(2 Corinthians 11:21-33)
If ever there was anyone who suffered for the sake of the Lord, it was Paul. In this section he recounts any number of personal, physical and spiritual attacks on his person, many of which could have easily killed him.
But they didn’t. The Lord protected him through all of these persecutions and lifted Paul up to do the work to which he had been called. A person might wonder why he had to go through this litany of suffering, but Paul understood what was happening. Paul knew he had to suffer for Christ, and he was prepared to do so.
This was perhaps the greatest sacrifice anyone could make for the sake of the Lord. He had a work to do and he did it in spite of the suffering. Which raises an important question. Are you prepared to suffer for Christ and your walk with Jesus?
Peace and Joy
All who have been called to Christ will suffer for their call to some extent. It is a given that suffering is part of the process of the walk we make with Jesus.
But isn’t it supposed to be all peace and joy when a person comes to Christ?
Yes, there is great joy and great peace in knowing Jesus. But there is also suffering. The peace and joy we have is in the knowledge that He will help us through our suffering. We will not suffer alone but Jesus will protect and guide so that we do not suffer beyond what we are able to handle.
We also have great peace and joy in the knowledge that everything of this life is only temporary. Our true life is hidden with Christ at the right hand of God and the hope of salvation to eternal life carries us through any suffering we may go through here and now.
The scripture tells us that we will find peace and joy despite the suffering and that the Lord will help us through our times of temptation.
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As we note from this scripture, we will be tempted and we will suffer because of temptations. We see that the Lord does not take away the temptations because it is by enduring it as we go through temptation that we are strengthened. As we lean on Him when we are tempted, we grow stronger in the faith and are able to endure and stand strong in the face of the temptation. And as we use the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, we overcome.
”…for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
But we will suffer as we go through these processes that eventually yield the peace and joy in Jesus Christ.
Suffering for Christ
We suffer because the work that God is doing in us is a work of transformation. We suffer the growing pains of growing out of the ways of the flesh, and metamorphosing into the ways of the Spirit. We are being transformed from beings of flesh and blood, with all the weaknesses of humanity, into the image of Christ.
As we go through these changes, we suffer because the ways of God are not the ways of man. We will be disciplined by the Lord for the purpose of training us in His ways, and we will fall and make mistakes along the way.
And even more, we will be attacked by the devil and by other people for the stand we are taking. The devil will try to rip every Christian away from Christ through physical attacks, verbal and spiritual abuse. As the scripture shows us:
8 Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)
The devil is on the prowl constantly looking for someone to devour. He is the great adversary and it is the devil we contend with. But note also two other things in this scripture.
First, this suffering is “required” of all the brethren around the world. We all have to go through suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ. So know that it will happen.
But the second point, and one we need to cling to, is that when we do suffer, God Himself will come to us to restore, establish and strengthen us. Even though we suffer for the name of Jesus Christ, we are also comforted by God as and when He brings us through the times of suffering. And there is another point we need to recognise as Christians.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)
Peter tells us clearly that there will be fiery ordeals that we must go through, and we should not be surprised about this fact. It WILL happen whether we want it to or not. It is in the fires of life that we learn to lean on Jesus Christ and become strong. So do not fear the suffering but rejoice in it because Christ is working on you and in you as you go through these things…although it may be unpleasant at the time!
12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
And here is the crux of the matter. If you desire to be a Christian and to live a godly life, you will suffer persecutions. You will be battered spiritually and sometimes physically, as Paul was, for the sake of what you believe.
The evil people in this world will go from bad to worse, and they will suffer too. The difference is they do not have the hope of salvation. They do not have Jesus Christ to help them through their persecutions and to ensure they are not pushed beyond their limits. They are without hope, and rather than hate them, we should all pity them because they know not what they do.
You will suffer. Expect it. But also know that in any and all suffering you may go through, you are not alone. Jesus is with you to carry you through and He will strengthen you after you have suffered. So it is written.
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