“. . . PUT ME TO SUFFERING.”
Today’s Scripture Reading
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Who in their right mind would want to be put to suffering? Deeply committed disciples, that's who. Deeply committed Christians realize that there is something bigger than their own self-interests, now and always, at work in the world. Deeply committed disciples know that this bigger work, or more specifically stated, the mission of God, is more important than their personal well-being, comfort, security, and social status.
I'm reminded of the account in Luke 9 when Jesus was walking along the road and someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go" (Luke 9:57). Clearly, as a way to show support for Jesus and his authority, this person shouted something they didn't mean. As the story continues, Jesus tells the person, "Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One [Jesus] has no place to lay his head" (9:58). Jesus tells another person to follow him, and that person says, "Let me go and bury my father" (9:59), which is another way of saying something like, "It's going to be a while, Jesus; my dad isn't dead yet and, therefore, I haven't gotten my inheritance. I can't take on of life on the move, one of pilgrims, until my family affairs are in order."
Clearly, one of the lessons of this passage is that regardless of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial hardships we may face or the customs and conveniences of life we wish to have, we are to be "put to suffering." Deeply committed Christians voluntarily relinquish their rights and privileges. Simply stated, genuine followers of Jesus are to (1) die to self-interests and concerns, (2) yield wholeheartedly to God's plan, and (3) resist the desires of this world.
In Matthew 6:24 ("No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth", see also Luke 16:13), Jesus teaches that a person cannot have two masters. One will be loved and one will be hated, or one will attract our loyalty while the other is ignored. Jesus teaches that God and wealth cannot both be served. I believe that the wealth Jesus is talking about in these passages extends well beyond what we might consider wealth or personal possessions today. I believe that if Jesus showed up in our churches to teach today, Jesus could very well spend his time teaching about God and wealth and serving the two, but also that you cannot server any interest that distracts from serving God -- more than wealth, in other words.
In a similar way, God instructs the Israelites, as one of the Ten Commandments, that "You must have no other gods before me," and "Do not make an idol for yourself," and "Do not bow down to them or worship them" (Exodus 20:3-5). Jesus is teaching in the above verses that you can only have one God and serve one God. Suffering for God's sake means we avoid having idols and other gods.
To die to our self-interests, yield to God's plan, and resist the desires of this world mean that we avoid keeping idols and gods, like a family inheritance that keeps us from following Jesus. We have all kinds of purging that needs to take place when we think about and speak of idols and gods. Work, our careers, chasing success, accumulating possessions, cultivating our personal image, sexual pleasures, or anything of the like that intoxicates us and consumes us might all be considered idols. "Put me to suffering" doesn't mean you can't have any of those things. It does, however, maen that they should not be allowed to creep in and take a place of priority in your life. We suffer when we push past what we want and live into what God wants for our lives.
"Put me to suffering," therefore, is to join Jesus in his deliberate life choices to suffer (or bear, or endure). This means we assume the loss of what we think we are entitled to and eligible for -- our idols and gods -- and audaciously pursue a simple life in the way of Jesus. A life in the way of Jesus is marked by profound behaviors of live, peace, hope, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and other traits that continue endlessly.
"Put me to suffering" is to increase both the frequency and duration of the holy moments in our lives and in doing so, completely surrender to the mission of God, regardless how "beneath us" the work might be. PhD, MD, or CEO might mean we are needed to exercise our expertise, specialized skills, education, and vast experience. It may also mean that we might need to give up our titles and trophies and simply meet the practical needs of everyday people in everyday ways -- needs like acceptance, encouragement, affirmation, affection, and appreciation at the most basic levels.
To pray, "put me to suffering," is to pray, "God, above all else and with all obedience, I place your will first in my life."
Do I really believe that God's mission is more important than my own well-being, comfort, security, and social status?
Do I tell God (and others) that I will follow Jesus wherever he goes, when I don't really mean my words?
Teach us, God, to give up our titles and trophies and make meeting the needs of the people we know and come into contact with the number-one priority in our lives. Amen.
SUFFER FOR JESUS
Name three ways that you can suffer for Jesus today. Pick one of the three ways you have listed and do it. Describe to another person what it felt like to be "put to suffering".
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