Christian, expect trouble— “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12 NIV, emphasis added).
For as truly as you are a child of God, your Savior has left you his legacy—“In this world you will have trouble. In me you may have peace” (John 16:33 NIV). If I had no trouble, I would not believe myself one of the family. If I never had a trial, I would not think myself an heir of heaven.
Children of God must not, shall not, escape the rod. Earthly parents may spoil their children, but the heavenly Father never shall his. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6 NIV) and scourges every son whom he has chosen.
His people must suffer—therefore, expect it Christian. If you are a child of God, believe it, look for it, and when it comes say, Well, suffering, I foresaw you. You are no stranger. I have looked for you continually.
You cannot tell how much it will lighten your trials if you await them with resignation. In fact, make it a wonder if you get through a day easily! If you remain a week without persecution, think it a remarkable thing. And if you should, perchance, live a month without heaving a sigh from your inmost heart, think it a miracle of miracles!
But when the trouble comes, say, Ah, this is what I looked for. It is marked in the chart to heaven, the rock is put down. I will sail confidently by it—my Master has not deceived me.
But why must the Christian expect trouble? Why must we expect the sufferings of Christ to abound in us? I will show you four reasons why you must endure trial.
First, look upward, then look downward, then look around you and then look within you and you will see four reasons why the sufferings of Christ will abound in you.
Look Upward: Our Father Is Sanctifying Us
Look upward. Do you see your heavenly Father, a pure and holy Being, spotlessly just, perfect? Do you know that you are one day to be like him? Think you that you will easily come to be conformed to his image? Will you not require much furnace work (Job 23:10), much grinding in the mill of trouble, much breaking with the pestle in the mortar of affliction, much being broken under the wheels of agony? Think you it will be an easy thing for your heart to become as pure as God is? Do you think you can so soon get rid of your corruptions and become perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)?
Lift up your eye again. Do you discern those bright spirits clad in white, purer than alabaster, more chaste, more fair than Parian marble? Behold them as they stand in Glory. Ask them from where their victory came. Some of them will tell you—they swam through seas of blood. Behold the sears of honor on their brows. See, some of them lift their hands and tell you they were once consumed in fire others were slain by the sword, torn in pieces by wild beasts, were destitute, afflicted, tormented (Hebrews 11:32-37).
O you noble army of martyrs, you glorious hosts of the living God! Must you swim through seas of blood and shall I hope to ride to heaven wrapped in furs and ermine? Did you endure suffering, and shall I be hampered with the luxuries of this world? Did you fight and then reign, and must I reign without a battle? Oh, no! By God’s help I will expect that as you suffered, so must I and as through much tribulation you entered the kingdom of heaven, so shall I.
Look Downward: Hell Is After Us
Next, Christian, turn your eyes downward. Do you know what foes you have beneath your feet? There are hell and its lions against you! You were once a servant of Satan and no king will willingly lose his subjects. Do you think that Satan is pleased with you? Why, you have changed your country (Colossians 1:13)! You were once a liege servant of Apollyon, but now you have become a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
And do you think the devil is pleased with you? I tell you no. If you had seen Satan the moment you were converted, you would have beheld a wondrous scene. As soon as you gave your heart to Christ, Satan spread his bat-like-wings—down he flew into hell—and summoning all his counselors he said, “Sons of the pit, true heirs of darkness, you who once were clad in light but who fell with me from high dignities—another of my servants has forsaken me. I have lost another of my family. He is gone over to the side of the Lord of Hosts. Oh you, my compeers, you fellow helpers of the powers of darkness, leave no stone unturned to destroy him. I bid you all hurl all your fiercest darts at him. Plague him. Let hell dogs bark at him. Let fiends besiege him. Give him no rest, harass him to the death. Let the fumes of our corrupt and burning lake ever rise in his nostrils. Persecute him, the man is a traitor, give him no peace! Since I cannot have him here to bind him in chains of adamant; since I never can have him here to torment and afflict him, as long as you can, till his dying day, I bid you howl at him! Until he crosses the river, afflict him, grieve him, torment him, for the wretch has turned against me and become a servant of the Lord.”
Such may have been the scene in hell that very day when you did love the Lord. And do you think Satan loves you better, now? Ah, no. He will always be at you, for your enemy, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). Expect trouble therefore, Christian, when you look beneath you.
Look Around You: The World Hates Us
Then, man of God, look around you. Do not be asleep. Open your eyes and look around you. Where are you? Is that man a friend next to you? No! You are in an enemy’s country. This is a wicked world.
The world is not to be trusted, not to be relied upon. The true Christian treads it beneath his feet, with “all that earth calls good or great.” Look around you, my brethren. You will see some good hearts, strong and valiant. You will see some true souls, sincere and honest. You will see some faithful lovers of Christ. But I tell you O child of light, that where you meet one sincere man, you will meet 20 hypocrites. Where you will find one that will lead you to heaven, you will find a score who would push you to hell. You are in a land of enemies, not of friends.
Never believe the world is good for much. Many people have burned their fingers by taking hold of it. Many a man has been injured by putting his hand into a nest of the rattlesnake—the world—thinking that the dazzling hues of the sleeping serpent were securities from harm. O Christian! The world is not your friend! If it is, then you are not God’s friend. For he who is the friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). And he who is despised of men, is often loved of Jehovah. You are in an enemy’s country, man—therefore expect trouble—expect that the “one who shared [your] bread, has turned against [you]” (Psalm 41:9 NIV).
Expect that you shall be estranged from those that love you. Be assured that since you are in the land of the enemy, you shall find the enemy everywhere. When you sleep, think that you sleep on the battlefield. When you walk believe that there is an ambush in every hedge. Oh, take heed, take heed! This is not a good world to shut your eyes in. Look around you, man. And when you are upon the watchtower, reckon surely that trouble comes!
Look Within You: Sin Dwells Within Us
But then, look within you; there is a little world in here, which is quite enough to give us trouble. A Roman once said he wished he had a window to his heart, that all people might see what was going on there. I am very glad I have not. If I had, I would shut it up. I would take care to have all the shutters up. Most of us would have great need of shutters if we had such a window!
However, for one moment, peep into the window of your heart, to observe what is there. Sin is there—original sin and corruption. And what is more, self is still within. Ah, if you had no devil to tempt you, you would tempt yourself. If there were no enemies to fight you, you would be your worst foe. If there were no world, still you would be bad enough, for “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).
Look within you, believer, know that you bear a cancer in your very vitals. Know that you carry within you a bombshell, ready to burst at the slightest spark of temptation. Know that you have inside your heart an evil thing, a coiled-up viper, ready to sting you and bring you into trouble, pain and unutterable misery. Take heed of your heart, Christian! And when you find sorrow, trouble and care, look within and say, “Verily, I may well receive this, considering the evil heart of unbelief which I carry about with me.”
Now do you see, brothers and sisters? There is no hope to escape trouble! What shall we do, then? There is no chance for us. We must bear suffering and affliction. Therefore, let us endure it cheerfully. Some of us are the officers in God’s regiments and we are the mark of all the riflemen of the enemy. Standing forward, we must bear all the shots. What a mercy it is that not one of God’s officers ever fall in battle! God always keeps them. When the arrows fly fast, the shield of faith catches them all. And when the enemy is most angry, God is most pleased.
So, for all we care, the world may go on, the devil may revile, flesh may rise, for “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV). Therefore, all honor be unto God, alone.
Christians, expect suffering.