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Have you ever attended a prayer meeting for church leaders in your area?

You may know the kind.

As the reports are given, you sit there dreading your turn. Everyone, it seems, leads a healthy, successful community, with a schedule packed full of exciting initiatives.

Your turn comes round . . . Our church? Er, well . . . Maybe, like me, you’re tempted to over-egg your report, omitting anything negative and focusing exclusively on the positive. Our evening service has doubled in size!

You submit an upbeat report . . . to encourage others, of course.


At a ministers’ conference a few years ago, I remember a pastor who broke the mould.

Before teaching from the Word, he began with a shocking description of the challenges he faced in ministry. The room fell deathly silent. It was one of those moments when you knew something significant was taking place. We listened in rapt attention as he spoke candidly about his struggles. Many of them we had faced ourselves.

His words touched our hearts.

We were very grateful for his honesty and courage.


When John introduced himself to his readers at the beginning of The Revelation, he reassured them that he was one with them in their struggle.

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Rev 1.9

The location from where he’s writing is important. He’s on Patmos—an island for exiled prisoners, not a holiday destination. Conditions were harsh. Just as soldiers often form close and lasting friendships when they’ve fought in a conflict together, so John and his readers could relate to each other because of their shared struggle and suffering for the Lord. Two thousand years on, we still stand with John and the early church. Following Jesus with obedience and commitment is still tough. It’s challenging. It brings suffering.


Suffering comes in many forms, and is faced by all humanity. Some is truly horrendous, almost impossible to put into words. For followers of Jesus in particular, however, there is a unique kind of suffering related to our faith.

  • All Christians suffer from a daily struggle with temptation.

  • Many Christians suffer the burden of seeing loved ones reject Jesus.

  • Many Christians face rejection. Some are ridiculed at home, in their families, in the workplace.

  • Christians suffer as they ‘stand against the devil’s schemes’. (Eph 6.11) He accuses, sows doubt, brings friction, encourages discord, raises suspicion, spreads gossip, spoils friendships, fuels wars, feeds greed, approves selfishness. The list goes on.

  • Christians suffer for simply holding fast to God’s way.

If this describes your experience, you are ‘participating in his suffering’ (Phil 3.10). We are brothers and sisters with him, and with each other.


Being a member of the Kingdom of God is good. Really good. This is precisely what Jesus saves us for—to participate in the kingdom he is bringing into this world. But this also makes us very different. In his letters, Peter calls his fellow believers ‘aliens’ or ‘exiles’. We belong to a different world to this one because we live by kingdom principles, and this means the closer we follow Jesus, the more we clash with our culture. Hence why the apostle Paul urged the believers in Colossae to keep their eyes on heavenly things.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Col 3.1-2

What an encouragement. Since you’re a member of this heavenly kingdom, not only are you my brother or sister, but we’ll spend eternity together!


Though we have important work to do here on earth, our hearts yearn for eternity. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us of this wonderful truth.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.

Ecc 3.11a

C.S. Lewis picked up the same theme in his writings.

The fact that our heart yearns for something earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.

Life can be tough. Very tough. But our suffering—and the suffering of those we love—is not without purpose. Indeed, as we develop patience, it is converted into endurance, the ability to remain faithful whatever we face in life. Believers in the first century faced unbearable suffering at times—persecution, loss of property, loss of life. The apostle Paul, as we know, was among those who were flogged, imprisoned, and stoned. He knew what it meant to suffer for the sake of his Lord, so to encourage others, he reminded them of their ultimate hope.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Eph 1.13b-14

What an encouragement his words can be to us.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Rom 12.12

Oh, but my fellow voyager, maybe you’re feeling at the very end of your tether. Perhaps the struggle has simply become too much for you, and you’re just about ready to give up.

Do not be down-hearted. For there is hope.

The apostle John describes the extraordinary moment when he saw a vision of his risen Lord.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Rev 1.17-18

The Jesus, on whose shoulder John rested his head at the last supper, now stood before him with such terrifying glory that he simply fell at his feet as though dead! Yet it’s what happens next that fills me with hope.

He placed his right hand on me . . .

Jesus stooped down to John on the ground and placed his hand on him. What an amazing image that is of our Lord ministering to his servant in his abject weakness. But then, listen to his next words.

Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and Hades.

Rev 1.17b-18

My friend, the message of Revelation is simply that Jesus wins! In fact, he has already won, he is our Champion, he has gone before us. In him we have the victory.

So be encouraged. He will never leave you, never forsake you.

And if you ever reach a point when it all seems hopeless, call to mind this stunning image of our Saviour stooping to lift his servant, John.

He will lift you too. He will lift you with his words of life.

For he is faithful, good, and true.


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