I was thinking.
But I thought to myself, even in that time, being patient with my kids, God sees it.
Being patient with my kids.Being patient with my wife.
Talking kindly to them. Being good to them.
God sees it and He'll reward it.
Everything you do. Everything you do, it's worth it.
And to the degree that we suffer with Him, to that degree we'll be rewarded.
It's an exciting thing.
So John knew. What did John know?
John knew that it was worth it.
It is worth it now. Do you believe it's worth it?
Do you live like you believe it's worth it to go through the difficulty—
wrestling with your soul, so you don't just give over to your desires all the time.
To complain. To be bitter. To be anxious.
To be lustful. To be selfish.
To say, "No, I want to love Christ, I want to love God's people, I want to love the lost, and I want to be about His kingdom."
It's a hard thing, but John knew it's worth it.
Number four. Last thing.
John knew endurance was in Jesus.
Verse 9: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom,
and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos
because of God's word and the testimony about Jesus."
So what is in Christ?
Salvation, freedom, forgiveness; all of these incredible things.
But tribulation is also there.
And the kingdom is also there.
So if you think about it for a second, when you start to look at this stuff, you start to think to yourself,
'Man, if I'm supposed to follow Christ and go through the doorway of difficulty
for the advancement of His kingdom, and I'm supposed to do this my whole life and I've still got like 50 years left,
how do I keep doing this for another 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 50 years?'
It can be overwhelming.
Especially if you're in the middle of a struggle.
How do I keep going?
Well, John knew something.
He knew that not only is tribulation in Jesus, not only is the kingdom in Jesus, but endurance is in Jesus.
He knew endurance was not in himself.
It was in Christ.
The word 'endurance' is hypomonē, which means to remain under the pressure.
You keep going.
And endurance runner is somebody who runs, even when their body is freaking out.
They keep going. They remain under the pressure.
And let me tell you the fundamental difference between someone
who impacts the world and someone who has very little to no impact on the world for Christ.
The difference between somebody who it fruitful, who really honors and glorifies Christ in their life,
and somebody who bears very little fruit. The difference is this:
People who are impacting the world—I'm not saying numbers of people—they do hard things as a lifestyle and it looks like obedience.
I'm not saying hard like, "Oh, I can't even move."
They're willing to say "no" to their flesh and "yes" to Jesus. Even when it's hard.
Even when it costs them something.
And people who are not very fruitful, I think typically the reason is that they take the easy road.
They're filled with excuses.
They're case is filled with excuses.
I look at this and I think, 'Man, I am so weak.'
There's something about the lazy, easy path that I just want all the time.
I think, 'Man, how do I keep going?'
Right? Do you ever feel like that?
How do I keep doing what is right?
I can get pumped for a week.I can get pumped for a month.
But how do I keep going?
How do I keep putting my life out there for Christ to use so I can know him and be used by him?
How do you keep doing that?
Well, John knew. Endurance is not in me.It's not in you.
It's in Christ. Jesus is the one who is the ultimate example of endurance.
The One who continued on.
I think about Hebrews 12. It says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses..."
It says, "let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles."
And it says, "Let us run the race that has been marked out for us with endurance."
How do you do it?
"Fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.
Who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame."
The way you've got to do it is you've got to zero your life in.
You've got to zero the attention of your heart in.
You've got to say,"Lord, help me. Help me to keep going.
Help me to keep doing what is right."
Because after awhile, you start to break.That's the reality. You start to break.
And I think God has set it up so that it is intentionally difficult to walk with Christ,
so we would feel our need, our inadequacy to love, our inadequacy to forgive,
our inadequacy to share the Gospel, and our inadequacy to be a good husband or wife.
You feel the inadequacy so it would turn us back to Christ. So we would cry out to Him.
But really, as a church, this is something that I think is very helpful for us.
We don't want to be people who just fun Christian things.
We want to be people who have deep convictions in our soul that it is worth it to follow Jesus.
Even if it gets a little bit difficult.
And that we'll continue. How?
Not by just willpower, but by putting our eyes on Christ. By saying, "God, help me."
And He will help you.
He will help you to continue.
But you've got to say, "Yea, Lord help me."
And he'll help you to run the race that he has marked out for you.
Let's go ahead and close.
Heavenly Father, we just want to thank you that you have not left us here to try to figure this out by ourselves.
Lord, I thank you that you've given us your Spirit to help us.
God, help us not to lean on our own strength.
God, help us to lean on you.
God, help us not to avoid the difficulty,
but to hang onto you when we go through it.
We pray these now in Jesus' name. Amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.