READ: Psalm 16, Isaiah 7-9, John 9, Revelation 17


Last night an Egyptian believer was in our home. He has served four years as a missionary in Libya and has been arrested three times. This last arrest led to an extended time in prison where he was beaten severely multiple times. On one occasion they tied his hands up to a rafter above his head. They put a blindfold on him, stuffed his mouth with a dirty rag, and put a gun to his head. “Any last requests?” They sneered. Our brother nodded his head, and they removed the rag and freed his hands. “I want to pray,” he said, and immediately did so.“Thank you, Lord, that my life is in your hands. Amen.” He finished his brief prayer, plucked the rag out of the surprised guard’s hand, and stuffed it back into his mouth. Stunned at his fearlessness, the guard began to beat him mercilessly and call others to join in the beating.

Psalm 16 talks about passages through hell, and every saint will eventually have one or more hellish situations, valleys of shadows, to pass through. “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh shall rest in your hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your holy one to see corruption” (v. 10). This promise to the Messiah has currency for us. The psalmist goes on: “You will show me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (v. 11). Somehow a lie has crept into the head of man, a lie which states the highest earthly pleasures are connected to ease and comfort. This may be true for heaven–where evil is banished–but on earth–where evil abounds–the greatest joys have to do with being in the presence of Jesus regardless of condition.

Christian joy in this temporal world, the fullness of joy, is not dependent on health, wealth, or lack of suffering.  Mysteriously the richest humans are currently the most unhappy, and the suffering church is much more joyful than the prosperous one. Christian joy is derived from the surety of one day being delivered and the expansive pleasure of suffering in the now with Jesus. When we suffer for Jesus (because we stand for Him) or when we suffer with Jesus (because we share a fallen world with Him), there is this unusual divine energy and comfort that is poured into our spirits. It is not rational, it is not transferable, it is the unique and special privilege of only those who have tearfully trod suffering’s path. To suffer with Jesus is to know that the lines have fallen for us in pleasant places (v. 6), Jesus is ever before us, at our right hand and we shall not be moved (v. 8). We can then be in prison, beaten, yet with aplomb stick the gag back in our own mouths with a smile and blindfolded twinkle saying:  “Go ahead; shoot us. I am my beloved’s and He is mine and His banner over me is love.”

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