The theme of sharing in Christ’s sufferings is a major one in the NT. Consider the following verses:
- The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom 8:16-17).i
- For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me (Phil 1:29-30).
- …that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil 3:10).
- Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God (2 Tim 1:8).
- Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12).
- My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience (Jas 5:10).
- For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully (1 Pet 2:19).
- For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (1 Pet 2:21).
- but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pet 4:13).ii
In the movie The Preacher’s Wife, Whitney Houston said that her dad only preached all the happy passages in the Bible. Well, there really is no getting around the fact that the path to abundant life requires suffering with and for Him (cf. Matt 16:24-28).
Many believers have told me that they never suffer for Christ because they do not have any opportunities to suffer. What they mean is that they haven’t been beaten or put in prison because of their faith, as people are in some countries.
My question then is simple: How do you suffer for the Lord? Can you name three ways in which you have suffered for the Lord in the last month?
If you are a follower of Christ, then you do suffer for Him, whether you realize it or not. Realizing that you do suffer helps you realize that you are fulfilling, at least to some degree, the Biblical call to suffer for our Lord.
One way all believers suffer, if we are in fellowship with God, is in looking at all the lawlessness in our world today. Peter said concerning Lot, who lived in Sodom, “for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Pet 2:8). Does all the sexual immorality in our day bother you? How about all the thefts and deceptions and scams? How about all of the senseless violence and shootings and deaths on our streets? There are so many ways in which our world opposes God’s will for us. That grieves disciples of Christ.
Another way we suffer is by social ostracism. Christians and our values and beliefs are mocked in mainstream media, social media, Hollywood, and politics. And sometimes we are mocked by our family and friends for our views. That is all suffering for the Lord.
Financially we suffer by paying our full taxes, giving to our local church and to missions, helping our aging parents, giving to brothers or sisters in need, and being honest in our dealings with others. We may not think of that as suffering for the Lord Jesus. But we have less disposable income than others do because we are following the Lord and His dictates regarding our finances.
Being at church and Sunday school is a sacrifice. Other people sleep in on Sundays or go fishing or golfing then. We may have come to love going to church and being with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is still a sacrifice.
If you don’t seek revenge when someone wrongs you, that is painful. You may want to retaliate. While choosing to obey God and not return evil for evil is the godly thing to do, it does require suffering on our part.
Much of the Christian life involves suffering, whether we realize it or not. Of course, the more mature we become, the more suffering for Christ seems natural.
Everlasting life is a free gift (John 4:10; Eph 2:8-9; Rev 22:17). Suffering is not required to have that life. But suffering is required to experience that life fully. The abundant life that Jesus said was possible (John 10:10b) is one in which we share in Christ’s sufferings. Remember that the Lord Himself endured suffering by looking ahead to eternal rewards: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).
Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t experienced any dramatic suffering for the Lord such as being thrown into prison. If you are following Him, then there are many ways in which you suffer with Him and thereby experience His blessings and fullness of life.
i Everything from Rom 8:17b to the end of the chapter deals with those who will be chosen to rule with Christ. The theme of co-suffering and co-glorification continues all the way from Rom 8:18 to Rom 8:39.
ii Peter is referring to degrees of suffering and degrees of glorification and joy. Becoming a coheir with Christ is not simply all or nothing. It is true that some will rule and some will not (2 Tim 2:12). But among those who will rule, some will have a greater inheritance than others. Compare Luke 19:17 and Luke 19:19, for example.