Dec 28, 2007

Suffering is a Privilege?

I was doing my quiet time and came across the following passage. "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29).

This made me want to look up what the Bible has to say about suffering in other passages. There are many more, but here's just a few.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you may participate in the suffering of Christ" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:8).

"Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3).

No one likes suffering. No one aspires to suffer. No one wants to suffer.

In fact, it's safe to say that we have an aversion to suffering. We don't want it. We don't want to hear about it. We don't want to know about someone else suffering. We just don't want anything to do with suffering.

You can't sell books and go on tv by preaching this suffering stuff. It just won't sell.

But Philippians says that we have been granted on behalf of Christ to not only believe in Him but also to suffer for his sake.

It speaks of suffering as if it was something that we wish for. It speaks of suffering as if it was something that we strive for. It speaks of suffering as if it was a privilege.

1 Peter 4:13 says that we are to rejoice that we get to participate in suffering. Yay! I get to suffer!

Timothy talks about suffering as a matter of fact. That's part of what it means to be a soldier of Jesus Christ.

Yet this is so foreign to think and speak about the life of faith. This is so anti believe in God and everything will be fine and you'll be happy. This is not at all "think it and believe it and it will happen" type of preaching I hear in so many circles.

Could it be that we have moved away so far from what it means to be Christ-followers according to Scripture that the idea of suffering for the sake of Christ has become anathema?

Certainly there is great joy in the life of Christ. There is no greater joy than living for Christ. But there is no such thing as a pain-free, disease-free, suffering-free Christianity.

That's right. We get to suffer for the sake of the gospel. And when we do live our lives as salt and light, part of the deal is suffering.

2 comments:

Mrs. Adams said...

This post makes me think of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

I don’t like suffering. I don’t like pain. But I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that in my life, my moments of excruciating pain, my moments of complete and utter desperation are the moments when I draw more near to God. These are the moments in which I grow in the most noticeable and tangible ways. And in those moments and for those reasons, suffering is indeed a blessing.

It seems to me that this type of suffering, the type that seems to be thrust upon us, prepares us to willing suffer “for the sake of the gospel.”

James said...

Our natural bent to run away from suffering and hardship is one of the reasons why we suffer so much suffering and hardship.

It's because we don't want to do the hard work of working out differences in relationships that we have so many differences.

It's because we don't do the hard work and discipline of regular exercise and healthy eating habits that we suffer so many physical illnesses.

It's because we fail to do the hard work of praying and spiritual disciplines that we become obese with laziness.

It's like they say...if you leave nature on its own, it will return to its wild state. In order to have a beautiful garden escape, one must constantly battle the pests and weeds.

Our natural state is to turn away from God. It takes intentional work, discipline, and willingness to suffer if we're going to grow as Christ-followers.