The Greek base for ‘suffer’ has multiple implications, i.e. distress, hostility, affliction, torment, oppression, persecution, and/or repeated acts of enmity from without. Recall Satan hates what God loves. That simple truth sheds light on those who suffer and those who cause it.
Biblical accounts of suffering are plentiful beginning with examples from the Old Testament.
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing (temporary) pleasures of sin…” Hebrews 11:24-25
Suffering then is a reality for the ‘people of God’ or the present age ‘church’ and is the result of faith. Both faith and the power to choose suffering are gifts of God.
New Testament Apostles Paul and Peter both had much to say about present day suffering and its implications for the future. Both of them convey that suffering is inherent for members of the Christian Brotherhood.
“…and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
This passage clearly states that ‘all’ Christians, i.e. those who understand Christ’s deity, accept His redemptive plan, and choose to follow His teachings will (not ‘may’) suffer persecution. Inasmuch as Satan hates what God loves, all Christians can expect to suffer along with Christ and for His sake.
“…what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…” 1 Peter 2:20-21
Peter confirmed that suffering is commendable before God but only when such suffering is endured for the sake of Christ. Christ is the ultimate example of suffering for the sake of others, i.e. us.
Peter then expounds on the truth that suffering for the Christian is a cause for present rejoicing as well as future blessings.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice so the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14
Paul also made it clear that his personal suffering produced great joy.
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church…” Colossians 1:25
Paul was explaining that he had the honor of suffering for the sake of the church of which Christ is the ‘chief cornerstone.’ Persecution of Christ did not end after His initial time on earth. Paul rejoiced that he had the honor of bearing continued persecution aimed at Christ and His people.
And Paul summarized the glory of suffering for Christians in this present age in his letter to the church at Philippi.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also so suffer for His sake…” Philippians 1:29
Therefore not only is faith to believe in Christ a gift of God, but an equal gift is the honor to suffer for Christ’s sake in this present age.
So who in the world would choose to suffer? Probably no one. But which members of the Christian Brotherhood would choose to suffer for the sake of Christ? Probably every single one of them.
“Where is the wise? …Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:20
Consider hypothetically the titles of two prospective books by two different Christian authors. One was to be entitled: ‘Health, wealth, and prosperity in this present age’ and the other entitled: ‘The joy of suffering in this present age’. Which do you suppose would sell the most books?