The most righteous man, Job, had to suffer that most grievously. Paul, perhaps the Lord’s greatest missionary, had to endure 49 beatings, but all of this had been according to the will of God, as He had informed Ananias: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).
Suffering is not accidental. As God had informed Daniel, it is actually programmed into our lives:
- “And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” (Daniel 12:7)
When evil didn’t have a face and had seemed far away in another place and time, it was easier for me to accept. But now, as evil seems to be ready to pounce, it’s another thing:
- As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21-22)
- “He [the evil king] shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time... And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’”(Daniel 7:25, 27)
There’s no mistake about it. We are to be an offering to evil:
- His [the wicked king’s] power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. (Daniel 8:24)
Everything within me cries out against this, even though we are promised a glorious everlasting kingdom. However, as I watch the growing decimation of the brethren along with our prophesied internal decay (Matthew 24:6-9), I am not finding much consolation, even in light of our promised resurrection:
- “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)
Instead, I want to fight. However, Daniel often reminds us that the Lord is in perfect control of these horrid but necessary circumstances:
- “And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed.” (Daniel 11:27, 29, 35)
In the hands of this master surgeon, nothing can go wrong, but we are the objects of His surgery:
- “He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder... and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:32-33, 35)
The noted preacher, Charles Spurgeon wisely wrote, “If the road to heaven were smooth, heaven wouldn’t be so sweet in the end.” His words mirror those of Peter:
- Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Can I rejoice? Couldn’t our Savior have found a less horrific way to bring us home to be with Him? However, Jesus also prayed for a different way, but submitted Himself to His
Father. I must do likewise.
Father. I must do likewise.
If purification begins with us (1 Peter 4:17), what will be the fate of the wicked?
- Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:10)
With what understanding must we endure? For one thing, I remind myself that I too require His purifying surgery. For another thing, our calm trust in the Lord in the midst of adversity is our love offering to the world. Daniel’s three friends offered their lives through their faithfulness. They would not worship the King and were therefore thrown into the fiery furnace, from which they were miraculously rescued. As a result
- [King] Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:28-29)
Our God accomplishes great things through the faithful witness of His people. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he worshipped his God. However, God miraculously speared him:
- Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:25-27)
Our God brings forth good out of evil. He not only speared Daniel but used his faithfulness to bring salvation.
You probably realize by now that I am preaching to myself. I need to! I want to be prepared, even if it means my martyrdom. Paul wrote that when we remain confident, this will serve as a powerful sign of our salvation and the damnation of our oppressors (Phil. 1:27-29). And it might even lead to their repentance.
I also want to be like Daniel. After he finished praying, the archangel Gabriel came and informed him:
- “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.” (Daniel 9:22-23)
Please understand, I do not want to be a martyr. I’d rather be a warrior, but we are told that when we are persecuted in one place, we should flee to another. Lord, help us to learn your lessons.