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From: "ANZAC Prophetic List" <revival4@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 10:24:05 -0500
From:           "Ron Wood" <rewood@...>
Date sent:      	Wed, 18 Aug 2004 22:34:58 -0400

-by Ron Wood.

If you're not drafted into God's army, don't volunteer without first
counting the cost. You may find the "suffering clause" a bit too 
much to bear.

When Paul wrote his letters to young Timothy about three decades 
after Jesus' resurrection, he was Paul the aged. He had been 
imprisoned by Rome once before, he had been beaten with rods, 
lashed with cat-o-nine-tails, jailed in a cold dungeon with his feet in 
wooden stocks, been shipwrecked, often driven out of town, and 
was continually hounded by Judaizers who wanted to stone him to 
death to protect their religious traditions. (The spirit of murder is 
quite happy in a religious disguise.) 

As he wrote, Paul was under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial 
before Caesar, as we see in the setting at the end of the Book of 
Acts. By now all the other apostles among the Twelve, except for 
John, had already been killed for their faith. The church had been 
persecuted by the Jews but now the pressure had started coming 
from Nero as the followers of Jesus refused to worship the Emperor. 
(Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British atheist philosopher, was 
converted to Christ as he studied history and found that thousands
of Christians died with joy in the Roman arena, having believed that 
a Man named Jesus had really come back from the dead.)

Reading Timothy, especially the second letter, you get the poignant 
sense that Paul is passing the baton to Timothy. It is very personal 
and has eternity in view. He obviously loves Timothy like a father 
loves a son, yet he encourages Timothy to keep the faith and be 
bold despite great personal risk. Paul says to him, "Suffer hardship 
with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Tim 2:3) At the end 
of his letter, he repeats it again: "Endure hardship, do the work of 
an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (4:5) 

This expectation of suffering for a young apostle trying to fulfill his
vocation is in stark contrast to the fame or ease or fortune being
glamorously promoted by some ministries today. You would think 
the mark of success is measured in budgets or buildings or 
billboards, or ads in Charisma Magazine. 

Listen, the Spirit of Jesus wants me to warn you - this is a terrible 
time to volunteer for the ministry. It is an especially tough job market 
if you are hearing a call to apostleship. If you can get out of it, run!

I mean, I thought being a prophet was tough: hearing voices, seeing 
visions, having dreams, discerning things, always being out of step 
with the present and pointing to things not yet, never seeming to fit 
in with the status quo. But a little misunderstanding isn't bad 
compared to what apostles have already suffered and will yet endure. 

The job description of most of the early apostles included being killed 
on the job! Apostles were KIA, "Killed In Action," which meant being 
martyred for the sake of the gospel. How would you like to apply for 
a job which included the probability of death? 

Yet Jesus says to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth (an
apostolic term) laborers into the fields (Matt. 9:37-38). The call from
Jesus to become an apostle (one able to be sent; able to be 
dispatched, or able to be deployed under Christ's authority) has 
fine print in the contract. Are you willing to die? 

Don't think you can escape this clause, for every real apostle's 
calling and commissioning includes this hidden feature. Without a 
willingness to die doing the will of God for Jesus' sake, there is no 
genuine apostleship. 

Some modern apostles have already sacrificed in a similar way. 
Don't be surprised by their suffering. You can't have the true grace 
of apostleship without something of our humanity suffering. History 
has overlooked many of the apostles of China, India, Africa, Latin 
America, and other non-western people groups where the darkness 
has been driven back by servants of God who died on the battlefield. 
In America and Europe, we have better records.

For example, John Wesley, the apostle who founded Methodism, 
said that every Methodist preacher should always be ready to preach, 
ready to pray, and ready to die. Pioneers always pay a dear price, a 
price which those who follow later may not be able to fully appreciate. 
Methodists in America once paid dearly to be Christians who lived a 
sanctified life.

Years ago, I prayed with fellow pastors in an old Methodist church in 
south Texas that was founded by a circuit riding preacher who rode 
himself into the ground and died young bringing the gospel to 
America's frontier. (Most such Methodist preachers never married 
and died early by age thirty.)

The decision to follow Jesus for the Twelve meant they left their 
nets - their vocational security - and they also left their reputations
behind and risked their future welfare. All but one of the first Twelve 
died a terrible death because they preached the kingdom of God 
without compromise. 

The good news is that on the other side of suffering, if we handle it 
right, is maturity and glory.

Jesus suffered more than any of us ever can or ever will. For this, 
He was crowned with glory. "We do see Him, crowned with glory 
and honor." (Heb 2:9)  I once heard the Lord say to me, "Every 
crown in its first appearing is a crown of thorns."

Your suffering in serving Christ is the gateway to experiencing God's 
glory in your life and ministry. Why? Because when you keep your 
faith despite it all, God gives more grace as reward. Grace precedes 
glory. This is the promise made in 1 Peter 4:13-14. Notice, glory is
proportional: to the same degree. God is precise in His measurement 
of glory upon His saints. It exactly fits the degree of faithful 
endurance displayed before angels and men. More suffering equals 
more glory. So, rejoice! 

I tell you, to endure the sufferings of this present world which will 
surely be inflicted upon God's holy apostles, to manifest the life of 
Jesus in our mortal bodies, to be finally rid of all the fear of death, 
we must touch the glory of God.
(c)2004 by Ronald Wood, Touched By Grace Ministries
Inc. Write us at:  P.O. Box 12749, Wilmington, NC 28405. 
Permission to copy hereby granted as long as byline 
remains intact.   [- www.touchedbygrace.org ]