Daily Devotional for Thursday April 3, 2008
The Suffering We All Experience in this Life
(Acts 5:31; Romans 8:18; Philippians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13)
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance." Romans 5:3 (NIV)
The suffering we all experience in this life. Sadly, many people enjoy the suffering of others. Even though they won't admit it, some people take a certain amount of sick pleasure in seeing others suffer. Somehow they feel better about their own life when they see someone else in pain. Why else would pure garbage like Jerry Springer be so popular? It is the explanation for why the judge programs have always been a staple of daytime television. It also explains why people become hooked on soap operas. It is THE reason people are fascinated by reality TV programs that dominate television today. I know for a fact that it is why some people watch the Liveprayer television program, to hear the pain of others as they call in for prayer and counsel.
Suffering is something all who live in this sin-filled and fallen world will experience to some degree at various times in their life. Some of our suffering in life is caused by others, and some is caused by ourselves. Dealing daily with the pain and suffering of so many people, I have such compassion for those who are going through those difficult times in life. Even when they are the cause of their suffering, it is still difficult to see someone in pain. I have to be honest with you. A few months ago, I watched Scientology cult member Greta Van Susteren's jailhouse interview with Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis for her "On the Record" program on the Fox News Channel. I started watching the interview and prayed for Joe and that this might be a breaking point in his life. By the end of the interview I still prayed for his soul, but had ZERO compassion for him and the trials the was facing in his life.
Francis was initially jailed last year for contempt of court stemming from a civil action in Panama City, Florida for filming a sex act between two underage girls. Subsequently, Francis was charged with failure to pay over $20 million in income tax and was being held in a Reno, Nevada jail awaiting trial on those charges. Francis was probably right that he has been targeted and treated unfairly because of who he is. It is not normal to be jailed in the course of a civil action and why he was not been able to bond out on his Federal income tax case is an interesting issue. However, I couldn't muster any real sympathy for Francis even though he probably had been treated unfairly, especially after he compared himself to Jesus Christ!!!
You see, Joe Francis is one of the leading producers of pornography in the world and a man whose company does apx. $40 million a year in sales of his videos that exploit and demean a seemingly unending stream of young women who are far too eager to bare their bodies for his cameras. Sadly in this nation, what Francis does for a living is 100% legal. That doesn't mean everyone agrees with what he does or likes it. The mayor of Panama City, a popular spring break destination, told Francis that he was not welcome there. Like most who have lots of money, Francis felt invincible and went there anyway. The fact is he ended up with the legal problems he faced in Panama City because of his pride and arrogance.
Where I lost any compassion for Francis was when he decided to compare his "suffering" to the suffering of Jesus Christ. He described how in that Florida jail he would be stripped, handcuffed and shackled to go to the shower, which is how it is done in most jails. He then talked about how he would fall down and have to get himself up. At one point he said he was in tears and the Chaplin saw him and asked if he thought about Jesus. Francis said he had and that this is what they did to Jesus. GIVE ME A BREAK! This porn king who made millions exploiting young women and polluting our culture with his garbage that has helped enslave and destroy the lives of those who consumed it, was now comparing his suffering to the suffering of Jesus?
Listen, I know what Francis went through, I had a similar experience 18 years ago. It is called "the treatment." It is not illegal. It is not inhumane. It is demeaning and humiliating. It is how you are "punished" in jail for being someone of notoriety. I can tell you stories of what is known in the Federal system as "diesel therapy." It is when a US Attorney wants to make your life miserable after you are in custody and need to be transferred from one point to another. Rather than a 3 hour flight from Pensacola, Florida to Chicago after I was arrested on insider trading charges in December of 1989, I spent the next 40 days "on the road," stopping every night in little county jails along the way, being kept in isolation at each stop. You are shackled and handcuffed every moment you are not in your cell. It is not fun, but never for a second did I equate what I was going through with Jesus. I did this to myself, I was guilty, JESUS WAS AN INNOCENT MAN WHO DID IT FOR ME, YOU, AND EVERYONE ELSE!
When we think about suffering, we think about the suffering we do in this life from just living in an evil and sin infested world. That is why our relationship with the Lord is so critical. A byproduct of that relationship is the strength we get from within to endure the suffering of this life. A byproduct of that relationship is the peace and the joy we can know despite the suffering we may be experiencing. A byproduct of that relationship is the victory we can know even in the midst of the suffering life often brings our way. It is our relationship with the Lord that enables us to live a life of peace, joy, and victory even in the midst of the suffering we often have to endure!
Of course the Bible also talks about the suffering we do for the Lord. It says we should count it as joy to suffer for Him. My friend, you should rejoice if you are given the chance to truly suffer for Jesus. After all, He suffered for you! There is NO suffering you will ever do, even to the giving of your life, that will compare with the suffering He did in paying for your sins. We should be grateful if we get the chance during our life to suffer for the cause of Christ. There are many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who suffer every second of their life to be called a follower of Christ.
Most in this country call suffering getting up for church on Sunday morning, or having to perform some act of service. We haven't got a clue what suffering for the Lord really is, but as our nation spirals deeper in the spiritual abyss it is in we may find out very soon. If you ever get that opportunity, stand strong, know the Lord is with you, and boldly, proudly, and without fear, proclaim that Jesus is your Savior and He is the Lord of Lord and King of Kings!!!
I love you and care about you so much. Pray for Joe Francis. He is a very lost and confused young man. Equating his suffering humiliation in jail only demonstrates that fact. He has made millions exploiting young women and destroying the lives of those who consume his filth. I prayed that what he experienced would be a time of breaking for him and that whatever suffering he went through, it would truly will cause him to take inventory of his life and make a commitment to Christ. Sadly, he is now out of jail, arrogant, prideful, and defiant as ever as he is back in total control of his pornogrpahy empire. This experience obviously didn't soften Francis' heart at all. Pray that he gets saved, turns his life to Christ, gives up his pornography empire, and becomes a spokesman for the Lord!
I will be praying for you as well. I know this morning many are suffering from the trials and tribulations of life. I pray today that God will give you His strength, peace, and joy despite the challenges you face today. That in the midst of your suffering, you will come to know His presence in a special way. He loves you and has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, even in your suffering! I will pray for you as well that if you are fortunate to get the opportunity to suffer for the Lord, you will embrace that opportunity. It is one of life's great honors to be able to suffer for Christ. I pray that you will seize such a moment and let your life be a living sacrifice for Christ and that He will be glorified in your suffering.
These are the last days. Great persecution will soon come upon the church and God's people. That is what the Bible says. These are the times for those who know Christ to stand up and be counted. Those who are playing games, those who are serving the Lord with the wrong motives, will all fall away. It is that faithful remnant which will remain as they take their stand and truly suffer for being called a Christian. This life is about one thing, being faithful, even unto death. Now is the time for those who love the Lord to let this world know that no matter what we have to face for simply being a follower of Christ, we will proudly suffer for Jesus just as Jesus proudly suffered for us!!!