The New Testament has numerous references to suffering in relation to Christ & His Kingdom: sharing His sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:5, Philippians 3:10, 2 Timothy 2:3, 1 Peter 4:13), suffering for the Kingdom of God (2 Thessalonians 1:5), suffering for the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). And these, of course, are just the first instances that pop up; there are many more, should you wish to study it out more in-depth.
But anyway, Scripture talks a lot about suffering — nobody can dispute that. One of the biggest books in the Bible is all about it: Job. Scripture connects suffering to glory (Romans 8:18, Ephesians 3:13, Hebrews 2:9, 1 Peter 1:11, 1 Peter 4:13, 1 Peter 5:1), mostly in reference to Christ but also in reference to His people. So this morning I have been pondering how my own suffering is connected to glory.
In the midst of suffering, it simply feels -well, honestly- sorrowful. It can feel shameful. Even overwhelmingly dire. I would, most days, just rather give up altogether. Where is the glory?, we wonder. It is future glory. Gold is beautiful and glorious, but while it is in the refining fire, beware: it is brittle and hot and not to be envied. It is the after-effect that is shiny and precious. (Zechariah 13:9 and 1 Peter 1:7 refer to this.)
I don’t like suffering. (Who does?) But the fact is, we all suffer. In different ways, at different times.
Sometimes I wonder how the Scriptural references to suffering impact me and my own suffering. It talks about suffering with Christ, but am I being physically mocked, persecuted, and tortured because of my faith? It talks about suffering for the Kingdom and suffering for the Gospel, but -again- is that what I am doing?
Sometimes it is hard to see the connection.
It is hard to see how my suffering (or your suffering) is sharing in the sufferings of Christ, is suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God, is suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
But I am sharing in the sufferings of Christ — I am suffering -grieving- because sin inhabits this world, and death came through sin (Romans 5:12). My suffering produces Christlikeness.
I am suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God — I am suffering as we pursue growing the Kingdom of God, in Heaven if not on earth (Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:29). My suffering preaches the Kingdom.
I am suffering for the sake of the Gospel — the Gospel is all about Resurrection (John 11:24-25), and there is nothing I speak of more often & intently than that (Romans 6:5, 1 Peter 1:3). My suffering proclaims the Gospel.
In my suffering, there is nothing I want more than to bring glory to God because of His faithfulness and endurance. He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Amen!
This is what it is to share in Christ’s sufferings, to suffer for the Kingdom and the Gospel — to faithfully endure by the power of God’s grace, and to proclaim it to the nations.
So today while I sit here suffering, grieving for my children, may I also be enabled by the power & grace of God to look ahead toward future glories. May I somehow see through my vale of tears that there is a glorious hope, redemption, and resurrection. There may yet be these things here on earth ere I die. And if not, if the Lord should see fit to fill each one of my remaining days with suffering & grief, may He still cause me to praise His name for the knowledge that there is heavenly hope awaiting me. And that, if nothing else, is glorious beyond measure.
John MacArthur (not always, but sometimes, a good read) and Toby Sumpter (not just sometimes, but always, a good read) have thought-provoking, excellent things to say on the subject of Christian suffering. Go take peeks. And join me in prayer today. Is anyone among you suffering??