PREPARATION FOR SUFFERING by John Flavel
In this small but concise and insightful book, the author successfully develops his thesis. That is to say: Prepare to Suffer. Logically, the first part of his development deals with the giving of the reasons as to why it is that God calls his people to suffer. He dwells at length in this most necessary part bringing pertinent portions of the scripture to support his reasons. He basically gives two main reasons:
1) To illustrate the Glory of God
2) To promote his people's happiness.
The book continues with some "Forewarnings of Suffering" listing the circumstances that precede or provoke suffering, together with the reasons by which God forewarns his people of suffering. The main reason being to prevent the execution by repentance.
The author continues to exhort the reader to the need to be prepared at Heart. Preparation to suffer is clear evidence of the sincerity of our faith and by the same preparation God often excuses from suffering whose heart is prepared to suffer.
In the next chapter, the author deals with the Necessity of a Saving Work of Grace. This should be self-evident by now. If someone is not a Christian, he cannot/ will not suffer for Christ. Because, as the author explains it, "By conversion, Christ enters the soul as an army doth an enemy's garrison by storm, and when he is possessed of it by grace, he presently, divides the whole spoil of self betwixt himself and his church".
The following chapter is The Nature of a Saving Work of Grace and here the author beautifully illustrates in what consists the real change of the whole man by the Spirit of God.
The author then continues to show more particular "external" evidences of a Saving Work of Grace and some practical steps are prescribed in order to obtain these evidences.
An exceedingly important part follows which is the Necessity to keep strengthening our faith and very useful directions are given to attain it.
The following two chapters continue to go on giving more specifics on How to be Courageous for Christ and to mortify or to "die" to self.
Again, a most useful chapter follows, which is The Methods and Mysteries of Satan with the accompanying rules for the conquering of temptations. The implications of these teachings have greater applicability in the life of the Christian.
Doubtless, The Necessity of Prayer, has a preeminent place in keeping close with God in suffering days. This is dealt with gracefully and skillfully by the author, as he transitions in the next part of the book to stress the fact of our need to Depend upon Christ as we remember that our life is hid with Christ in God. Col 3:3.
The author then shows his lamentation at the Church's lack of Preparation. This is more obvious among those of a slumber spirit or those seized by a worldly spirit.
More preparation calls follow and a prodigious stream of scriptural passages are given for our benefit. One of the more pertinent scriptural passages being "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind" (I Peter 4:1)
The final chapter rounds up everything with more words of encouragement to be able to withstand objections and doubts in the hour of trial. The final exhortation is to be diligent in the use of all means to prepare and make yourselves ready to follow the call of God, whether it be to bonds, or to death, for the name of the Lord Jesus.
SOME PERSONAL NOTES ON THE BOOK
For whom the book is written:
I conclude that this book is mainly written for: ...'gospel ministers' (p.19) because of the prominent example of the Apostle Paul and for his response (Acts 21:13). However, it is fair to say that the author not just addresses 'ministers' but also all believers (p.148) (I Peter 4:1 above cited). Having said that, the author makes clear in several places (i.e. p. 13, p.155) that the suffering is for those that God may call in the hardest of His services. This is a call that only some will receive but it is incumbent for all to be prepared.
About the Author and the times of his writing
The author lived in the 'Puritan era'. A period of time that is of great importance for the Christian faith. It produced great examples of Christian authors and even the Main Standards of our denomination such as The Westminster Confession, The Shorter and Larger Catechisms come from those times.
The author was well acquainted with the topic at hand. After the Restoration of the monarchy in England, he experienced much persecution and so it was a common thing, at that time, to expect to be persecuted and suffer much for the faith.
About our times and suggested readings
In our times, by the grace of God, we are experiencing in the West, still significant religious liberty. What that means is that we live in a time where Christians should be ready not only to suffer and be persecuted. But primarily, Christians should be ready to serve God in whatever call they have been called to and Prepare and Develop that 'call' more and more to serve our generation for Christ ultimate Glory.
As a help in getting Christians prepared to serve the Lord in this world as in the next. I would suggest the following list as a starting point for further readings:
How Should we then live? by Francis A. Schaeffer ( we have it in our church library)
Thy Kingdom Come by Rousas J. Rushdoony (also in our church library)
~ Heriberto Ortega