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ENTERING THE KINGDOM
THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, June 6, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).


As the Apostle Paul travelled through the cities of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch he preached to those who came into the churches. He told the people to "continue in the faith," and then he said,

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

This was a general theme in Paul's preaching. He made willingness to suffer an essential part of repentance and conversion. In II Timothy 2:12, he wrote,

"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (II Timothy 2:12).

Paul preached this theme constantly to all who heard him.

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

Notice that he said "we." Therefore this applies to everyone. Then he said, "we must." There is no way to get around it. The Greek word means "compelled." We are compelled, of necessity, to go through tribulation. It is true of everyone who wants to be a Christian - and you can't get out of it! Then he said, "we must through much tribulation..." This is literally, "many tribulations, troubles, afflictions" (Strong). From the beginning to the end, the Christian life is full of much tribulation and anguish. Why go through all this? The answer is given at the end of the text, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

Paul was "confirming" or "establishing" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown) these disciples in the faith. They are called "disciples," which simply means that they were "scholars or learners" (Barnes). It seems to me that some of them were recent converts, and others were at the edge of conversion. In any case, they were very new to the Christian faith. "They were surrounded by enemies, and exposed to temptations and to dangers" (Barnes). "They had as yet but a slight acquaintance with the truths of the gospel…it was therefore important that they should be further instructed in the truth, and established in the faith of the gospel…In the belief of the gospel" (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, note on Acts 14:22).

The Apostle Paul said to them,

"We must through much tribulation [troubles, afflictions] enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

This text tells us to expect trouble and affliction when we become Christians. This is necessary, says Barnes, for four main reasons (paraphrased).

1. Because there is so much opposition from the world to real Christianity.

2. Because we need to know this to keep us from wandering away when troubles come.

3. Because we need to know this to wean our minds away from the world…The opposition of sinners makes us desire that world where "the wicked shall cease from troubling," and where there shall be eternal friendship and peace.

4. Because we need to remember, when trouble and persecution comes, that this has happened to Christians from the beginning. We walk the path that has been watered by the tears of saints, and made sacred by the shedding of [their] blood. The Saviour walked that path; and it is enough that the "disciple be as his master, and the servant as his Lord" (Matt. 10:24, 25).

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

"Enter into the kingdom of God [means] be saved. Enter into heaven" (Barnes, ibid.).

A "hard" subject like this is seldom presented in America. No wonder we have so few real converts! We hear "prosperity theology," which tells us we will be rich if we become Christians. We hear "possibility thinking," which tells us that the Christian life is easy and "happy" at all times. These "easy" themes in American and European pulpits do not focus on what the Apostle Paul thought was absolutely vital for people to hear:

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

The "easy" sermons presented so often in American pulpits are not the same as what Paul emphasized in our text.

The Apostle didn't offer them an easy life as a Christian. He let them know at the very beginning what they were facing. In the English-speaking world today, we hold back teaching these hard truths. Not Paul! He presented the hardships of the Christian life right away - to those who had very little instruction in the Christian faith. This is the way preachers in Africa, Cuba, Southeast Asia and China preach. Instead of telling people how to be carefree and "happy" all the time, like leading TV preachers in America do, those third-world preachers, in China and other difficult places, go right to the core of apostolic truth. They tell their people that they are going to have to suffer if they want to enter the kingdom of God. No wonder they are experiencing great revival in Southeast Asia, China and Africa, while most American churches are half dead, with selfish, spiritually lifeless congregations.

Samuel Lamb spent twenty years in a Communist prison in Red China. Lamb is still preaching today. "He often attributes the seeds of growth to persecution," echoing the second century preacher Tertullian, who said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Samuel Lamb often says, "The more persecution, the more church growth" (quoted in Jesus in Beijing, by David Aikman, Regnery Publishing, 2003, p. 64).

American preachers try to make their messages soft and "upbeat" and "positive." But the great preachers in China, Southeast Asia, and other parts of the world don't preach like that at all. Instead, they tell those who are seeking salvation,

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

No wonder China has about 1,200 converts to Christianity every hour, around the clock, nearly 10 million a year - while our American and Western churches are falling apart and disintegrating before our very eyes. We in the West must get back to preaching like Samuel Lamb, and the Apostle Paul. We must tell the newest people, even the visitors, who come to our churches that

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

Unless more preachers in the English-speaking world get back to doing that there will be no revival, and very little successful evangelism in our part of the world.

Now, what are some of the tribulations, troubles and difficulties that everyone must go through to "enter into the kingdom of God"? I can think of two main ones.

I. First, you must go through the pain and anguish of being hated by the world.

The Christian News (5/31/04, p. 21) reports that

Red China's public security bureau has launched a new crackdown on unregistered churches, arresting several top leaders following the release of a new video ["The Cross: Jesus in China," available from Voice of the Martyrs, (800)747-0085] and book ["Jesus in Beijing," available from VOM, (800)747-0085] that document huge growth among Christians outside the officially permitted [Communist] church (4/4 Christianity Today). China's constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, but requires all religious organizations to register with the government. It brands those groups that do not register as illegal or cults.


Zhao Wenquan was arrested May 9 in Hegou Town, Meng Cheng County, Anhui province, VOM said. Zhao, who is more than 60 years old…has been working in China's unregistered churches for more than 30 years…Zhao has reportedly been charged with "disturbing the social order"… He could be sentenced, without a trial, to three years of so-called "re-education through labor."

We encourage Christians around the world to send polite letters of protest to the Chinese government concerning Brother Zhao Wenquan's arrest. Letters can be addressed to:

Ambassador Yang Jiechi
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone (202)328-2500
Fax (202)588-0032
Director of Religious Affairs: (202)328-2512.

Analysts say that China is experiencing the largest church growth in the world, despite reports of ongoing persecution of active Christians (The Christian News, May 31, 2004, page 19).

Why should it be different in the United States, or other Western nations? It really isn't different in kind - only in intensity. Jesus said,

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

The world has an irrational hatred of Christians, which cannot be fully explained.

The Jesus-hating movie moguls of Hollywood put out a cheap movie attacking Christianity a couple of weeks ago. I guess these Hollywood Jesus-haters thought they could nullify Mel Gibson's film by attacking Christianity. The movie is called "Saved!" The Los Angeles Daily News said,

The makers of "Saved!" want you to know that it's important to practice tolerance of others - unless, of course, those others are Christians. Then it's OK to mock, ridicule and reduce [them] to misshapen stereotypes because, well, they deserve it. The movie's hate-filed brand of reductive thinking will obviously be plenty offensive to believers. For others, "Saved!" will merely insult your intelligence in the usual depressing ways. This is a bad high school movie with illusions of being about something important instead of being just another run-of-the-mill, unfunny, broad teen comedy. PG-13: thematic issues involving teens - pregnancy, sexual content, smoking and filthy language (The Los Angeles Daily News, June 4, 2004, U Section, p. 11).

Jesus said,

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).

It doesn't take long for a college student to realize that his professors treat all cultures and all religions with respect - except Christianity. Christ and the Bible are ridiculed and attacked on a daily basis in all secular colleges and universities.

And every person who becomes a real Christian will experience the pain and anguish of being criticized, ridiculed and hated by the Christ-rejecting world.

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

II. Second, you must go through the pain and anguish of conversion.

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

You will be confronted by the Devil if you are interested in becoming a Christian. The Devil will come to take the word out of your heart. Jesus said so.

"Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).

Every person who becomes a Christian must, in some sense, go through the experience of having Satan put unbelieving thoughts in his mind. This is especially true as you come closer to Christ. Jesus said,

"Bring thy son hither [here]. And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him" (Luke 9:41-42).

Great Spurgeon said, concerning this verse,

Coming sinners, when they approach the Saviour, are often thrown down by Satan and torn, so that they suffer exceedingly in their minds, and are well nigh ready to give up in despair (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Comer's Conflict With Satan," The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume II, p. 369).

Spurgeon pointed out that the Devil perverts the truth of God by attempting to destroy the soul. Spurgeon said that the Devil will tell you that there is no other sinner quite like you. He will tell you that others have been saved, but you will not be one of them.

Then Spurgeon said that the Devil will tear you by telling you horrible falsehoods.

Many a time when the soul is coming to Christ, Satan violently injects infidel thoughts…It was just when I wanted Christ and panted after him, that on a sudden the thought crossed my mind…that there was no God, no Christ, no heaven, no hell; that all my prayers were but a farce (Spurgeon, ibid., p. 372).

He labours also to inject blasphemous thoughts, and then tells us they are ours. Has he not sometimes poured in most vehement torrents of blasphemy and evil imaginations into our hearts, which we ignorantly thought must be our own? Yet not one of them perhaps belonged to us. I remember I had [before my conversion] once been alone [thinking about] God, when on a sudden it seemed as if the floodgates of hell had been loosed; my head became a very pandemonium; ten thousand evil spirits seemed to be holding carnival within my brain; and I held my mouth lest I should give utterance to the words of blasphemy that were poured into my ears. Things I had never heard or thought of before came rushing…into my mind, and I could scarce withstand their influence. It was the devil throwing me down and tearing me…But [even] if you fear that these thoughts are your own, you may say, "I will go to Christ, and even if these blasphemies are mine I will confess them to [Jesus], for I know that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men" (Spurgeon, ibid., pp. 372-373).

Is there a way to escape the pain and anguish that so often accompanies conversion? No.

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

But when you come to Jesus, He will heal you of your inner torment.

"And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child …" (Luke 9:42).

Come to Christ, and He will heal your sin-sick soul. Christ is greater than Satan. He has risen from the dead, and is seated at God's right hand in Heaven. Come to Christ. Throw yourself upon Him. He will save you!

"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"
    (I John 1:7).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 9:37-43.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"When Jesus Comes" (by Homer Rodeheaver, 1880-1955)

THE OUTLINE OF

ENTERING THE KINGDOM
THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

(Matthew 10:24-25)

I.   You must go through the pain and anguish of being hated
by the world, John 15:19, 18.

II.  You must go through the pain and anguish of conversion,
Luke 8:12; 9:41-42; I John 1:7.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."