How You Can Find Blessings in Your Suffering

Can you tell the difference between a blessing and a trial? (Photo by Kat J on Unsplash)

I would do anything to receive a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit. One might say that seeking a greater anointing is almost all I live for—rightly or wrongly. I used to say that I would gladly push a peanut across London with my nose if it would result in a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit. That said, I have had some of the greatest people of our generation pray with me and for me—from Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Billy Graham to Oral Roberts—plus a hundred others who have laid their hands on me that I might have more of God.

And yet if I were to be totally truthful, I am not aware—at least consciously—that any person laying hands on me has resulted in a greater anointing. If I have any measure of anointing, it is owing to two things: the sheer grace of God and suffering.

Yes, the very thing I dread and would naturally avoid—suffering—has been God's chosen means, in my case, to increase my anointing. By anointing, I mean that which flows with ease, when my gift functions without any fatigue, when the Scriptures are unfolded before me, when souls are brought into the kingdom through my personal and preaching ministry, and when people are healed.

Paul made a strange comment, and there is none other in Scripture quite like it: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col. 1:24, ESV).

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And yet this verse coheres with 1 Thessalonians 3:3: "That no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this." See also Philippians 1:29: "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." This is why James could say, "Count it all joy ("pure joy" in the New International Version) when you meet trials of many kinds" (James 1:2a).

Why should you and I count it pure joy when we are beset by a severe trial? It is like money in the bank. According to Colossians 1:24, so much suffering has been allocated to the body of Christ—a quota, a certain quantity. Such suffering is called Christ's "afflictions," pain in His body. God is looking for people who will suffer and not complain about it. There is space available because so many have complained and lost their opportunity for a greater anointing!

It is a great privilege to suffer for Christ. This primarily refers to persecution for what we believe but also even applies to any kind of suffering—feeling physical pain, being rejected, being lied about or losing everything. How you and I react to any kind of suffering may determine whether we are upgraded and get to experience sheer persecution for the gospel. I can tell you, a demonic spirit is sweeping America and Britain. The persecution that has been common in Third World countries is coming down your street.

I am always moved by how John and Peter rejoiced that they were "counted worthy" to suffer shame for Jesus' name (Acts 5:41b, MEV). Most of us would run a mile away from any kind of shame or embarrassment that threatens our self-esteem. Not Peter and John. They couldn't believe that they got to suffer shame for His name!

According to Josef Tson, the man who taught me total forgiveness, God chose Job to be an exhibit of suffering without complaining before the angels. The angels wanted to see if a person could lose everything and not curse God. Job came through (Job 1:22). Tson preached possibly the greatest sermon I ever heard at Westminster Chapel on "Mysterious Reasons for Suffering."

Suffering is hardly the means you and I would choose to have a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit. It would be the last place we would look for a way forward to glorify God. But what if God chose this for you and me? He chose it for Job. He chose it for Moses (Heb. 11:26). He chose it for the apostle Paul (Acts 9:16). He chose it for the Philippians and the Thessalonians. What if He chose it for you? Are you willing to receive it? What if it is the equivalent to money in the bank? Would you want it then?

The kind of suffering God may choose for us may not meet with our approval—whether it be physical suffering or persecution. Rule of thumb: Never despise the means God may use to get our attention. He knows exactly what will drive us to our knees. Dignify His chosen means—whether it is physical pain, the person hard to live with or even someone's jealousy of us. Take what He gives; God knows what we need.

Many years ago, a 90-year-old saint in Springfield, Illinois, talked to a group of teenagers—of whom my mother was one. The lady said to them, "I have been serving the Lord for so long now that I can hardly tell the difference between a blessing and a trial."

Can you and I say that?

R.T. Kendall is an author, teacher and preacher. He now has a number of books in print, including the latest, More of God (Charisma House). He was the senior minister at London's Westminster Chapel from 1977 to 2002. He has earned multiple degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University and a Doctor of Divinity from Trevecca Nazarene University.

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