For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 52
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:1-11
Radical Idea: It is better to suffer with Christ than to be comfortable without Christ. The Gospel has a way of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Few people run towards affliction, pain and suffering. Comfort is the preferred setting for most believers. Unfortunately, when you are comfortable with your lot in life, you have little motivation to surrender your life to the Lordship of Christ. Without surrender, there is no growth, no sanctification (becoming set apart, formed in the likeness of Christ).
It has been said, there are two reasons why a person will change: 1) They are inspired so greatly they want to and 2) They hurt so deeply they have to. No wonder that many people, particularly as adults, only come to faith in Christ when they feel like they have hit “rock bottom” in some way in their lives.
Logically, everyone wants to come to Jesus when it will help them alleviate suffering. All people desire to know peace, know forgiveness, know love, know comfort and know the rest that our loving Savior offers. There is another aspect of following Christ however, that gets very little stage time or attention in the Western Church; the blessings and benefits of suffering for Christ.
Many American churchgoers today are looking for a comfortable Jesus who is cool with their sin and selfish lifestyle. This is a far cry from the Jesus the Bible teaches or the Jesus whom Paul was imprisoned, beaten and eventually executed for. Christianity can be comfortable when you care nothing of personal holiness or the eternal fate of those without Christ. Many people sign up for this Jesus who is supposed to medicate and numb all pain, only to jettison Christ when they become disillusioned by the inevitable suffering that is certain to shape the contours of their lives.
It is important to understand the purpose for both experiencing “Resurrection Power” and “Shared Suffering” that Jesus offers to His disciples. Jesus said in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” The abundant life which Jesus offers is a constant spectrum of spiritual breakthroughs by way of Jesus’ “Resurrection Power” and seasons of “Shared Suffering” with Christ and one another. All of this moves us from the moment we first come to know Christ, toward the goal of becoming like Christ. Through the unpredictable spectrum of ups and the downs, highs and lows, God is moving us forward to fulfill the promise of Philippians 1:6- “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
A life without suffering is an incomplete and malformed life. Our spiritual growth and sanctification is dependent upon seasons of life in which we must share in Christ’s suffering, and Christ must share in ours. It is an honor to suffer with Christ, because it brings a depth and intimacy with Christ that we will never know in any other way.