Affliction: God’s Servant
“. . . in those days shall be affliction, such as was
not from the beginning of creation . . .” Mark 13:19
The term “affliction” comes from the Greek word
“thlipsis,” which means “pressure.”
Seventeen times in the New Testament this word is translated
“affliction” and twenty-one times “tribulation.”
Jesus declared that the close of this age would be characterized
by much pressure, and indeed each one of our lives can attest
to that. Everyone has his share of afflictions, whether they
be straitness, distress, suffering, evil treatment, or bruisings
and breakings. There are job pressures, social pressures,
financial pressures, and family pressures and pressures within
the church. The aim of the enemy is to “wear out”
the saints. In the days of his deep troubles, Job declared,
“. . . days of affliction have gripped hold upon me
. . .” Job 30:16. Not just a single setback or disappointment,
but a prolonged season of terrible calamity. Jesus intimates
that the last days will bring much tribulation to the whole
earth, and men’s hearts will fear and tremble. But in
Jesus Christ there is sufficient grace to enable us to stand
in times of affliction and to emerge victoriously. God has
an amazing ability to transform all the enemy’s work
into a tool for the outworking of His purposes.
Joseph’s brethren heaped hate and ill-treatment upon
him and finally sold him as a slave into Egypt. There he encountered
more disappointments and eventual imprisonment. But God takes
hold of all this hate and injustice and uses it to work out
a glorious purpose. He was able to say unto his brethren,
“It was not you that sent me hither, but God.”
When his second son was born, he called him Ephraim, meaning
“fruitful,” and Joseph declared, “God hath
caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction”
Genesis 41:52. My friends, our land of affliction can bring
forth fruit to the glory of God.
The reason why the devil is so frustrated today is because
God takes all his dirty work and causes it to backfire on
him. When Egypt grew afraid of the amazing growth of the Israelites
among them, Pharaoh afflicted them with grievous burdens of
work, and made their lives bitter with hard bondage. But rather
than stop their phenomenal growth, the Bible indicates that
“the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied
and grew.” Thus, mysteriously, God’s word that
Abraham’s seed would become as numerous as the sand
of the sea began to be fulfilled in that environment of great
oppression and affliction. Are you in the place of great pressure
that appears to be crushing your life? I want you to know
that He is Lord and Master in and over every environment.
Right where you are, God is working out some aspect of His
purpose. I am convinced that it will be the environment of
great tribulation that God will use to purify and prepare
a people for the coming of the Lord.
David was under continual persecution at the hands of Saul.
The pressure was terrible. In fanatic determination, Saul
had vowed to kill him. Daily, he feverishly schemed and pursued.
David at times felt he wouldn’t make it. “There
is but a step between me and death . . .” he declared.
There were times when deliverance seemed impossible. “And
David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the
hand of Saul . . .” I Samuel 27:1. All the revelation
about his becoming king would fade out of his being. The only
reality was a relentless daily pressure upon his spirit. Yet,
one day that long horror of darkness is over. Saul is gone.
The Lord has delivered. And looking back he can see how God
has used it all. Hear his testimony in Psalm 119:65-75: “Thou
has dealt well with thy servant. . .Before I was afflicted
I went astray, but now have I kept thy word. . .It is good
for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy
statues. . .thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
It wasn’t just a maniac turned loose on him; it was
God molding a man. Oh, what a mighty God we serve!
In the days of Jesus, hatred and murder grew daily in the
hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. A conspiracy was forming
throughout the land to kill Jesus. Finally, Satan entered
into Judas and planted in his mind the betrayal of Jesus.
Satan thought once he had destroyed the Son of God he would
have the supremacy. The angry mob takes hold of Him. Jesus
knew it was “their hour.” At every turn they seemed
to have the upper hand, accusing, scourging, wounding, and
at last crucifying. Where is God? The enemy is doing his worst
and God is allowing it. Why? Because it is all fitting perfectly
into His plan. Redemption at last is a reality. All the hate,
the plotting, the evil, the sufferings, the crucifixion, have
served a tremendous purpose. The curse has been lifted; God
and man are reconciled; the way is open for many sons to come
Paul caught the vision of the ways of God. He recognized
that troubles, perplexities, and persecutions constitute the
“dying of the Lord,” and that out of such daily
dying the life of Jesus is made manifest in mortal flesh.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17, he calls all this, “our light
affliction which is but for a moment” and declares that
“It worketh for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.”
From the confines of a Roman prison he can declare, “What
has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
It has become know throughout the whole praetorian guard that
my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brethren have
been more confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment,
and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear”
Philippians 1:12-14 RSV. Yes, beloved, our afflictions work
for us; they are God’s servants used to establish His
purpose in us. He has purposed us for glory, and affliction
is but one of God’s great means of producing it.