Let’s be more specific and address the issue of why Christians suffer. To begin with, we need to understand that God had a plan for Christians from the foundation of the world.
“For whom He (God) foreknew (foreordained), He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:29a
The Greek word for both foreknew and foreordained is ‘proginosko’ which means that God chose those for salvation in eternity past.
“…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Ephesians 1:4-5
Therefore, Christians were chosen by God to be adopted as sons and be conformed to the image of His begotten Son Jesus before the foundation of the world. And the reason that God did that was just because He wanted to.
The plan for God’s chosen includes the gift of suffering for Christ’s sake.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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.”
Paul confirmed in his letter to the church at Philippi that to be able to suffer for Christ was a gift.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
Therefore, both to believe in Christ and to suffer for His sake are gifts. In fact such gifts are considered non-regiftable to Christians.
The apostle Peter told believers not to be surprised when suffering occurs.
“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 to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
Peter told the believers to expect suffering, and rejoice when it happens. Then he states that when Christians partake in Christ’s suffering in this life, they will bask in His glory upon His return.
Paul explained his charge to be a preacher, teacher, and apostle.
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
Paul was totally willing to suffer for Christ’s sake because he knew that God would fulfill His plan for him, as well as for every believer.
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete (finish, fulfill, accomplish) it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Recall when Saul was confronted by Jesus on the Road to Damascus, he was blinded. God gave Ananias instructions on what to tell Saul.
“…for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16
And the Bible reveals that Paul, previously named Saul, did suffer many things for the Kingdom’s sake and was martyred by Nero in prison in Rome.
Thus God has a detailed plan for each individual believer to be conformed to the image of His Son, and suffering is an integral part.
Suffering for the wrong reasons, however, does not bring glory to God, or to the sufferer.
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 1 Peter 4:15
Therefore, remember Paul’s words when considering suffering:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Christians should only ask God, ‘why me,’ when wondering why He would choose us in Him before the foundation of the world.