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SUFFEROLOGY

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 22, 2019

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21; p. 1313 Scofield).


The title of this sermon is “Sufferology.” “Suffer” means “to experience pain, to feel sadness, to go through a bad time.” “Ology” means “the study of.” Anthropology is the study of man. Zoology is the study of animals. And “sufferology” is the study of suffering.

I first heard the word “sufferology” listening to a tape-recorded sermon by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Pastor Wurmbrand spent fourteen years in Communist prisons in Romania for believing in Jesus. He wrote a book about the underground Christians called Tortured for Christ. Pastor Wurmbrand was the greatest Christian of the twentieth century. In his sermon, he said the way to prepare for suffering in the future is to go through suffering now. He told me to learn “sufferology.”

Suffering is a normal part of life for the real Christians in China. They’re not thinking about how they can be happy, or how they can be rich. They can be put in prison or killed at any time. It’s that way in North Korea and in Muslim countries. Being a serious Christian is not a vacation. It’s a life of cross-bearing and suffering, following the steps of Christ.

New-evangelicals today hardly ever talk about suffering. That’s because we’re in “the Apostasy,” the time before the Tribulation when there is a great “falling away” from real Christianity. New-evangelicals talk only about positive and happy things. They talk about God’s love and blessings, but never about His judgment. They talk about Heaven, but not about Hell. They talk about how God can make your life happier and better. Joel Osteen’s famous book is titled, “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” No suffering there! False prophets never talk about suffering!

Today young people are dropping out of church. That’s because we are in “the Apostasy,” the great falling away. Young people don’t go to church because they don’t want to suffer even a little bit. They don’t want to give up the time to go to church.

Think about Chan the Apostate. He’s what Arnold Schwarzenegger called a “girly man.” His people went there because they don’t want to suffer. They don’t want to face anything. They’re “girly men.” They want to have it easy and still say they go to church. They want to have fellowship and go on dates with the “girly girls.”

What about you? Are you man enough, or woman enough, to suffer? Are you tough enough to face life? Do you want to be a strong Christian? If you don’t, why not go to Chan with the other girly men and girly girls? But I’ll stay here! And I challenge you to stay here too!

Pastor Wurmbrand was right. To be ready for persecution – and to grow in the Christian life now – you must study “sufferology” by actually suffering. Do not run away to an easy life. Go through the suffering and you will become a fine Christian, ready for anything. Today I want to bring out four points about suffering.

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I. First, suffering is your calling from God.

Our text says,

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21).

Christ left “us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” It sounds good to say, “I’m following Jesus.” Lots of people say it. But are they? Are you?

What is the example that Christ left us? It is the example of suffering. The Bible commands you to follow Jesus in suffering, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” The Bible says you are “called” to suffering, “For even hereunto were ye called.” You are called to follow in the steps of Christ – in suffering. This is the way of the cross. This is cross-bearing. This way is not only for the Apostles, but for all Christians. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; p. 1086).

Jesus did not speak only to the Apostles. He said, “any man.” The original Greek literally means “any one,” any person. It applies to women too. If anyone wants to follow Jesus, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily. “Deny” means “say no.” Say no to yourself! Say no to what feels good! Say no to this world! And take up the cross – take up the Christian life, with its pain as well as its joy. That is not the way of the new-evangelicals. Their goal is, “Say yes to yourself.” But the Bible says, “Say no to yourself.” Which will it be for you?

The Apostle Paul said, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3; p. 1280). This was one of the first Bible verses I heard Dr. Hymers preach on. He told us about Richard Wurmbrand. I had read Pastor Wurmbrand’s book. I knew I came to the right church. That was for me!

Jesus said that cross-bearing is required of all true Christians. It is a test and an evidence of all true Christians. Jesus said, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38; p. 1010).

There are many different forms of suffering. There is the persecution the Christians face in China, where they are put in prison or killed. In America you may experience the light persecution of people talking bad about you because you are a real Christian. The Bible says, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12; p. 1281).

Then there is the suffering of missing out on things because you are a serious Christian. You will miss some worldly pleasures. You will miss “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25; p. 1302). You may make less money than if you hadn’t followed Christ. You may have to change your schedule and give up some of your time. That isn’t just for new people. We’re going to start a church in the San Gabriel Valley. Will you work to bring one person in? Will you do that much?

Remember that you don’t belong to yourself anymore. The Bible says, “Ye are not your own...ye are bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:19, 20; p. 1217). If you’re a Christian, Jesus has bought you with His Blood. You don’t belong to yourself. You belong to Him. Let Jesus have His way with your life!

Don’t be surprised when suffering comes. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33; p. 1139). The Apostle Paul said, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; p. 1169). The Apostle Peter said,

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings” (I Peter 4:12, 13; p. 1315).

The trouble and pain that comes to you is nothing strange. The Bible says, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12; p. 1281). Is there suffering and persecution today? You better believe it!

Marvin Rosenthal wrote The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. In that book he showed from the Bible how the pre-Tribulation rapture theory that says Christians will escape trouble and pain was wrong. He was right. But it cost him a great deal! Rosenthal is a Jewish believer. He worked for an organization that did Jewish evangelism. But they insisted on the pre-Tribulation rapture. Rosenthal spoke out anyway! It cost him his job. Think about him. He doesn’t even have an earned doctorate. He’d be a nobody with nowhere to go. He’d lose his income. He’d lose his friends. He’d be just a little Jew, mocked by evangelicals. But Rosenthal stood up anyway. That’s courage! Are you tough enough to be like him? Are you man enough, woman enough, to stand in the Christian life even if it’s hard? I challenge you to do it!

The Christian life in the Bible is far, far different from the so-called Christian life of apostate new-evangelicals in America. For them the “Christian life” is a life of pleasure. It’s a life of self-fulfillment. That’s the life of new-evangelicals – which includes Chan and his people. That’s all they are, just new-evangelicals.

The real Christian life is serious. It’s life-changing. Life as a Christian is more important than life on earth. It’s a life of real prayer. It’s a life that obeys the Bible. It’s a life that tries to win souls. It’s a life that is dedicated to the local church. It’s a life that suffers, and expects to suffer – and endures, for there is nothing worthwhile in this world. That’s the life of the Christians in China! That’s the life of Richard Wurmbrand! That’s the life of Marvin Rosenthal! That’s the life for me! May it be the life for you!

II. Second, suffering produces your sanctification.

The word “sanctification” means “to become holy, to become pure, to become a better Christian.” Suffering produces your sanctification. When you go through suffering and pressure in your life, it makes you a better Christian. The Bible says, “[Pressure] worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4; p. 1197). You’ll be a better Christian. The Bible says suffering for Jesus is a gift,

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29; p. 1258).

To suffer for Jesus is a gift. It’s an honor! That’s why the Apostles “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41; p. 1156).

Decisionists in the Apostasy don’t want to suffer. They want “instant Christianity.” If you pray a sinner’s prayer, it’s all over. There’s nothing else to do except slide along until you’re raptured. But they are wrong! Dr. A. W. Tozer said,

The advocates of instant Christianity flaunt the law of development which runs through all nature. They ignore the sanctifying effects of suffering, and practical obedience. They pass by the need for spiritual training, the necessity of forming right spiritual habits and the need to grapple against the world, the devil, and the flesh (A. W. Tozer, “The Inadequacy of ‘Instant Christianity,’” in That Incredible Christian, Moody Publishers, 2018 reprint).

New-evangelicals don’t want to go through “suffering and practical obedience.” Neither do Chan and his people. That’s why they’ll never be better than they are now. In fact, they’ll get worse, as they slip down the slope of apostasy.

Just how do you become a better Christian? The Pentecostals and charismatics say it happens through great feelings and experiences. But you can shake and jump and feel and cry all your life long, and not grow one bit – if you’re saved at all. New-evangelicals think you can be a great Christian by studying the Bible. Yes, it’s right to study the Bible. But that’s not enough. I look back to my own life. I went to a Bible-teaching church and heard expository sermons every Sunday for a year – and didn’t even get saved! After I did trust Christ, I remember thinking I could study and learn more and more and never advance beyond soft, middle-class religion – and I was right.

Then I met Dr. Hymers. He preached something I haven’t heard anywhere else, something you almost can’t hear in America today. He preached that the Christian life is all about facing the struggle, about throwing yourself into the work, about growing through fighting the battle. He preached that Christian growth comes through actually being in the struggle, sometimes bruised and hurting, but refined as gold. He preached that growth comes by going through the school of experience, the school of the Christian life. He preached that Christian life comes through living and learning Sufferology. That preaching is a precious treasure! I thank God for Dr. Hymers!

That’s the way to grow in the Christian life – not by seeking what’s easy for you, but by sailing through bloody seas, as the hymn puts it. If you live through sufferology you will be a stronger and better Christian! You’ll be a jewel in Christ’s crown. When Jesus comes to set up His Kingdom, he’ll reward you above silver and gold! Will you hear the call of Christ? Will you stay and grow in Him? Will you do it! May it be so!

III. Third, suffering prepares you to endure.

This is not a good time we live in. We are living in the Apostasy, when people step away from the true Christian faith. It is called a “great falling away” – hē apostasia – the apostasy (II Thessalonians 2:3; p. 1272). We are living in the time when “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (II Timothy 3:13; p. 1281). We are now living in the time when “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold” (Matthew 24:12; p. 1033). We live in a time when churches go down in membership and even close their doors. We live in “the Apostasy.”

Tough times lie ahead, for America and for the churches. Yet the evangelicals go from one fancy treat to another. They remind me of King Belshazzar and his people who went on drinking and partying the night before Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians! (see Daniel, chapter 5). The Bible says,

“Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13; p. 1255)

That verse means, “Prepare yourself, or you won’t be able to stand!” Athletes practice their sport, don’t they? If they don’t practice, they won’t win. Everybody knows that – except the evangelicals!

How new-evangelicals live makes no sense! Most of them aren’t Christians at all. Very few of them are strong Christians, for they have enjoyed themselves and never been tested in the fire of suffering, in the battle against Satan. They’ll go down like a boxer who doesn’t practice goes down in a fight! When persecution comes, they won’t stand. If they face the Antichrist, they’ll take his mark, and make an excuse while they do it. What do you think Chan and his people will do? They won’t suffer now, so they won’t suffer later. They’ll surrender! The Bible says, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5; p. 785). If you can’t handle it when it’s easy, what will you do when it’s hard? Good question!

I trusted Jesus 42 years ago. I read about the early Christians – how people would suffer and die rather than deny Christ. I read Richard Wurmbrand’s book – how people would suffer and die rather than deny Christ. Then I looked around me. I saw evangelicals caught up in pleasure. I saw people wear a cross around their neck, but there was no cross in their life. I saw an unreal world. I thought about what I saw. Then I thought about the martyrs and Pastor Wurmbrand. It was as if there were two different worlds and two different religions. I didn’t see how the evangelicals would stand under persecution. I wasn’t sure if I would! [Will you? Are you sure? I wasn’t.] I looked for a place to train. I found this church and stayed in it. Thank God for our church!

Let me say it as clearly as I can: If you can’t handle what you’re going through now, you won’t make it when things get rough. Chan and his people won’t make it. They want it easy now, and they’ll run when it’s hard. Don’t be like them! Go through the School of Sufferology. Stick it out. Don’t hide from difficult things. Do the right thing even if it isn’t fun. Do the right thing even if others don’t. Do the right thing even if it gets in your way. Do the right thing if it hurts. You’ll go through hard knocks and suffering, but that’s the way to be standing when the real test comes.

Are you tough enough to do it? Are you man enough to go through suffering? Are you woman enough? I dare you to do it!

IV. Fourth, suffering brings your reward.

If you suffer as a Christian, you will be rewarded in Christ’s Kingdom. The Bible says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280). Again, the Bible says, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17; p. 1233). The suffering we have now is nothing compared to the great reward Christ will give us!

Over a hundred years ago President Theodore Roosevelt came back from a hunting trip to Africa. A great crowd came to see him. When he got off the ship, the people shouted and applauded. Then the crowd went away. But there was another man who came on the same ship. Henry Morrison had been a missionary to Africa for forty years. When he and his wife came down on the gangplank, nobody applauded them. Not one person came to greet them.

Morrison was sad. He said to his wife, “Everyone welcomes the president. We spent forty years in missionary work and no one seems to care.” His wife said, “Go into the other room and settle it with God.” He went into the room. Later Morrison came out. He was no longer sad. He said, “I have settled it with God.” Then he told his wife, “God told me, ‘You’re not home yet.’”

Now Morrison is in Heaven. The souls he won to Christ who died before him welcomed him there. Christ welcomed him. “Morrison is here! Morrison is here!” they must have shouted. And think of the tremendous reward Jesus will give him in the Kingdom! Crowns and cities and honor and glory! The suffering will be forgotten as Morrison receives his crown! The pain is forgotten. I can imagine saints and angels shouting, “Morrison! Morrison!” Now there is only glory!

What about you? Will you take the way of the cross? I say, “Away with the girly-man Christianity of new-evangelicals! Away with the girly-man religion of Chan!” Be a man! Be a woman! Come with us. Stay with us! Live for Christ! One day the pain will be forgotten. You’ll have a great reward. I can imagine saints and angels shouting for you. For you, it will be only glory!

Please stand and sing stanzas 1, 2 and 4 of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
   (“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).


THE OUTLINE OF

SUFFEROLOGY

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21; p. 1313 Scofield).

I.    First, suffering is your calling from God, Luke 9:23; II Timothy 2:3; Matthew 10:38; II Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:25; I Corinthians 6:19; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; I Peter 4:12, 13; II Timothy 3:12.

II.   Second, suffering produces your sanctification, Romans 5:3, 4;
Philippians 1:29; Acts 5:41.

III.  Third, suffering prepares you to endure, II Thessalonians 2:3;
II Timothy 3:13; Matthew 24:12; Ephesians 6:13; Jeremiah 12:5.

IV.  Fourth, suffering brings your reward, II Timothy 2:12;
II Corinthians 4:17.