Several years ago we did a column entitled: “Who in the world would choose to suffer?” Obviously no one in the ‘world’ would choose to suffer; however, the Christian views suffering as a gift that we would never regift.
Suffering in the eyes of the Christian represents an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul spoke of suffering in many of his epistles as being inevitable and an indescribable gift from God.
“For to you (Christians at Philippi) it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
Paul confirms that not only is faith a gift of God, so is suffering for Christ’s sake.
When writing to the Christians in Rome Paul said that believers are children of God and he goes on to describe that relationship.
“…and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:17
Once again Paul demonstrates the intimate relationship with Christ by suffering with Him which results in a future glorified body that will never decay or perish.
Later in that same epistle Paul proclaims that nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution…?” Romans 8:35
In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul reiterates the inevitability of suffering and encourages perseverance.
“… no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened…” 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4
Note in particular that Christians have been ‘appointed’ to suffer which means that suffering is an integral part of being a Christian.
Now let’s refer to the Gospels to examine what Christ Himself taught about suffering. He taught that suffering would be an integral part of following Him during the current age preceding the tribulation.
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.” Luke 21:12-13
Suffering persecution will present the Christian the opportunity to be a witness to those who persecute them.
And Jesus declared that those who are willing to give up everything they hold in esteem in this life will be granted that which they are willing to give up; however, such will be accompanied with persecution.
“…Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children, or lands, for My sake…who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
Jesus’ words remind us of righteous Job’s restoration in the Old Testament.
Notice the profoundness of Jesus’ teachings. They are totally a matter of priorities.
If people are willing to give up everything that is admired by the ‘world’ for the sake of following Christ, then Christ will bless them with much more than they have given up. Such blessings are received in this life as well as resulting in eternal life.
Jesus summarized His thoughts succinctly.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26
Could it be that the ‘American Dream’ is more attainable by not pursuing it?
It is naïve for any presidential candidate to associate the attainment of the ‘American Dream’ with political power.
It is simply a matter of individual priorities.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Yes, the Christian considers suffering to be a non-regiftable blessing with indescribable benefits.
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