Rom 8:17-18 says, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” While we often quote the first part of verse 17, we rarely hear about the second half, “if so be that we suffer with Him.” We don’t normally get many “Hallelujahs” or “Amens” on that. However, it is as much God’s Word as the first part - is it not? Let’s get into God’s Word.
The Greek word for suffer used above means “To suffer or feel pain together, or to suffer evil, troubles, persecutions in like manner with another.” When we suffer for righteousness’ sake, or because we are Christians, Jesus suffers with us - and we with Him. This same word is used in 1Cor 12:25-26, which tells us when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. Heb 13:3 tells us to remember those who are held in bondage, as being in chains with them; and those that suffer mistreatment and torment, as being in the same body (the Body of Christ). We need to think about, pray for, and help our persecuted brethren around the world, as being in pain and imprisonment with them.
Jesus takes our sufferings very personally. We are one with Him. He asked Saul (later to become the apostle Paul), “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Act 9:4-5). He wasn’t actually persecuting Jesus, who is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, but he was persecuting His followers. However, Jesus takes things done to His people as being done to Him. He suffers with us - and we suffer with Him and His people.
Not all suffering is for righteousness’ sake. You can suffer for being lazy (Prv 19:15) or for being full of wrath (Prv 19:19). You can suffer because you live sinfully (Jn 5:14) or for no apparent reason, except that we live in a fallen world (Jn 9:2-3, Lk 13:2). Christian suffering is altogether different. First Peter, the book of suffering, shows us this difference.
I don’t have space here, but I encourage you to read carefully 1Pt 2:19-23, 3:14-17, 4:12-19. Peter tells us that as Christians, we should not suffer because we have done evil, but if we suffer, it’s God’s will we suffer for being righteous - for our Christian witness. Also, if we suffer for our Christian witness, then we should rejoice and be very glad, for the glory and spirit of God rest upon us in a special way. We should also not find it strange that we suffer for righteousness’ sake, because Jesus, our example and our Master, did the same. Peter practiced what he preached, for he and John rejoiced after suffering a beating for preaching Jesus (Act 5:41).
Jesus is our example, for He suffered at the hands of wicked men, crucified outside the city gates (Lk 9:22, 17:25, 22:15, 24:46, Act 3:18, 26:23, Heb 13:12, 1Pt 3:18). Christians today suffer terrible persecution in many parts of the world, walking in the footsteps of their Savior. As they arm themselves with the mind of Christ, we must do the same (1Pt 4:1). In the U.S., we have not suffered in this way as of yet, but there are signs that signify we might very well suffer in this manner in the future. We must be prepared now. It will be too late to prepare then.
The prophets and Apostles are also our examples of suffering and patience (Jam 5:10). Look at the faith hall of fame in Heb 11. Many of the heroes of the faith were mightily delivered, but many of them suffered torture and death (Heb 11:33-38). Faith is of utmost importance, but it doesn’t guarantee you will not suffer. In fact, we are promised that all those who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2Tim 3:12). Is this cause for us to be sad, fearful, and depressed? Quite the opposite. Let’s look at the words of Jesus.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Mt 5:10-12). Rejoice? Be exceedingly glad? Indeed, for our reward is great! To live is Christ, and to die is gain. If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord. May the Lord be magnified in our lives and in our deaths. Lord willing we will look into this further next week. Until then, rejoice in the Lord!