Francis Chan, best-selling author and founder of Radius International, spoke at Liberty University's Convocation, urging the Christian students to embrace suffering, without which, he said, they can't experience change in their lives.
Chan, author of Crazy Love, said he finds it strange when people call themselves Christians but don't like change in their lives. "The core of the Gospel is about change," he told the students two weeks ago, and said that's what repentance means, when you change your direction.
The message was based on 1 Peter 4:1-3, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry."
Chan said he recently visited a church in a small village in China, which had about 70 families — all the families in that locality are Christian. These families look after several children with different kinds of needs, and live with love as a real church.
A Chinese church leader explained to Chan that there are five pillars of the Chinese underground church, and the last pillar is never mentioned in America, he said. They're committed to the Bible, prayer, everyone sharing the Gospel, expectation of miracles and the fifth one, embracing suffering for the glory of Christ. "And that's all over the New Testament … though we don't talk about it a lot," Chan said. It's an "unstoppable force."
We quit things because we don't like to suffer, Chan added. The Bible says we need to rejoice in our suffering because our reward is great, he stressed, and said this is so opposite of how we think; we're wrongly taught to follow Jesus so that get this, this and this.
"When you have the mentality of, 'Christ suffered; I'm going to suffer,' then, when the suffering comes, it doesn't hurt you … it doesn't confuse you, like before," he said.
Jesus said if the world hates you, know that it hated Me first, and that if they persecuted Me, what will they do to you, Chan told the listeners.
"Jesus didn't come down to the Earth thinking, 'Everyone is going to love Me; everyone is going to worship Me; no one is going to reject Me.' No, He says, 'I came to serve and I knew I was going to give my life; I knew I was going to be rejected; this is what I came for.' See, and if we entered into our church gatherings thinking, 'You know, I am going there to give my life for these people; I am going there to sacrifice for them,' and we arm ourselves with that mindset, we are not going to be let down," Chan explained.
But most of us don't arm ourselves with this thinking, he said, and referred to 1 Peter 4:1, which says "whoever suffers in the body is done with sin."
Chan said he works with drug addicts, and no one can kick heroine without suffering. Some people argue that God didn't take away their desire for pornography, but they forget that they can't make corrections in their lives without suffering, he added.
"But what God can do in you, and this is what I am praying for here, is that He can change your very nature," Chan continued. "He's not here just to wash you off so that at one point you just go back to the same junk because it is who you are; you are a pig; you are a slave to sin; you can't help it; you keep running back. What Christ says is, 'I offer, I actually put my spirit — this is insane — I will put my Holy Spirit inside of you and now you become a slave to what is right.'"
Chan said his prayer is that "we would change the culture, our mindset, that we would arm people so that they don't walk away from Jesus when life gets difficult, but that we arm them with a proper theology of suffering."
We don't need to be surprised by suffering, "no longer do we complain when it gets difficult, but we rejoice in it, and no longer do we set our lives up so that we avoid suffering at all costs but we actually want some of it so that when Christ returns we go, 'I am one of yours. Look at my scars; look at my life; I've lived the life of Christ.'"