I love how God works. I love how He speaks to our hearts and leads us to truth. I love how He, through the Holy Spirit will make a truth we have known for years come alive. This is what has been happening in my life in regards to the understanding of suffering.
It started on a Sunday morning. We had a guest speaker come through and present his ministry. His mission field is in the midst of a Muslim country. His English was beautifully painted with the accent of his Arabic tongue.
It the middle of his slide presentation he told of the persecution that he and his church had endured at the hands of the Catholics in his country. He told how he and his church had been unfairly treated. He told of physical beating that took place at the hands of those persecuting him and his church. He did not dwell upon it long; but made reference to the fact that it was the hardest thing he had endured. Persecution for his faith.
As he was telling of this account suddenly all the trivial things that I hold dear seemed insignificant and my Christian life seemed shallow compared to his. There was something about him. He seemed to have a closeness to God – that caused my heart to yearn for that same closeness to God. It became apparent to me that his sufferings had caused him to understand God in a deeper way.
He went on to preach in the morning service and it was a statement that he made that caused my eyes to be opened to a truth for which I need a deeper understanding. He made a statement, and while I do not remember word for word what he said this was the gist of it: “Most of the New Testament was written during times of persecution. The Christian life is one of persecution and suffering.” It caused me to think of this fact: In my Christian life he was one of the few people I had actually met face to face who had physically been persecuted for his faith. It seemed that there was light here as to why my Christian life lacks a depth I saw in this man.
It has become apparent to me in my Christina life that I have not had a correct understanding of suffering. There have been times in my life that I have been surrounded by other Christians who have unconsciously held to the heresy that: ‘ if I am a Christian and doing right – good things will happen in my life’. These same people hold to a belief that when bad things happen there is sin that has caused this.
When one believes this misconception, it causes the focus to be turned off of Christ and onto oneself. If you believe that the reason for the suffering that you are experiencing is because somewhere there is sin in your life or because God is judging you you start looking at yourself and all of your decisions and wondering where YOU went wrong. In directing your gaze towards yourself and your decisions you are missing the blessing of being able to see Christ more clearly. ( I understand that there are times that sin can cause life to be hard; but I am not addressing that issue here . My focus is not on the “way of the transgressor here; but on one who loves God and has a heart to obey Him.)
Suffering followed those who sought after God with all of their hearts. Paul endured great trials. He was cast into prisons; not because HE made a wrong decision and went to the wrong town; but for the furtherance of the gospel and the encouragement of the churches. Paul clearly understood that his sufferings had a bigger purpose than just making his life miserable. Paul believed that he was called to suffer.
I Timothy 4:10 : “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.”
II Timothy 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Romans 8:16-18: “The Spirit itself (Himself) beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
We are called to a life of suffering. We are called to a life of weakness. Why?
Because that is how Christ can be magnified. When others see our sufferings – and see us surrendering to the Spirit’s work in our hearts it causes them to look to Christ who is enabling us with strength for the suffering. Unsaved see and are drawn to a deeper understanding of salvation – the gospel. Christians see and are drawn to the Spirit filled life of joy and peace amidst the hardship this life brings.
When we suffer we are able to understand the heart of our Savior more! We are able to “suffer with Him.” The rejection he felt in Gethsemane is felt on a deeper level when we ourselves experience the rejection of others. We find ourselves in tune with the heart of our Savior. Suffering brings us closer to understanding and relating to our example – Jesus Christ Himself; and when Christ becomes real to us – we are able to share Him accurately with those who we come in contact.
As I have been reading and studying this I have purposed in my life to expect suffering to come. I must not shy away from trials and troubles. I must not try to reason them away by pointing to myself or others as the cause of the suffering. Each heartache that comes, each trial that is encountered must be viewed as coming down from the hands of a loving Savior who wishes to magnify Himself to me and others.
As I view Him through my trials I will know Him more and more. I will understand His love for me. I will find my heart filled with gratitude for all He suffered for me. I will, as Paul said, “know Him”. As I come to understand deeper the heart of my Savior I will realize anew His love for me. I will find myself embraced by the Almighty and in His embrace I will find He is all I need.
Trust you are finding in Him your 'All in All.' Thanks so much for stopping by, I am so glad you did!