Last week we started to look at the subject of Christian suffering, starting in Romans 8:17-18. We saw that Christians suffer with Jesus, more than for Him. He takes our sufferings very personally. We saw that if we suffer, it should be for righteousness sake - not as an evil doer. We learned that Jesus Himself, the prophets and apostles, and our brethren in other nations are our examples in patient endurance in suffering. We also saw that Jesus told us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad when we suffer persecution, for our reward is great in Heaven. Let’s get into God’s word a little further.
That we must suffer with Christ was not just given to Paul (Act 9:16), but was given to us all (Philp 1:29). We were told we would have persecution and tribulation in this world (Jn 16:33, 2Tim 3:12, 1Thess 3:4). However, we are promised that if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him (2Tim 2:12)! Our suffering is only for a while (1Pt 5:10). Don’t forget, we will one day reign as kings and lords with our King and Lord, Jesus Christ. There are rewards for the faithful, according to God’s Word.
You will suffer for speaking the truth (Gal 5:11, 6:12). If you decide to stand for God’s Truth, you will be despised by the wicked. The world hated Jesus and His apostles - they will hate you as well. However, Paul makes it clear that any present suffering here on earth as a Christian does not even compare to the glory that is set before us (Rom 8:18, 2Cor 4:17). Be not weary in well doing! You will reap an eternal harvest! We are citizens of heaven, members of the Church of the Firstborn, our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We are only ambassadors for Christ on this earth. We live in enemy territory. This world is not our home, so we should not expect everything to be “Heavenly.” Satan is the god of this world system, a system we as Christians live in, but don’t belong to, or operate by.
Paul wanted to know both the power of Jesus’ resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philp 3:10). He suffered the loss of all things - but didn’t count them as anything (3:8). In Paul’s estimation, he lost nothing, but gained everything - when he gained Christ Jesus! What a perspective! What truth! May we live this in spirit and truth!
If you cling to Christ, you will not suffer in vain (Gal 3:4). Testimonies only come through tests. Have you been lied about? Forsaken by family and/or friends? Missed a promotion or job opportunity? Made fun of, or done wrong in any way, all because you are salt and light, a disciple of Jesus? Then rejoice! Be exceedingly glad! Leap for joy! If you embrace it, you will only be made more bold (1Thess 2:2).
Another form of Christian suffering is temptation (Heb 2:18). Why? Because the spirit of a born-again believer is holy and righteous, but it’s “trapped” at the time being in a body that is not. Praise God, one day we will get a body to match our spirit - a body just like our Lord’s (Philp 3:20-21). However, until that time, we have this heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. The immortal, born-again spirit lives in a mortal body. This was Paul’s frustration in Romans 7. This does not mean that we have to succumb to the desires of body and soul, for the Spirit-led believer puts his body in subjection to the spirit. However, it does mean that we will have to deal with being tempted, as long as we are alive in this body.
We can receive encouragement from the words of Jesus to the church at Smyrna. We learn that: 1. Jesus knows our tribulation. We are never alone. He suffers with us. 2. We are not to fear anything man can do to us. 3. If we are faithful, even unto death, Jesus will give us the crown of life. 4. We who overcome (by the blood of Christ, and faith in Jesus’ name), will not be hurt by the second death (eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire). There is a Hell to shun, and Heaven to gain. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith in Jesus (1Jn 5:4).
Don’t be discouraged. No matter what you are going through because of your relationship with Jesus, you will be more than compensated for throughout all eternity. Count all affliction as Paul did - as light, and just for a moment. I understand this is more easily said than done, but multitudes of our brothers and sisters in Christ have done it in the past, and are doing it now - even this very moment. The Word is truth, no matter the circumstances. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. Until next time, rejoice in The Lord!