We are in the middle of our Missions Conference at our church this week. Tonight we have a special prayer meeting for the persecuted church. The church around the world suffers in various degrees and in various ways. There is such a thing as Christianity because Jesus came and suffered for His people. It is through that suffering that we have our sins atoned for. The call of the Gospel to all who claim to desire to follow Jesus is to take up the cross and follow Him.And where did He go? He first went to the place of torture and pain and suffering and death. Then He went to glory.

In North America we can now wear gold plated, diamond studded crosses on our lapels and around our necks, but you can be sure that the original hearers of Jesus’ words did not have jewellery in their thinking when Jesus said “take up your cross”. They knew what crosses were for. And they should have known what Jesus was calling them to. The indications are that they did not until after He left the planet. But they found out pretty quickly and they were willing to do it.

Christians are called to  suffer. And as Peter reminds us (I Peter 1:6), this suffering comes in all kinds of ways. What many believers often miss, especially in parts of the world where political freedom or power enable them to demonstrate the faith without official opposition, is that suffering for the faith is not something the New Testament says will happen to some. It tells us it will happen to all who follow Jesus. We have the blatant comment in II Timothy 3:12

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ

Jesus will be persecuted.

Of course we can point out that this does not say all those who profess faith in Christ or who wear gold plated, diamond studded crosses will suffer persecution, but those who desire to be godly. You have never suffered for the faith in any way because of your faith in Christ? No insults, ridicule, being left off the invitation list, being whispered about, missing the promotion, being abused at home, divorced, disciplined by parents? You have never been charged with being too narrow minded, too judgemental, too old fashioned? Nothing? Then you should get your wanters fixed and truly desire to live a godly life.

The church needs a better understanding of the call to suffer. Consider Romans 8:16-17

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

How many times have we heard the first part of verse 17 quoted in glowing words and a sense of amazement? And it truly is amazing. Believers in Jesus Christ are children of God and since they are children they are heirs of an unimaginably great inheritance (Colossians 1:11-12). Jesus has an inheritance too and we are co-inheritors with Him. It is too stunning a concept to grasp properly. But we do great disservice to the text and to real faith in Jesus if we stop there. The verse does not just say that we are inheritors of a great inheritance with Jesus, does it? It adds a condition to it. “If” is the word that the Apostle Paul utters next. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with God – IF.

Shoot.

We are co-heirs with Christ IF we suffer with him. This is our calling. We are called to suffer (I Peter 2:20-21, 3:9, 4:1-19). We are not called to wealth, prosperity and health. And what a travesty it is that that non-gospel actually sells.  Suffering comes in all kinds of forms and suffering, ever since the fall is just the default position of humanity. Believers in Jesus Christ will have the added suffering because of their faith. Sometimes it will be persecution that actually terminates lives. Sometimes it will be pressure to conform to ways of thinking and living that are contrary to the Gospel (Colossians 2:8). Sometimes it will be the inner struggles of the heart and mind that exist because of our faith in Jesus. Sometimes it is unrelenting temptation that makes us feel like we aren’t believers at all. (What an irony. The temptations that haunt us and make us feel like we aren’t even saved are the evidence that we are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.)

Most of the sufferings of the saints do not make our normal prayer lists. Warren Wiersbe once commented that if everyone in the church were healthy and employed we wouldn’t know what to pray. I hope he was wrong on that but quite often church prayer lists are dominated by medical and financial concerns. Nothing wrong with praying for those but they are not all we need to be on our knees about.

Hebrews 13:3 reminds us to

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

We should make special prayer for those who suffer in this way while not neglecting to pray for the sufferings for the faith in other ways that mark all the saints.

The church is called to suffer. The early church counted it a privilege.

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:41)

They could react like that because they took the call to carry their crosses seriously. And they knew their hope. Paul could comment about his sufferings this way

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 4:17-18)

We are called to suffer. But we are also called to a glory that is beyond all comparison. Jesus calls us to follow Him. He endured His cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). He will help us do the same.

5 thoughts on “Called to Suffer

  1. okay..so Paul puts his IF condition on being a child of Gods. John’s IF condition is slightly different in l John 3. Your comments?

    1. KayTee – If you are referring to I John 3:13 the force of the word “if” there is “that”. That is how the ESV translates it. Do not be surprised that the world hates you. John is not saying that the world may not. He is telling his recipients not to be surprised that they do.

  2. Wrong, wrong and wrong….
    1 Peter 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
    IF necessary. We are called to endure suffering if and when it occurs. It is this type of doctrine that keeps people in bondage…Christians are not called to suffer, they are called to live victoriously in all circumstances. They are called to endure suffering if and when it occurs. There is a big difference between being “called to suffer” and being called to endure suffering when it occurs. Christians are not called to suffer, they are called to inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 2 v 9 “…for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

    1. Hello Patrick,
      It appears you think I might be mistaken 😉
      Just this little tip – If you want to carry on a Christian conversation with someone it might be better to start it with words other than, “Wrong, wrong, wrong”. You may find that some will not respond very kindly to it or to you.

      Just a couple of verses for you to consider.

      1) I Peter 1:7 says “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – the trials come so that our faith will result in praise to God. The purpose of the trials is for God to be praised through the proof that our faith is genuine. This means they ultimately come from God (Satan does nothing for God’s glory or the good of our faith) and we know that He does all for our good and His glory.
      2) Note carefully what Philippians 1:29 says – “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”, – The word “granted” means “graciously given”. There are two things in this verse that are graciously given – to believe and to suffer for His sake.
      3) Acts 9:16 – For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” These are God’s words about the Apostle Paul. His call was to be shown by God what things he must suffer. Now we could say that was for Paul only, but we would still have to deal with what you say would put Paul in bondage. God was not putting Paul into bondage and it is not where He puts us. The Christian life is joy unspeakable, full of glory (again – I Peter 1. Verses 8-9 this time). Suffering here for Jesus does not put us in bondage, as the Apostles demonstrated in Acts 5:41. It is not suffering for Jesus that puts us in bondage.
      4) There are many things we are called to. Yes, we are called to inherit a blessing, but that does not mean we are not called to suffer as well. In fact, it is the inheritance that enables us to suffer for Him – II Cor. 4:17-18

      Of course you are free to disagree with me. You seem to be a Christian brother and the world will know we are the disciples of Christ because we love one another.

      God bless and have a great day.

  3. Hello Ken,
    Sorry for the harsh intro in my post above; I guess I was thinking it would be moderated and just sent to the circular file.
    1 Peter 1: 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
    —again please note the IF Necessary part.
    In Philippians 1:29 the Apostle was referring to some enemies of the church that were attacking them.
    Acts 9:16 is as you indicate. Paul had a specific call to suffer for the cause of Christ as indicated.
    Presupposing the “calling” of suffering for all Christians is what can lead to a defeated mindset, i.e. a form of bondage. I realize suffering can and will occur for us as Christians but I feel that I must strongly disagree with the overall theme and title of your message.
    God Bless You —

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