TRIBULATION AND PATIENCE
By Jeannette Haley
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:
knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” – Romans 5:3
In your patience possess ye your souls.” – Luke 21:19
Whenever anyone in a Christian gathering mentions the need to pray for patience, you generally hear people sucking in their breaths before offering bits of wisdom as to why you should never pray for patience, which boils down to this: asking for patience means asking for trouble in the form of tribulation. The word “tribulation” is something the post-modern church avoids like the plague. After all, the very thought of a Christian having to suffer some form of tribulation casts an ominous and dark shadow over settled souls, and especially so for those who smugly insist that everything that Christians think, speak, or do has to be “positive.” Surely there must be a magic formula somewhere to help us become pristinely patient without having to endure any form of tribulation!
While thinking on the subject of tribulation and patience, the old hit song by Doris Day came to mind. Some of you may remember the words “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage…” As Christians, I think we could well change the words to “tribulation and patience go together like the proverbial horse and carriage. Tribulation” in Greek is “thlipsis” and means pressure, affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble. Who among us has not felt pressured to conform to this world, or to give in to the flesh? Who has never suffered affliction, or anguish, or experienced trouble? Who has never been burdened by the cares of this life? Christians all around the globe are suffering persecution for their faith, and there has also been a subtlety rising tide of persecution in America, although, so far, not yet on the same scale as other countries where the blood of Christians is shed. As we discern the times we live in, we can definitely see and hear not only tribulation and trouble all around us, but we can watch it spreading over the whole world.
One recent headline captures the essence of the war against Christianity in America, such as: “The Left Tries to Ban Christianity in Texas: Sudden Spate of Bills Exalts LGBTQ Ideology Over Rights of Christians” (CBN News, January 24, 2019). The noticeable and insistent rising tide of anti-Christian sentiment in America is becoming both unnerving and shocking for those of us who have lived all of our lives enjoying the freedom of religion our Constitution guarantees us. But now powerful and sinister dark forces are working day and night to overthrow the Christian underpinnings of this nation through treacherous falsehoods, deception, and satanically inspired covert conspiracies. As we watch the escalating persecution of Christians in China taking place, as well as other places in the world, one cannot help but wonder how long it will be before American believers will be seriously targeted by God’s enemies. We all know the horrible harassment and persecution some Christian florists and bakers have already suffered, as well as others in the public-school system, the sports arena, and various businesses. In addition, never underestimate the true goal of Islam according to the Quran; that is, to eradicate every Jew, Christian and infidel on the planet. The United States now has three Muslims in Congress. The question is, if and when the day comes when all out persecution is directed at Christians in America, is the Church prepared?
It has been our observation through the years that the prevailing sentiment of American Christians is “It can’t happen in America, and besides we’ll all be gone in the rapture anyway.” According to Voice of the Martyrs, millions of Christians around the world are persecuted every day. We need to keep in mind that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12. He also instructed, “Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” 1 Timothy 2:3. The Greek word for “hardness” means to be afflicted, endure afflictions, suffer trouble. This is hardly what the average church goer wants to hear these days because we live in the time foretold in 2 Timothy 4:3, which says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Such are those who operate in the realm of “easy believism,” “cheap grace,” “positive confession,” and possess New Age philosophies, and who do not want to be bothered with receiving a love for the truth. Truth is a sword that doesn’t satisfy “itching ears,” but rather cuts to the heart of the matter. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.
The truth of the matter concerning that dreaded word, “tribulation” is simply that no one escapes the reality of tribulation, trials and testing in this world. It is a part of life, it is reality, and it is the result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Yet, somehow mankind struggles and strives to find, or establish through idiotic legislation, or outright despotism, his idea of the Paradise he lost, and when he fails to do so, he blames God, and most often takes it out on His followers. We can see this satanically-inspired insane philosophy gaining ground in our nation through the extreme liberal socialist communists. History bears witness to the fact that if this wicked seed continues to take root and grow into full bloom, those of us who refuse to compromise with the world, and the devil in order to “save our life in the flesh” can expect to experience tribulation in the form of persecution. Our Lord warned His followers when He said in John 16:33b, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” John 15:18. In Matthew 10:22 He told His disciples, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
When Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, and to Iconium and Antioch, they were “confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22. Paul knew that Christians would face persecution and tribulation, and that if they were not properly discipled and grounded in Christ they could very easily forsake their faith and deny the Lord. We see his concern, and desire to encourage the new believers in all of his epistles, such as Colossians 2:5, 7, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
Being “rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith” through study and memorization of the Word, through prayer, obedience, and fellowship with the saints is vital if we are to be prepared for the tribulations, temptations and trials of the world, the flesh and the devil. Sometimes preparation for hard times involves stockpiling food, water, emergency first aid, survival gear, and etc. which can be helpful in certain situations, but none of these things will save our souls or keep us to the end if we forsake our faith in the Lord. Revelation 12:11, tells us how to overcome, “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” [Emphasis added.]
Jesus’ parable of the seed and the sower reiterates the fact that the good seed of the Word must take root deep within our hearts if we are to, not only be prepared for tribulation, but also patiently remain standing through it. He taught, “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” Matthew 13:20, 21. The Apostle Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians, who were going through afflictions, to establish and comfort them “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” 1 Thessalonians 3:3,4.
There is a lot of confusion in the church today concerning tribulation and what it means for Christians. Some believe that a Christian should never have to suffer any type of tribulation, such as Job did. These people cannot accept the fact that Jesus never promised His followers a problem-free, happy, healthy, life in this world. Based on Philippians 3:8, which states, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” A. W. Tozer wrote, “What has Christ to offer to us that is sound, genuine and desirable? He offers forgiveness of sins, inward cleansing, peace with God, eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, victory over temptation, resurrection from the dead, a glorified body, immortality and a dwelling place in the house of the Lord forever. These are a few benefits that come to us as a result of faith in Christ and total committal to Him. Add to these the expanding wonders and increasing glories that shall be ours through the long, long reaches of eternity, and we get an imperfect idea of what Paul called, “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” To accept the call of Christ changes the returning sinner indeed, but it does not change the world. The wind still blows toward hell and the man who is walking in the opposite direction will have the wind in his face. And we had better take this into account when we ponder on spiritual things. If the unsearchable riches of Christ are not worth suffering for, then we should know it now and cease to play at religion.”
Consider what Paul wrote to the “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7a) in Romans 8:17, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” The word “patience,” while not explicitly mentioned in this verse is, nevertheless, the overshadowing golden light of truth that stretches from time to eternity. First, we are reminded that we are joint-heirs with Christ. Even though we have not received the full inheritance yet, because we are still bound in these bodies of clay, yet that is our spiritual position and literal, eternal reward. Thus, we patiently “suffer with him” because we look to the time when we may be also glorified together. Patience has an eternal perspective, and knows that the sufferings through tribulations and afflictions in this present, temporary world are like a small “puff” in the winds of eternity, and can never be compared with the future glory that shall be revealed in us. James 5:10, 11 reminds us, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” These, and other verses on the subject of tribulation and patience, are a problem for certain “Christian-in-name-only” folks who shun carrying their own cross (and who much prefer to shoulder a lighter load—make that a “Styrofoam cross” for show) and who long to be looked upon as a “prophet of the Lord” but who wrongly preach that Jesus came to make us happy, healthy and rich. Such preachers are nothing more than hyper motivational speakers whose words are like gas-filled balloons which only stay afloat until the gas dissipates, or the balloon is popped.
The Apostle Peter asks, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your fruits, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” 1 Peter 2:20, 21. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1 Peter 3:14, 15. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” 1 Peter 4:14. Have you noticed the word “happy” in James’ and Peter’s writings, which are associated with patience and endurance?
Oswald Chambers noted, “The things we try to avoid and fight against—tribulation, suffering, and persecution—are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. “We are more than conquerors through Him” “in all these things”; not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).”
Then there is the subject of “The Great Tribulation” (as it has come to be known) at the end of the latter days in reference to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Please note Jesus didn’t say “The” great tribulation as if to distinguish it as a separate period of time which His people should focus on to the exclusion of all else; neither did Jesus say that it was for a seven-year period; neither did He say His people wouldn’t be dwelling in this world during this great tribulation; nor did He say that this great tribulation was the great and terrible day of the Lord (the wrath of God, Joel 2:1, 31; Revelation 6:17). In fact, the next verse verifies that there will be believers living in the end time of great tribulation. It says, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” verse 22. [Emphasis added.] Revelation 6:9-11, “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” In all this we learn that God has everything under control, and that regardless of what is taking place, we need to continue to trust Him for the Bible says: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:18-20. [Emphasis added.] Instead of looking around at all the ghastly things taking place in this world and interpreting it to mean that Christians are about to be secretly whisked off the planet, we must stir ourselves up to obey Jesus’ commandments, for the end-time harvest is great. Souls are perishing while we are busy trying to figure out how to avoid any tribulation; yet, Jesus has all power in both heaven and earth, and He promised to be with us “even unto the end of the world.”
Furthermore, the church Jesus is returning for is sanctified and cleansed by the Word of God “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27. Is the visible organized, institutional, banqueting, compromising, worldly church holy and without blemish? NO! We all know that in order to be purified one must go through the fire, and for the Christian that means the fire of persecution or tribulation because there first must be a process of separation take place in order to be an overcomer. To the Laodicean church Jesus said, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” Revelation 3:18, 19. Peter wrote,“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God” 1 Peter 4:17?
The question is, what makes this “great tribulation” worse than the world has ever experienced before? For one thing, never before in the history of the world has there been technology that allows people to daily see and hear what is taking place around the globe. While this keeps people informed to a point (especially prophecy watchers) it also can cause a great deal of vexation of spirit, sorrow, depression, anxiety, and heartbreak all of which is very troubling. This is the mental and emotional pressure of tribulation. Surely Christians who suffered through the time of the Inquisition, wars, and two world wars, the Holocaust, as well as the persecution, suffering and slaughter of millions under communism in China and Russia and other communist (and Islamic) countries, The Killing Fields, and so forth, along with earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues, famines, etc. thought that they were going through “The Great Tribulation.” In my opinion (for what it’s worth) what sets apart this end times “great tribulation” could possibly be the global zenith of the “mystery of iniquity” which is capable of destroying all life on this planet; thus, God will shorten the days. No doubt this time of great tribulation that is greater than any the world has ever experienced before will not only be more extreme and intense than at any other time in the history of the world, but it will be global in scale. (Again, this is not the “wrath of God” which God’s people are not appointed to.)
God in His great mercy and wisdom, and to encourage our hearts, gives us this glimpse into heaven where we see the martyred saints, “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” Revelation 7:13, 14. Oh! Tribulation and patience! Perhaps not the most popular topic, but consider the rewards! “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” Revelation 14:12, 13. In Daniel 7:25a we read concerning the patience of the saints, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws….”
Are you growing weary with the evil and insanity of this world which is growing darker by the hour? If so, know that you are not alone. In conclusion let me leave you with some encouraging Scriptures: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” Daniel 12:3, 10; “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” Galatians 6:9; “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” Daniel 11:32.
My hope is that the sincere desire of your heart, as well as mine, is to know our God, to be strong, and to do exploits in these end days for His glory. Amen.