By Roland W. Keith
Christ was made to suffer for us; that is, He took human form to establish the Father’s plan of salvation, and that plan required Him to suffer the punishment due one who has violated the law. Though He had not transgressed the law personally, He suffered the world’s rejection and death on the cross in our stead, taking the penalty reserved for us upon Himself. Paul explained His sacrifice with these words: “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” (Hebrews 2:9-10). The man Jesus was made perfect because He remained obedient to His Father’s command, even under duress, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). In achieving that perfection in human form, He became the author and source of eternal life for all who would follow after Him (Acts 3:14-16; Hebrews 5:8-9).
As a result of Christ’s victory over Satan and death caused by sin God sees each Christian as His own child, like Jesus, and as such fellow heirs of the promises made through Him. However, as Jesus suffered for us, we must in turn be willing to suffer with Him (Romans 8:17-18). No suffering is wanted, but considering what Christ accomplished on our behalf, and the eternal glory that awaits us, it is a small thing on our part to act in obedience to the Heavenly Father in emulation of our Savior’s Own submission to His will (Romans 8:17-18). In his first letter Peter wrote, “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, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God… Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you… Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:1—2, 12, 16-17).
Not only should we be willing to suffer for the name of Christ, we should not be surprised when it happens. Persecution is just a part of the path we take as Christians. Those who hate the truth will try to obstruct its spread, particularly where it interferes with their own willful desires. When it happens, we must be prepared to put on the implements of our spiritual warfare and to soldier on (Ephesians 6:11, 13; II Timothy 2:3). It is our duty to share in the suffering attached to the Lord’s name, entrusting our eternal welfare to Him, even while we place our hope in the reward that awaits us at the end of our lives (II Timothy 1:8, 12; Revelation 2:10; II Timothy 4:8). James and Paul remind their readers that others before us have suffered as we will (James 5:10-11; Hebrews 11:32-40), but if we resolve to have the steadfastness of Job, we can and will reap the blessings attached to such faith and perseverance.
Paul had much to say to say about the afflictions that will be suffered for the sake of the truth, writing, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). The apostle to the Gentiles endured much during his life in ministry, but for strength he kept his eyes on the Lord and the glory of what awaits beyond the physical realm, writing also, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4: 8-10, 17-18).
There is something else for us to consider. Whether you are a Christian or not life will give most of us our share of vexations, hardships and suffering in varying degrees. Looked at in the proper light life should be seen as a joyful experience (always look for the silver lining), nonetheless, there will be tough times, and for some dark times indeed. Those of faith should view those times from a different philosophical vantage point than the nonbeliever. We have something beyond those times to look forward to. We also have a source of inspiration and strength to draw upon during those moments that others do not have. We have the avenue of prayer to unburden ourselves, the word to guide us, and our Christian family to console us. We above all others are blessed beyond measure even in the worst of times.
At other times we should regard our situation in a prudential light. Peter wrote, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 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” (I Peter 2:20-21). It is one thing to suffer for our own bad behavior, and quite another to suffer as the Lord did— for doing what is right. When a Christian suffers for God’s word He or she is trusting in God’s promises— that whatever we suffer here in this life will pale in comparison to an eternity in heaven with Him. It is that faith and hope that bolsters our resolve and positive outlook when enduring our suffering for the good (I Peter 4:19).
There is one arena of suffering that none of us want to spend time in. As a child I do not no anyone who wanted to disappoint or provoke a parent to the point of needing to be disciplined. Regardless, everyone I know was disciplined as a child. Some of us repeatedly. Such measures are a form of suffering all their own. Self-inflicted and administered by one whose love and approval we were continually seeking. Yet the one executing our suffering did so with loving hands for our benefit. Paul wrote, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:6-13).
The form of misery a child endures at the hand of a parent as a corrective to bad behavior should lead to introspection and positive change when coupled with proper training and reinforcement for good behavior. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant. Just as our earthly parents punished us so the LORD may find it necessary to discipline us from time to time. We should feel the disappointment of letting God down. However, when handled with a determination to do better and a resolve to avoid future failures and a reliance on God’s perfect guidance it will always lead to our spiritual growth and strengthening.
No matter what form of suffering we may pass through the words of James remain true: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). When we turn to the LORD and cry out to Him He will ultimately deliver us (Psalm 34:17-19). He may allow us to suffer for a time as a way of purifying and refining us but He will draw us to Himself in the process: “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” (I Peter 5:10). Therefore when we are suffering, for whatever reason, let us turn to the Lord and seek His guidance and strengthening knowing that is there to bring us through whatever trial we are enduring.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.