“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…” (Philippians 1:29)
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I rejoiced because I was counted worthy of suffering for bearing the name of Christ.
Actually, I don’t remember the last time I truly suffered for bearing the name of Christ.
I pretty much try to avoid suffering of any kind, let alone suffering for my faith.
But in the verse above, Paul describes suffering as a gift. To me it seems like the kind of gift I’d rather not receive.
However it does make me wonder: What do I miss out on by not suffering?
After completing a recent study on the word “suffer,” I was struck by two thoughts:
1) The intent and purpose of Jesus’ earthly life was clear: It was to suffer, to die, and to be raised on the third day. (See particularly Isaiah 53 and the Gospels)
2) Those who suffer are granted a unique intimacy with God and an honored role in His Kingdom.
Just look at what God says in His word about those who suffer:
- God speaks to them. (Job 36:15)
- God listens to them. (Psalm 22:24)
- God sees them. (Psalm 31:7)
- God refines them. (Isaiah 48:10)
- God produces perseverance, character, and hope in them. (Romans 5:3-4)
- Incomparable glory will be revealed in them. (Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:17)
- God comforts them, and grants them a ministry to (and fellowship with) others who suffer (1 Corinthians 1:1-7)
- They know Christ and the power of His resurrection; they become like Him (Philippians 3:10)
- Their faith is proven genuine, and it gives praise, glory, and honor to Jesus (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- God commends their actions. (1 Peter 2:20)
- They will be overjoyed when Jesus is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)
- They are blessed; the Spirit of glory and God rests upon them. (1 Peter 4:14)
- God restores them and makes them strong, firm, and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
- They will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10)
I wonder: To what extent is the weakness and immaturity of my own faith, as well as the faith of the American church, directly related to our lack of suffering? And if so, what do we do about this?