Today, I want to talk about the suffering Christians face as followers of Christ and how we can still find joy through the suffering.
While reading this blog post, I want you all to ask yourself this question: Am I willing to endure suffering for Christ?
What does it mean to Suffer for Christ?
Well, the word suffer comes from the Hebrew word Oni which means “misery” or “poverty”. To suffer for Christ is something that we as Christians talk about and preach about, but we never actually discuss because we feel that we already know what it means. But do we? In Philippians 1:29, the Apostle Paul says that as Christians, we will suffer for Christ because we have faith in Christ and Paul says that suffering for Christ is actually a gift from God because it’s in the suffering that He comforts us.
“29. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
In the verse above, you can see how Paul says that as Christians, because of our belief and faith in Christ, we will suffer for His sake. I recently read a blog post by Angela of The Abundant Heart entitled, “The Purpose of Suffering” where she speaks on the topic of suffering. In the blog post, Angela says a statement that I think we as Christians forget when it comes to suffering saying, “… suffering is a natural part of the Christian life, but we can have joy in the midst of it.”
In my opinion, suffering for Christ is what Christ Himself said we would go through when we follow Him. In her blog post, Angela gives several reasons as to why Christians should suffer for Christ.
- “That unbelievers might come to salvation.”
- “That believers might be more bold to speak the Word without fear.”
- “Physical comfort is of little importance when your eyes are filled with the sight of heaven.”
- “As Paul said later in that same chapter, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
- “Man has no power but what God gives him… His ways are so much higher than ours.”
- “When God places me in the tumbler of suffering and begins to turn the handle, it hurts excruciatingly.”
- “But when His perfect work is finished, He will pull me out and present me to the Father as a smooth, polished stone, beautiful and fit to be set as a jewel in His crown.”
- “Suffering is temporary, but glory is eternal.”
- “I am never alone, for my Lord goes with me through all my suffering.”
- “Understanding that suffering has a multi-faceted purpose makes it that much easier to bear”
I remember my pastor did a Wednesday Bible Study called, “Your Attitude Determines your Altitude” where he talks about our attitude but he also talks about suffering. I remember that he talked about the Apostles and how, after they were beaten by the Sadducees and the Pharisees; they rejoiced because they knew that they were counted as worthy of being His disciples.
In Acts 5:41 it says, “41. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” The fact that the Apostles were willing to rejoice after being beaten should give us as Christians a better understanding of the type of suffering we may have to endure for Him. In the Bible, there were many disciples who suffered for Christ; even died for their beliefs (like Stephen.)
Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Sometimes, God will allow suffering in our lives in order to strengthen us and our faith as Christians like Job; who lost everything but he held onto his faith and was rewarded with more than he originally had. In 1 Peter 3:14, it says, “14. But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled” and that should be a verse that we as Christians and people keep in mind when we are unsure if we are willing to suffer persecution for Christ’s sake.
Blogger Amazing Tangled Grace wrote a blog post called, “Thorns” where he talked about his own thorns but also talked about suffering. In the blog post, he said, “I realize that I must share in Christ’s sufferings, so that I may rejoice fully when his glory is revealed to the world” and that is a statement that we as Christians should take to heart because it is in that suffering that we can rejoice; just like the Apostles.
C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul is saying to the Corinthians that although there is suffering to come, there is also glory saying, “17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory 18. while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
I like this verse because, in it, Paul is trying to tell us that although our suffering is light; it is only for a moment while on Earth, but it is because of that suffering that we are moving towards a better and eternal reward. Paul is also trying to tell us that as Christians., the physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual suffering that we face or will face is temporary and that what we don’t see (the greater reward) is eternal.
I recently watched a YouTube video entitled, “Why Is There Suffering In the World?” where Jefferson Bethke focuses on this very subject. In the video, he said, “… when death and suffering and brokenness get thrown at us and everything in us screams God where are you that in that moment we might have ears to hear that small whisper in our soul that says I’m right here next to you…”
I think the statement above should give us as Christians and people a better idea of what we say when suffering happens because we have all done it. But if we just listen and drown out the pain, then maybe we would be able to hear God’s voice comforting us and reminding us that He has never left our side. In the video, he says several quotes that I feel should be a reminder to us of what God has done and will do when we go through suffering.
- “the Christian God is a God who suffers…”
- “… a God who enters into our world, came on or turf and identifies with our pain.”
- “See when we look up we see not a God who is high and lofty and distant but one who was bloody, who is tortured and who is alone.”
- “… the One who said I will go before them and I will drink death’s cup so they don’t have to.”
- “The Lamb that was slain steps out of the grave three days later like a lion…”
- “I love how John Stott puts it. He says we have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary and from that vantage point and survey all of life’s tragedies because the cross does not solve the problem of suffering but it supplies the essential perspective from which to look at.”
- “… it is this terrible character of God which the cross of Jesus completely smashes to smithereens”
- “… and since we are not alone but we follow the One who defeated death when it comes we can stare it right in the face and say you do not have the last word see Jesus is alive and so Death, Where is your sting?”
Levi Lusko said, “Suffering isn’t an obstacle being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before. Run towards the roar.”
I recently read a devotional by Lizzie Milani entitled, “Weakness and Suffering” where she talks about suffering. In the devotional, she said, “… in our moment of self-realisation and weakness; when we surrender over to our reality and the reality of our being held by someone greater, and in something greater; it is at that moment that we find our true strength. In Christ, through Christ.”
This quote reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 where Paul had a thorn in his side and asked God to remove it, but God’s response should give us Christians today a sense of why God sometimes keeps the thorn in our side. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, it says, “8. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
This reminded me of the song by Christian artist Plumb called, “Need You Now (How Many Times)” where she sings about how we suffer and we cry out to God for help, but He continues to give us strength through the affliction.
How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.
Even in the end of days, where our faith in Christ will be put to the test, the Apostles Paul and John tell us to hang on and push through the suffering because there is a better and eternal reward up ahead.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5, we see Paul tell the people of Thessalonica that their faith would be tested and that he hoped that when tested, they won’t allow the tempter (Satan) to tempt them away from Christ’s Word saying,”4. For in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you now. 5. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”
This is a unique parallel to Revelations 2:10 where John warns those Christians in the End of Days that we shouldn’t fear the upcoming suffering because the Devil will throw us into prison and will try and tempt us away from God. Revelations 2:10 says, “10. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested. Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”
This should be a good reminder for us as Christians; knowing that in the end even if the suffering costs us our life and we are faithful to Christ until death; we will be rewarded with the crown of life. In the end times, Satan will continue to torture and kills Christians, but if we remain faithful to Christ and push past the suffering, there is joy on the other side.
Mother Teresa said, “Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.”
In the end, as Christians; we should be willing to suffer for Christ because when we chose to accept Him as our Lord and Savior of our lives, we know that there are going to be risks following after Him but that shouldn’t deter us from seeking the eternal reward in Heaven.
If we focus on the suffering on Earth, we will lose sight of why we chose to follow Christ. Regarding my question at the beginning of the post, I am willing to stand up for my faith and even suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually if it means that I am faithful to Christ.
So, what are you willing to do?
Are you willing to Suffer for Christ?
Or, will you be tempted and refuse to suffer for Christ despite the greater, eternal blessing from God?
Amazing Tangled Grace. “Thorns”, 11 Jun 2017, https://amazingtangledgrace.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/thorns/ . Accessed 30 Oct 2017.
Bethke, Jefferson. “Why Is There Suffering In the World”, YouTube, uploaded by Jefferson Bethke, 2 years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_ESjoVyYGw . Accessed 27 Oct 2017.
Mother Teresa. “Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.” http://www.azquotes.com/quote/408055 , Accessed 03 Nov 2017.
Plumb. “Need You Now (How Many Times)”, YouTube, uploaded by buyakga1946, 4 years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqdxFW2GaF0&feature=youtu.be . Accessed 01 Nov 2017.
Rueger, Angela. “The Purpose of Suffering”, 16 Jun 2017, theabundantheart.wordpress.com, https://theabundantheartblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/the-purpose-of-suffering/ . Accessed 01 Nov 2017.
Afrik, Selah. “Suffering For Christ”, 22 Jan 2013, http://selahafrik.com/2013/01/suffering-for-christ/ . Accessed 26 Oct 2017.
Author Unknown. “Perspective On Your Present Sufferings and Future Resurrection!”, 13 Apr 2017, https://trinityandhumanity.com/2017/04/13/perspective-on-your-present-sufferings-and-future-resurrection/ . Accessed 01 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Acts 5:41”, https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9b/27/a5/9b27a5305e0ace57354651ab3fc263a7–acts–rockers.jpg . Accessed 02 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Revelation 2:10 HD Wallpaper”, http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/faith/revelation-2-10/ . Accessed 03 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “2 Corinthians 4:17 – See the Unseen.”, https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/2388.html . Accessed 03 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Verse of the Week: 2 Corinthians 12:8-9”, 22 Feb 2016, http://mopsfbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/verse-of-week-2-corinthians-128-9.html . Accessed 02 Nov 2017.
Lewis, C.S. “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”, https://www.askideas.com/hardships-often-prepare-ordinary-people-for-an-extraordinary-destiny/ . Accessed 29 Oct 2017.