For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 1:29
Who likes the word suffer? Let me see a show of hands. I truly applaud those who do. It’s not a word I love, to be honest with you. The verse actually caused me to have a flash back to a time in my life when it seems like whenever I went to read the Bible I kept getting side tracked by 1 Peter 4:12-19.
1 Peter 4:
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
I remember the strange anxious feeling that started to develop inside, every time I read that passage. It was like I knew that a ‘fiery trial’ was on its way. It sure was and after all God did to prepare me, I must admit He had to pull me through it. I almost got stuck wallowing in the mire of self-pity, anger and bitterness. I certainly didn’t want to rejoice as 1 Peter 4:13 instructed. I wanted vengeance but God has helped me change my perspective.
Suffering for Christ is something that Christians must be ready to accept as a part of life. It comes in many ways and I dare say what you may consider suffering, someone else may consider it a walk in the park and vice versa. For example, there are still Christians been martyred for their belief in Christ. There are underground Churches in China, North Korea and other parts of the world. Christians are suffering persecution in brutal ways. Another type of suffering is when Satan rages against you and steals the blessings God has given you, like what happened with Job. Leaving you with the sting of bitter loss of family, health or other material possessions and filled with questions. The Bible lets us know that suffering could be through insults and the evil and malicious things others say about you, because of the life you live for Christ. There is also the suffering that comes when others wage what they refer to as ‘spiritual warfare’ against you, rooted in things of occult nature and not in any way associated with the Holy Spirit. The type that may for a while leave you unaware of what is bringing on your suffering. I said ‘for a while’ for I have proven that God will reveal all things in its time. No matter how suffering comes we must remember that we have a real enemy, Satan, that would do anything to have us doubt and even renounce our God. He wants to destroy us.
Sadly, not only non-Christians cause Christians to suffer, but there are times when a child of God is living his life for Christ and the good they do offend other Christians, who simply refuse to obey God’s word. Then, not only do the God fearing Christian have to endure the trials from those who don’t know Christ, but they are also attacked and suffer because of others who claim to be serving Christ. In Philippians 4, we get a glimpse of this happening even to the Apostle Paul.
Philippians 4: (NIV)
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Take a look at verse 17. There were actually people preaching about Christ just to promote their own selves and trying to cause more trouble for Paul, who was already in enough trouble. These things still go on today and it sometimes it’s hard to tell who are genuine Christians from who aren’t. We need discernment. What’s even worse, those who are fake can cause a lot of suffering for those who are genuine by turning other Christians against them, through lies, slander and deception.
If you are suffering for Christ today, I want to remind you that God sees. You are not alone and there are others in the body of Christ who have experienced what you are going through and are even now going through the same trial. I want to encourage you with verses that have been a source of encouragement to me.
1 Peter 5: (NIV)
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Please don’t miss the precious promise in verse 10. Use it to stir up your hope and strengthen your resolve to keep living in obedience to God and being a genuine follower of Christ. Suffering is painful no matter how it comes and if you are suffering because of the deeds of others against you, respond Gods way and reap the blessings He has promised in His word.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
I have come to accept and appreciate the blessing of suffering for Christ. What’s even more amazing, is that I am starting to understand the reason the scripture says rejoice and be glad and I’m choosing to obey that instruction. It’s not easy to rejoice even after the suffering or trouble has past, but it can be done.
We can focus on thanking God and reaffirming our love and trust in Him and reminding ourselves how He loves us and is with us even when we don’t feel Him. He will strengthen us, take us through or completely deliver us. Much hope and greater endurance comes from a change of perspective. Also never forget that one day, there will be a reward for those who suffer in the name of Jesus Christ. We are assured of this because of the suffering that Christ himself went through for us. He endured it by fixing His eyes on the joy that lay ahead when it was finished. The joy of the many souls that would be reconciled to His heavenly Father. So my final word of encouragement is for us to keep our eyes on Jesus. Let the time when we celebrate His death, burial and resurrection fill us with hope, joy and a renewed sense of purpose to take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:27), even through seasons of suffering.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God bless you!
Heavenly Father, how great and awesome you are. I thank you that you are with us through every season of our life. Lord I pray for those going through a season of suffering at this time especially those who are being hit by trouble after trouble and are beginning to doubt that you will come through for them. Have mercy and send them help at this time.
Please be their strength, restore them and keep them firm and steadfast in the faith. Give them wisdom how to face and respond to those who are slandering them and trying to destroy their reputation. Lord I pray that even today many who have persevered would start experiencing the blessings and seeing you avenge them. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers that we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen