11 Sept 2021
It seems odd to write about the value of suffering; some may even object and query whether there is any value at all in suffering.
In a previous sharing,we noted that suffering in Christianity is an integral aspect of biblical holiness and is in fact a regular part of Christian living for the believer.
Christian endurance in effect means living lovingly, joyfully, peacefully and patiently under various conditions that we wish were different – these conditions and situations have a distinctive ‘character’ best described as ‘suffering’. Suffering may be described as getting what you do not want while wanting what you do not get. This is so because we live in a fallen world and we are sinners saved by grace and the process of sanctification in our lives is still ‘a work in progress’.
Suffering covers all forms of loss,hurt, pain, grief and weakness – all experiences of rejection, injustice, disappointment, discouragement, frustration and being the butt of others’ hatred, ridicule, cruelty, callousness, anger and ill-treatment – these cover about almost every area we would consider as suffering and we can be sure that all of us must have experienced some or all of these forms of pain and suffering.
But Scriptures specify suffering as part of Christian’s calling – it is therefore part of mine as much as of anyone else’s. Scriptures also affirm that suffering must be expected and even valued by all believers without exception – we are to prepare for it.
The world and unbelievers do not find value in suffering – they have no reason to. But for Christians, the Bible assures us that suffering produces character (Romans 5:3); our suffering glorifies God (2 Corin. 12:9-10); before there is a blessing anywhere, there will first be suffering somewhere.
Recall what was shared by the Lord Jesus in John 12:24 – when the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit but if it refuses to die it remains alone. This in fact describes what the Lord Jesus was about to do on the cross -to die for us so that we may live and be ‘fruitful’ for Him.
Remember the foot-washing. It speaks of the cross – when Jesus as God humbles Himself to take on flesh and be a servant in order to serve us so that we may be washed clean and be ‘part of Him’. In both references above, Jesus was speaking of His love and sacrifice, a denial of Himself, HIs rights, His stature, His divinity and equality with God the Father, and His willingness to do HIs Father’s will because of HIs love for the Father, and also they depict the love of the Father for His Son in His willingness and suffering to go together with His Son to the cross because He loves us. Humility, servanthood, sufferings without complaints, love and sacrifice are all ‘speaking’ loudly’ when we look at the ‘cross’ – all these demonstrated in the Triune God because there is no way out to save fallen humanity.
But let us not forget the injunction of our Lord – we are to do likewise – He is our model and example. One such believer in the person of Apostle Paul understood this clearly. He set no limit for what he would do (including being stoned, whipped, imprisoned and enduring danger from bandits and even fellow Jews to be a bond-servant of Christ) to preach the gospel. His loving, imaginative adaptability in the service of God and people is a shining example to all who desire to serve God and the gospel. He was a man who possessed all the marks of privilege religiously as a pharisee, taught by Gamiliel, a Hebrew among Hebrews as it were – yet he submitted every part of his successful superior inheritance to the judgement of the Cross – all these were counted as dung or manure for the privilege of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.
Are we going through sufferings; are we murmuring and complaining? Let at the cross – remember the teachings of our Lord Jesus and HIs injunction for us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow Him. The Cross speaks of weakness leading to strength, suffering leading to glory – for the story is to be completed when Christ comes again. Let us serve God joyfully, humbly and willingly for His sake.