Suffering For Christ’s Sake

You know how many critics of the Bible talk about how dis-jointed or inconsistent it is? I wonder how many of these critics have turned to God’s Word when going through something in their lives. I mean when things get really tough, when you start to wonder if you’re doing things the right way, when you’re really beating yourself up over how you are living, where do you turn?

I have re-confirmed recently that the truth that is found in God’s Word is as potent today as it was to those reading in first-century AD (or CE, for you science lovers). When you need counsel or advice, the Bible is overflowing with encouragement, help, understanding and affirmation.

I commented to WIFE the other day that life seems to be getting harder and harder. I figured this was OK; I remember hearing the quote, “Life is hard, then you accept Jesus, then life gets harder and then you die.” So I assumed that suffering was a part of the Christian life, and I ought to learn to deal with it so that I could gain Christ. WIFE was not so easily convinced (in all sincerity, wives are awesome this way, aren’t they?).

She first asked how long I’ve felt this way, which upon realization has led me to some separate convictions that I’ll keep to myself for today. Then after the message we heard at church this week, she hit me with another conclusion that she gleaned from these verses. In Matthew 25 (the parable of the three servants, or the parable of the talents), the master responds to the good work from the first two servants this way, according to the NLT: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Note what the reward is for being faithful. It’s not money, notoriety, success, comfort. It is more responsibility!

And it is this conclusion that is both interesting and challenging. God doesn’t reward our faithfulness with the easy path, as WIFE put it. He puts more things in front of you, expecting you to be faithful in those things as well. And He only places them there because He knows you are capable, given how you handled the few things you were given previously. In a position of leadership in some areas, this struck me as rather relevant.

But my wife went even one step further with the challenge, which I will now posit to you, the reader: knowing that the reward for faithfulness is more responsibility, more work, more suffering, do you still want to be faithful with what you are given? Think about this in some specific terms, like money for example. If you give to God a little, and He blesses you with an abundance, is this a reward for your good service, or a challenge to do even more with the extra money you’ve been given? And are you willing to answer that call?

To tie all of this up neatly, God pointed me to the podcast of Afshin Ziafat, a pastor from whom I heard a message while on vacation in Dallas, TX. Two weekends ago, the topic of the message was “Knowing God’s Will,” which I think we can all agree we would love to be able to do. I’m not even through with the podcast, but in listening and reading along I was so convicted that I stopped the recording and had to write this blog.

The verse he uses as a starting point for what I’m sure is going to be a great rest of the message is 1 Peter 4:1-2, which says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” So the suffering that I feel like I’m going through is part of seeing the will of God fulfilled, and He wouldn’t have me do it if He didn’t subject Christ to the same types of suffering! What reason do I have to feel like MY life is hard, to focus inward on myself? Rather, I am to “arm myself with the same attitude” as Christ, so that I can be a conqueror of sin and the “evil human desires.”

So Lord, today I accept the responsibility You have tasked me with, and I thank You for showing me that my suffering is not needless but also pales in comparison to knowing You and fulfilling Your plan. Help me have a desire to not care how hard my life gets, as long as it serves You and Your people. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.

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