Suffering...it isn't a popular subject! About three years ago I did an in depth Bible study because I wanted to know what God said about suffering. Was it Biblical? Was it good? Does it come because of something I did that was good? Does it come because of something I did that was wrong? Are all believers supposed to suffer? If I am not suffering is there something wrong with me?
These are all questions I was on a quest to find the answers to. And just as God always does, He used His Word to answer every last one. The following are things I learned straight from His Word...
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2 Corinthians 4:18 says that suffering takes our eyes off of worldly things.
Romans 8:28 speaks to the message that suffering makes us stronger.
Peter says in 1 Peter 3:14 that you are blessed if you suffer for Christ.
Matthew 5:11-12 says "Great is our reward in Heaven" for suffering
Acts 5:41 says that we should be "counted worthy in God's name" if we suffer for Him
James 1:2 says that suffering "develops perseverance"
1 Peter 4:14 says that "The Spirit of glory & God rests on you"
Romans 8:28 states that
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
James 5:10 says that we should be "an example of patience in the face of sufferings"
Philippians 2:8 tells us that we should suffer for Christ because He paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins!
Philippians 3:20 goes on to say that since our citizenship is in heaven, our suffering is only temporary.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:13 where Paul tells us that
"Christ will give us the strength to face all challenges, all sufferings."
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I could go on and on and on...but these are just the highlights.
This morning, our pastor spoke with authority from Acts chapter 5 and it brought back up reminders of when I studied this, but also some new revelations. One thing I think we forget because we live in a country that does not know what it truly means to suffer for Christ is that a lot of times we choose NOT to suffer for Him even when the opportunity presents itself.
Let me put that another way...
There are plenty of opportunities to take up the Cross and follow Him, but we say no. How selfish, stubborn, prideful, immature in our faith, and ignorant we are to do so. And I think because we are not as in tune as we should be with The Spirit working through us that sometimes we don't even realize it. I was personally convicted this morning that I do not suffer enough. And when I do, that I do not call it a blessing!
On another note, if we call ourselves followers of Christ, doesn't that mean in all aspects/roles we have in life? As a wife, mother, teacher, leader in church, etc. How have I suffered for Christ in my roles? How have I died to my desires for His will?
The verse that resonates most with me is from James 1:2 where he says
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
I honestly think that if we are going to show Christ's love and be able to change the heart of an unbeliever, we are going to have to start living up to this verse! So what does that mean to you? What do you need to say yes (or no possibly) so that you can suffer for Christ? What is the Lord calling you to do?
For me personally, it is dying to the idea of ever having a biological child. It is suffering the fact that we won't ever look like other families or be treated like other families even within our Church. It is knowing that God had a different plan for my life than I ever had and being able to leave my pride behind me to follow Him. It is giving up my selfish nature in order to be a mom of an adoptive teenage child that requires a lot more attention, money and resources. It is making Biblical decisions for our family that close friends and family don't necessarily agree with. It is being a submissive wife when the world doesn't understand. It is following God wherever He says to go whenever He says to go!
I don't know what "suffering" looks like for you, but I challenge you to say yes to whatever the Lord puts in your path. Because it is PURE JOY when you entrust every step of your life to Him! I can assure you that He never makes mistakes...even in times of suffering.