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The Fellowship of His Sufferings

by Wade E Taylor

In Philippians, Paul gives expression to the fact that there is much that can be apprehended and experienced, beyond that which he had previously known and experienced.

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death… not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:10, 12

He had come to know that the Lord could be personally, intimately known.  The Jews of his day did not have this concept, as they saw only the structured religious system which they sought to protect.

Paul said, “That I might know Him.”  This is a “knowing” that transcends all religious activities and doctrine, and finds its fulfillment in deep personal communion with the Lord.  It includes not only information about Jesus, but an ongoing involvement with Him as He leads and directs.

The power of His resurrection” can only be experienced after we have surrendered the totality of our being to the Lord and died to our self-life and ways.  Only then can we identify ourselves with Jesus in His resurrection glory.

This will lead us toward a place of identification with Jesus that few experience – “the fellowship of His sufferings.”  Examples of this are the sufferings of the Lord over lost humanity, and the dullness of our spiritual hearing.  He desires our fellowship and longs that we come to Him.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

We may not understand how the Lord becomes personally interested in us – as though we were the only person in the universe, and how He has a special purpose and calling for each of us.  It is not necessary that we understand these things, but it is vitally important that we respond to Him, as He seeks to become personally involved in our lives.

Jesus is knocking on the door of our spirit.  When we are so busy that we do not respond, we come short of all that the Lord intends.  Therefore, He suffers; for as a loving Father, He longs for us to come into the best, just as we desire the best for our children.

When Paul became aware of the possibility of entering into an active relationship of communion and fellowship with the Lord, he counted all else as refuse and began to seek that for which he had been “apprehended” by the Lord.  The desire for spiritual reality became the priority of his life.

“If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.”  Philippians 3:11

Paul was not expressing a concern about losing his salvation.  Rather, there is a much deeper meaning which speaks of an “out-resurrection” from the natural course of our life experience, into the realm where the Lord uniquely places His hand upon us, and lifts us into an active cooperative relationship with Him.  Thus, this is an “out-resurrection” from among the living dead.

For example, many years ago I owned a television cable system which I sold to attend Bible School.  Each week I received a sizable check from the sale of the system, which I used to pay for my schooling and support my family.  The Lord dealt with me to set this money aside for missions.

Before long, our food was gone.  One of my children discovered that a quantity of squash had been sent to the school dump.  We took it home and began a diet of squash, three times a day.  This was all we had to eat.  A great reduction took place; my pride and self-sufficiency was being dealt with, as the cable system had been very successful.

During this time, I was given money to go home for a weekend.  When I saw the man to whom I had sold the business, he showed me a new Cadillac and told me he had paid cash for it.  Then he showed me a large boat and said he had paid cash for it.  He had purchased the very home we had intended to buy and extensively remodeled it; he told me that he had also paid cash for these improvements.

All this stung as nothing else could.  We were eating squash from the Bible School dump.  I was so affected that I began to shake within and almost rebelled against the Lord.  All this was added to a pressure that I was already facing.

I had grown up in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania during the depression.  When I sold the business, my mother became very upset and told me I had a responsibility to earn money and support her and my father in their old age.

Feeling that I should do this, I used a compass to mark off a twenty mile circle around my home town so I could be close to them to fulfill my responsibility.  Gradually the Lord worked on me until I felt that I was more willing to go to one of the poles, or to the equator, than to stay within the circle I had drawn.

During this time, I began to understand that the Lord had a purpose for my life, and that He would provide for my needs and make a way for the ministry that He would impart into my being.  In the Lord’s time, I was led to establish a Bible School, far from where I had intended to remain.  I saw my parents both saved and cared for until the end of their lives, far better than I could have done had I stayed near home.

After this diet of squash for several weeks, the Lord directed me to work at a factory that made frames for furniture.  I was hired for $1.05 per hour.  Night after night I was sent alone with a large truck to a railroad siding to unload rough cut hard wood lumber from a railroad boxcar.  Early one Saturday morning while unloading lumber in the freezing rain from a large truck, I met the Lord in a depth beyond anything I had known.  Later, I was released from this, and my life was transformed during a visitation that came to the Bible school that I was attending as a student, during 1958.

I would never trade any of this for all I might have had through owning a TV cable system, nor would I bypass the experience of eating squash from the school dump, or the pressures of the extremely difficult work I had experienced.  My inner being was changed and prepared to become a usable vessel in the hands of the Lord – that the riches of His presence, with the transformation of lives that is presently taking place, might have its full outworking.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:14

There is another way to say this.  “Many are called, but few will pay the price in order to be chosen.”  Your circumstances might be quite different than those I faced.  The Lord does not duplicate His workings.  But if we are to come into that which He has reserved for us, we must submit to His dealings, and come His way.

We may say, “This is not fair, others are being blessed and are prospering.”  In our natural, self-centered life experience, this may be true.  But once we have submitted all to Jesus, and made Him our personal Lord, we have no rights.  There is an “out-resurrection” from all we had previously known, into that which He has prepared for us.  Except we first go down in death, there will be no rising.  The extent to which we are willing to go down will determine the distance we will be brought up.

Some time ago, I saw a picture of some high rise buildings in Brazil that were leaning and about to fall over.  They were so anxious to build, that they forgot to first go down to build a substantial foundation.

“Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  And every one that hears these sayings of Mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”  Matthew 7:24-27

It is so important that we allow the Lord to do all that He desires in establishing the foundation of our spiritual experience.  We must allow the Lord to bring us through even difficult things that we, nor others, seemingly understand.

But the Lord understands, and we must trust Him in all things, knowing that He knows what He is doing.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28