Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Suffering For Christ

In Romans 8:18, Paul says "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I write this as I am sitting in the hospital room with my dad after he had gall bladder surgery. He is 75 and still going strong. My mom, on the other hand, is 74 and not doing well. She is in the later stages of Parkinson's Disease and has many other ailments - arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and a few other ailments. She is a trooper though. They will be married 55 years next month.

Suffering and pain are inevitable in this life. Our present sufferings, Paul said, are the extreme opposites of the glory that God will reveal us. I couldn't sleep the other night and woke up about 4:30am (I think it was after one of the kids got up). I turned on the TV and was watching a program called "Joni and Friends". It's about a lady named Joni Eareckson Tada ( who is a quadriplegic. She loves the Lord and has devoted her life to serving Him. She made a statement - "I could not trust a God who did not understand suffering". Does God understand suffering?

Jesus endured the death of the cross (Phil 2:8). Jesus knows what it means to suffer. The cross is a symbol of our Christian faith but has not always been. It was a symbol of suffering for years. It was a torture device. Jesus endured suffering to identify with us. In verse 9, God raised Jesus up after his suffering. God, too, will raise you up for suffering for him or using you suffering to bring Him glory.

First Peter 2:21-25 shows that the suffering of Jesus did three things: it allowed Him to serve as our example, substitute, and shepherd. Talking about suffering for Christ, Peter says: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

He is our example - we must suffer for him (v21 - we were called to it) and we should act like he did when we do (v22-23 - this is how he reacted to suffering).

He is our substitute - he suffered for sin in our place (v24). When we do suffer for Him, we have healing in Him (v24)

He is our Shepherd - (v25) If suffering is part of Him, then some of us would want to be apart from Him. But apart from Him comes the real suffering - the eternal kind. That's why Paul said the sufferings of this world were nothing compared to the glory that He desires to reveal in us. Not our glory, but His. God wants to reveal Himself through you. This will bring glory to Him but life and healing to those who find Him. He is the good Shepherd and knows what we need and when we need it.

So what if we get a little grief, shame and mistreatment from this present world. It is all for His glory.

We are matured through suffering - 1 Peter 1:6-7. We are brought glory through suffering - 2 Timothy 2:12. We identify with Him through suffering - Philippians 3:10. We are called to suffer for Him - 1 Peter 2:21. Nobody wants to suffer. But if we must suffer - whether physically, emotionally or any other way, let it bring Glory to God and us closer to Him.

If you find yourself in suffering, remember Matthew 11:20-30 - "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

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