Suffering’s Way

UCAN sharing: Suffering’s way

Scripture: Phil. 3:7-11

 

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23

 

The idea of suffering for Christ is not a popular one in today’s Christian’s circles. Most people turn away from the idea and search for a more comfortable Christianity. But the suffering that God is talking about is not from our sin or what we think we should suffer but rather it is a carefully planned out growing of our faith. As our faith grows so does our ability to serve as light against evil. So while many Christians pursue ease in life,

Christians that genuinely desire to walk with God must walk the walk Christ did and that walk was a life of selfless service not a life pursuing one’s comfort and security. Our failure to understand how God uses trials and hardships for his glory greatly weakens our testimonies and more importantly how close we get to God.

 

Most people have an idea of life that is based on how happy and comfortable they can be. Most people don’t require motivation to seek out the “good life”. We devote our time and energy in to gaining the symbols of a happy life. The problem with all this is that it is selfish and leads a person to focus on their carnal desires as a way of life. This isolates and destroys a person and fills them with the scars of a life spent looking for “good

times”. Every day someone dies pursuing that pleasure. This death is not always physical. We must remember spiritual death in which we are all born in to. Eph. 2 tells us we live without Christ in this dead state feeding our desires that make us disobedient and we serve Satan. Most people fail to understand this and may even know it deep inside but they continue to pursue the “good life” of comfort and ease.

 

13  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Matt. 7:13

 

Idea of the life of comfort is sold to us. It is all around us. Our family and friends may promote it and tell us that living there or having this is the best thing ever. From their perspective and at the moment this may be so but below the momentary pleasure lies an emptiness that few are willing to confess. People sell out to the idea that things and  experiences can fulfill us. Christians do so as well. Many of life’s key institutions, such as family, education and work are corrupted by the idea of living for comfort. The Book of Ephesians explains that a life given to carnality seeks to fill itself with evil more and more (Eph 4:19). You can see this spirit on TV shows and commercials, billboards and magazine ads. It is everywhere and hard to ignore because it is so in our face.

 

Man in his short sighted pride runs towards his destruction with ever increasing zeal. We do so because we believe in the lies that allow us to live our evil desires. We are truly blinded by the power of this world and willingly invest our lives in to things that can’t save us and we can’t keep. We have become busy pursuing comfort.

 

58  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Lk. 9:58

 

12  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Jn 8:12

 

Jesus spoke of a life of joy, peace and abundance (Gal 5:22, Jn 10:10b). In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was told that God would provide a land flowing with milk and honey, symbols of a good life. How is it then that God repetitively in the word tells us that we must be willing to suffer as Christ suffered? How can these two things come together and serve good? A short analogy to begin with: a knife. A knife is useful only if it can cut by being sharp. To get sharp and stay sharp the knife must be grounded down to make its edge. When we come to Christ we are dead and full of sin. We are not at all useful because all we want to do is sin and that means death (Rom. 6:23). So God has to change us. To do that we must first die so that we can live a new life. The old rusty dull knife is exchanged for a new one that can be made sharp. Our old life makes us unable to live for Christ and thus we sin and die. Without a new life we are worthy of nothing but to be thrown away (Matt. 5:13) so Jesus came and died to make a way (Isa. 43:19). God doesn’t want to lose us so God uses life’s troubles and challenges to sharpen us up. He is sharpening our faith.

 

Jesus the Son of God came to earth with the purpose to suffer and die for our salvation. His willingness to give up all that he had and suffer here on earth points the way for us to live to gain true life (Phil. 2:5-7). He is our example. Through all Jesus’ suffering he learned to be obedient even on the cross (Heb. 5:8, Phil. 2:8) that he might show us the way to eternal life with the Father. If we try to avoid suffering by seeking comfort for ourselves we disqualify ourselves from identifying with Jesus. Without Jesus we can’t make it and are lost. He opens the way so that we can follow and be saved from this corrupt life and the wrath of God to come. The path set before us is one filled with trials and tests made to temper our faith but without Jesus’ grace constantly sustaining us we will lose that faith. Without faith we won’t hold on to God but grow weary and give in to the seductions of the world (backsliding). So God out of love allows us to suffer here that we may gain the far better there. Paul puts it clearly in Romans 8:18 that whatever hardships happen here in this life they are of little comparison to how wonderful the next life will be. God knows what lies ahead for those who are willing to give it all up. He knows how wonderful that life is and far greater it is than anything this life can offer us

but we lack faith in seeing this so he sends trials to sharpen our faith till we see how great He is and how wonderful it will be. We need to learn to trust Him.

 

If we believe that God is supreme and that he sees all that happens to us then we can begin to believe that the troubles will lead to our good (Rom. 8:28). If we embrace God’s truth as over all things no matter what the situation looks like then we can begin to have the power to speak to our situations and overcome. Faith must go before not after the battle. Our faith is based on the works of Jesus on the cross, that is his love for us. If Jesus who was God, suffered and by his suffering died but God the Father raised him up and seated him on the throne next to him giving Him the name above all others names (Phil 2:9) then as we share in Jesus’ suffering we will also share in the glory his rising.

 

As we trust God in all ways our faith grows and we become more obedient. This strengthens our relationship with Him. Greater revelations are given and we are used to destroy evil so others may see that God is real. When we suffer here and respond not in the flesh but in God’s love we overcome darkness (Rom 12:21), bring blessings to ourselves and giving glory to God. This is true life.

 

So God sees suffering as a way to build us to be strong in who he sees us as, children of God. At times it may seem we are giving up much but this is but an illusion, an echo of our carnal self. Christ has won the victory and we are walking it out till His return. Today meditate on these words and choose whether to live for Christ or to live for yourself but

remember only in Christ do Christians gain eternal life. And to be in Christ one must suffer. Be not deceived by the way of comfort. God’s love, presence and promises will keep us till the end (2 Peter 1:3-4).