Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sharing in Christ's Sufferings


"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
~ Albert Einstein ~
As Christians, we can see the truth in this statement. We understand that our greatest growth can come after our biggest failure. And through our suffering we learn to trust in God. Our struggles bring forth fruit and in our weakness we are given strength. Christians are blessed because we now that are suffering is not in vain, that God uses it to grow us:
Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Suffering is something that the Christian knows will come, it's been promised in the Scriptures and in fact marks us as Christians:
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
Notice that we suffer for Christ's sake, we suffer with Him, so that we may be glorified with Him:
Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Suffering is not something that comes out of the blue and shouldn't be a surprise but we are surprised by it. It's hard to follow Paul's example and rejoice but we can be comforted with the knowledge that suffering is part of our union with Christ:
Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
And when we suffer we can look to Christ and follow His lead:
Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Hebrews 13:12-15 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
When we suffer, it feels like it goes on forever. Will it ever end, will it ever stop? But we have been promised that it will end and we can take solace in the knowledge that our suffering is for a short duration when you compare it to the glory that is to come:
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
It's comforting to know that Christ knows what we are going through because He went through it to. He understands our struggles, He understands our pain. He isn't distant and far removed from our suffering. He became like us, so that He could suffer for us:
Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Praise be to God that we have a God who would suffer so that the opportunity for salvation could be made.

12 Comments:

  1. Mike Y said...
    Suffering, as difficult as it can sometimes be, is one of our greatest gifts as it so reveals his grace in our lives.
    Pamela said...
    I've got to come back after work and give this a much better read.

    But wanted you to know I'd stopped in this morning to say hello.
    michele said...
    Thanks Pamela, I have a post for later tonight that I added something for your benefit (a Bible study suggestion) make sure you come back if it's not here when you return.
    michele said...
    Mike, it also allows us to better understand His suffering and to fellowship with Him in it.

    What I wrote here is just the tip of the iceburg, there is so much more that could be said and if I said more this post would have been three or four times the size of this. Not a good idea for a meme.
    Robin said...
    When there seems to be no way out of a situation, when I've lost all sense of control, when circumstances feel almost unbearable, I often think God muses, "Ah ha! NOW, I've got her attention...Now, she's ready." I am ever thankful for the Romans 8:28 of life--my deep and abiding love in God, and His purpose for me. Nothing is wasted...NOTHING! He can use all things for my good, His glory, and the advance of the gospel. Maintaining an eternal perspective helps toward that end; our temporal suffering pales in comparison to our future glory in Christ.

    I find that my "sufferings" are just as often self-inflicted; little more than a consequence of poor choice; this, equal to external forces beyond my control. In the latter, I can't help but think of Joseph's encouragement to his brothers in Genesis 50:20--"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done...". Purpose and intent in spite of years of dreadful suffering, through no fault of his own.

    In reality, I'm afraid I suffer little for the sake of Christ; but I hope...pray...that my response to "suffering" bears witness to His grace in my life.

    Enjoyed reading and responding here:)
    michele said...
    Robin, that's why you should take the passages to heart because it's not just when we are persectued that we share in Christ's suffering. All of it is an opportunity even your self-inflicted wounds. Why did Christ suffer? From the consequence of sin. Why are you suffering? From the consequence of sin? Maybe, maybe not. But what's important is that all of it should remind us to look to Him when we suffer, for grace and for an example of obedience.

    Reread the passages and I think you will look at this in a new light.
    Joy said...
    Amen is all I can say.:D
    Camy Tang said...
    I love all the scripture verses you used! And thanks for the reminder that suffering DOES end eventually. Sometimes I get so caught up in the middle of it that I forget, and that's when I give in to despair.

    Camy
    Amydeanne said...
    it's so good to know he's there, even if we don't realize it sometimes. Thanks for the wonderful post!
    Sally said...
    Thanks for the thought provoking post... suffering is an essential part of our walk with Christ- I firmly believe that- we fail people when we try to sell a Chocolat box spirituality.
    Robin said...
    Hey Michele, Glad I came back to see your response, and at first, I was confused by your encouragement to re-read in a different light; s l o w l y it dawned on me that I do make "distinctions" re: suffering. I was even hesitent to post again b/c there's so much I DON'T know or understand (and sharing my ignorance with "the world" can be quite humbling...okay, maybe not the world, but your readers, whether they be 1 or 1,000).

    It's much more difficult for me to "accept" God's grace (believe it?) when my suffering is a consequence of sin. I guess on some kind of level, suffering "religious persecution" is more noble, but as I write that it sounds ridiculous.

    My inconsistencies--and their revelation--drive me to know God more intimately. Frankly, they annoy me once I discover them. This is why I pray for a teachable spirit :)

    This does serve to remind me that any suffering can be the genesis for opportunity.... Thinking through all this again brought to mind Paul's encouragement at the beginning of 2 Corinthians (I know you included verse 5 in your post, my thoughts went to the "before" part)--

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

    Purpose and opportunity.
    michele said...
    Yes, all that you say is true but even go deeper, Robin. Think about what the Scripture says about union with Christ and fellowship in suffering as you learn obedience. When you walk away from these passages really understand that and what that might look like in your life. I bet it gives you a greater appreciation of what Christ did for you and a greater source of comfort and strength when you falter.

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