Suffering is a word not many believers like to hear. We live in a world where comfort and pleasure is so much desired and sought after. The Bible does say, in the last days men shall be lovers of themselves, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure. No one wants to suffer. Yet, in the Bible, especially in the New Covenant, suffering is a very important word.
Remember, we live in this world but we are not of this world. We have a heavenly perspective and we operate by a different set of principles.
Should a believer suffer? What kind of suffering? What’s the purpose of suffering?
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake
Not only are we to believe in Jesus but also suffer for His sake. Before we discuss about this suffering, let me share some important truths with you.
- You must not suffer what Jesus has already suffered for you on the cross. You must not bear what Jesus has already borne for you on the cross. Jesus took your place on the cross, He took and suffered your sin and the consequences of your sin (separation from God, satanic oppression, sickness, curse, poverty) on Himself. Therefore you must not suffer, tolerate or entertain Satanic oppression, sin, sickness, poverty or any curse. You must resist it by all means in the name of Jesus. Suffering sickness or any other consequence of sin is not humility rather it’s ignorance. Jesus took it all for you, don’t take it. RESIST IT!
- You must not suffer foolishly. If you go around gossiping, if you lie and steal, then there will be a suffering for you. If you don’t listen to the Holy Spirit and to anointed men and women that God has placed over and around you, then you will suffer the consequences of your foolishness. However, this is not the suffering the Apostle Paul is talking about. If you are suffering because of your foolishness, REPENT! and make amends. The Lord is merciful!
- The only suffering a believer is called to suffer is suffering for the sake of righteousness – living in a way that is right in the eyes of God. Not living in a popular or a self pleasing way but in a way that is right and pleasing to God. This Word lifestyle attracts persecutions and tribulations towards a believer because Satan is the god of this world and there are many in the world who do not believe what we believe. This is where the believer suffers. ENDURE IT!
Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
I. This suffering is God’s will for you.
I Peter 2:21
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
Not only is it God’s will for you to suffer this king of suffering, but you are also called to this suffering. Know this, God desires and wants every believer to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
II. This suffering works out for you an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
II Corinthians 4. 17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
This suffering doesn’t last long, it’s for a moment but the best part is, it works out for you and brings into manifestation a level of glory that is far greater than the afflictions. You move from glory to glory.
III. This suffering brings you into spiritual maturity.
I Peter 5. 10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
No wonder God desires all of His children to suffer for the sake of righteousness because it perfects us and makes us spiritually mature. The Word alone cannot mature us.
Without suffering, you cannot become spiritually mature. It’s impossible.
Jesus, our supreme example.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Think about this, the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness. The Holy Spirit leads you to places where there will be pressure on you and persecutions against you. Why? He is interested in your spiritual maturity.
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 2. 10
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 5. 8
though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
So when Jesus was tempted, the Bible says He suffered and through His sufferings He learned obedience and was perfected. Being perfected He became the author of eternal salvation. Glory to the Lamb of God!
This verse gives us a good picture of how Jesus set an example for us.
I Peter 2. 18
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For 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. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Jesus never sinned and never uttered a lie or a word of deceit, yet when He was abused, He didn’t abuse in return. Because of conscience towards God, He suffered and endured it. He didn’t take revenge over His persecutors rather He committed Himself to God – He left His case in the hands of God and prayed for His persecutors.
2 Timothy 3.12
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Every believer is called to suffer for the sake of righteousness. All who live in a way that is right in the eyes of God will suffer persecution in some form or another. While you are in the midst of these sufferings, remember….
1. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus is the prime example of endurance. We are to behold Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of God. We are to consider Him who endured such hostility, opposition and contradiction by sinners against himself so we don’t grow weary, become exhausted, lose heart and faint in our minds.
Jesus has gone before us and has showed us the path of victory! Don’t look at yourself, don’t look at the persecutors. Look at Jesus! The Apostle Paul said, we look at things which are not seen, not at things that are seen. For the things that are seen are temporary but the things that are not seen are eternal. Keep your focus and your attention on Jesus! Don’t let it drift. The Lord will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.
2. Know what’s happening.
Do not be ignorant. Many believers are! They don’t know what’s happening. Therefore they get discouraged and quit. Suffering for the sake of righteousness is God’s will for you, it works out for you an exceeding and eternal weight of glory and it brings you into spiritual maturity.
No wonder James says, consider it joy when you face trials of various kinds. James knows what happens during this kind of suffering.
3. Endure. Don’t give up.
Endure means to remain firm under suffering without yielding. To remain and bear it calmly and bravely. You refuse to budge. You stay! You keep at it! You persevere!
No matter what comes your way, keep doing what God has called you to do. Keep speaking the Word. Keep believing the Word. Keep loving Jesus! The Apostle Paul said, ‘when I am persecuted, I endure it.’ He told Timothy, ‘endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’
Don’t resist this kind of suffering. Don’t run away! Face it. It’s for your benefit.
4. Be thankful. Have a good attitude.
You can do the right thing with the wrong attitude. Some become bitter and angry during suffering. They complain, blame and accuse themselves, others and even God.
Beloved, when you know the purpose of suffering, you will be thankful to God and have a good attitude. Remember, Peter and John, after being whipped for preaching Jesus, rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. It’s all for your good. It’s all for your progress. Rejoice! Thank the Lord!
Never doubt the Father’s love. He gave His Son for you. No one loves you more! No one cares for you more! Yield to Him, endure the suffering that comes because of righteousness and let the Lord take you into spiritual maturity with ever increasing splendor.