Friends, will a child of God face suffering? Does a believer have to go through a path of suffering?
Jesus called His way in Matthew 7:13-14; the ‘narrow gate’ and said ‘difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it.’ Further in John 16:33 Jesus says ‘in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ Also 1 Peter 4:16 &19 ‘Yet if anyone suffers as Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.’ These are few of the many verses which state that as a child of God; yes we are blessed but there is also sufferings we will face as followers of Christ.
What are these sufferings that we will face and why do we face them?
The world will hate you (Luke 21:17, John 15:18-19)
Friends, it is fact that when you follow Christ you will be hated by all. In fact you may lose your inheritance, your promotions, money that is due to you or something that is rightfully yours will be kept back from you just because you follow Christ. I have had many people tell me of such incidents in their lives. To be a friend of Christ means to be an enemy of the world. To be a friend of the world means you are an enemy of God (James 4:4). Jesus tells us if we truly follow Him; we will be hated by all.
You will face persecution (Matthew 5:10-12, John 15:20, 1 Peter 4:14)
From mild insults to getting beaten or even put to death; every believer who decides to live a holy life in Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). A lot of people do not want to give up their worldly social life even their social drinking because they say what will the others think, we need to socialize also, we cannot be seen as fanatics. They fear rejection and insults. Well friends, if you fear persecution then you cannot truly follow Christ. To follow Christ means to have a zeal and a passion just like the Levites in the Old Covenant who will do anything and everything for the Lord because they love Him with their whole being. Further Christ tells us in Matthew 10:32-33 ‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.’ Yes we will have to stand for Christ and be a public testimony for Him in this world if we want to enter Heaven. Hence if you cannot stand for Christ within your social circles, friends and family; then Christ will say I know you not on that day when you stand before the judgement seat of Christ. So friends, persecution, be it mild or life threatening is part and parcel of every Christian’s life. Christ was persecuted so we will also be persecuted for following Him. John 15:20 ‘Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than His Master, If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.’
To train you, the Lord will take you to a path of suffering (Hebrews 12:5-11, 1 Peter 2:20-21)
The Greek word used for disciplining means to train a person. That is why Hebrews 12:11 speaking of God’s disciplining/chastening finishes off by saying ‘afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ Have you wondered why most true servants of God have come through a path of great suffering? Well the Lord through those experienced puts into their hearts His compassion and love. When you go through something only you will truly understand its pain. A person who has faced poverty or loss or sickness will know the burden of going through it. So when you know how it feels and you have come out victorious from it – you will pray with a heart filled with compassion and love for someone else who is now facing such a situation for a miracle to happen now.
To make you perfect
James 1:2-5 ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of you faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.’ Romans 5:3-5 ‘but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’ The Word of God tells us to count it all joy when we face trials and glory in them. Why is that? The testing of our faith produces within us something that is very rare in human beings. What is that rare thing? It produces patience. Patience is a Godly nature and the Lord wants it birth within you.
Faith is not some magical wand that we use to get God to do things now or when we want them. Whatever we say God has to do it. That is how faith is defined by some. Friends, Let me tell you the Lord is not obligated to do anything at all for us because He is Sovereign and Almighty and He decides what must be done not we. Yes He has said ask anything in His Name but His Word also tells us to check whether what we ask is according to His Will (1 John 5:14) and whether whatever we ask will it glorify His Name (John 14:13). When we ask the Lord something, not only should it be within His Will for us but also by giving that to us His Name must be glorified. I cannot ask something that goes against God’s Word because that would not be God’s will and that would not bring Him glory. Similarly there might be some things which are fine and seem perfect but it is not God’s will for me because His plan for me is different. Furthermore there might be other instances where it is God’s will for me but it is not His timing for me yet to give them to me.
Friends, God has a plan for us but He also has a time line within which He will make all things happen. Ecclesiastes 3:1 ‘to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.’ The Lord moves according to His plan and timing and not to our speed and timing. Ecclesiastes 3:11 ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.’ So faith is not about getting things done fast and now; rather faith is about trusting God’s plan and His will for us, waiting for His timing for us until He brings everything to pass and persevering in doing His will and walking and living according to His Word daily. In order to develop these qualities in us the Lord sends us through seasons where our faith is tested.
The testing of our faith produces perseverance which leads to character – a man or woman strong in faith and strong in the Lord. This character makes us focus exclusively on Jesus our hope; the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1). As we make Jesus our all in all in life; we begin to experience His love and His grace in immeasurable ways because Holy Spirit has total freedom to move in our lives as we have totally surrendered as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1). This is why Romans 8:35-27 ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril or sword? As it is written: for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’ This is perfection friends where our minds are set exclusively on things above and not on things on earth. No situation or circumstance can shake us from the faith we have in Jesus because we have tasted His love in such a glorious and overwhelming manner. We can come to such a state of perfection only when we go through trials, tribulations and testing of our faith. 1 Peter 5:10 ‘but may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.’
Can a believer fall sick?
Friends, some say that believers should not fall sick and if they do they have sinned. Certain times sickness may come because of sin but to generalize and say so violates God’s Word (John 11:4). I was reading the testimony of a great woman of God, Darlene Zschech who wrote the song Shout to the Lord and many other beautiful songs. A few years ago she was diagnosed with cancer. This was a shock to her and her family. Even as people prayed there was no immediate divine healing. She went through treatment and she writes that during that period she felt such closeness to the Lord and such a mighty intensity of His presence even as she studied His Word and spent time at His feet. It was something she had never experienced before. This dear lady came out of this totally healed and today with her husband pastors a fast growing church in Australia and is now travelling many countries preaching the gospel. God had a promotion for her and He took her through a period where her faithfulness was checked. She remained faithful in the little, so now God has given her the lot, the great things.
Suffer for Righteousness’ sake and not because of sin
Friends, if you sin and suffer or you are under demonic bondage and you suffer – then that is a big problem and you need deliverance. Don’t mistake that with suffering for Christ. Suffering for Christ means to suffer for the sake of Christ’s name, His Kingdom and for the purposes of spiritual maturity and perfection. When you suffer as such then scripture says you are blessed because great is your reward. 1 Peter 4:14 says ‘If you are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.’
The Apostle Paul’s sufferings
Friends, anyone who says they want to follow Christ must be told that there is a cost. Hebrews 10:32-33 ‘But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated (saved/born again), you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.’
Let us look at the life of Paul who was one of the greatest Apostles of Christ. Paul suffered physical infirmity which seems to be an infirmity relating to his eyes. Galatians 4:13-15 ‘You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you are first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.’
Paul basically suffered every kind of persecution there is to suffer and every kind of suffering a believer could go through. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 ‘Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity’. In addition to all of this Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of satan who was attacking him. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ‘And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
So is Paul a big sinner? Is that why he suffered all this trials and tribulations? In 1 Timothy 1:12-16 Paul testifies ‘And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.’ Paul’s life is a perfect example of what Christ requires from all of us which is to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. That is why the Lord was able to use Paul so mightily for His purpose. The light affliction we face on this earth builds greater eternal glory for us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Beloved let no man deceive you into believing that following Christ is a walk in the park. There will be trials and tribulations but through them you will see the power, the love and the grace of God working bringing you victory each and every time. Furthermore you will mature, become stronger in the faith and become perfected in Christ so that you are without spot or wrinkle, blameless at the coming of our Lord. When trouble comes do not give up on the Lord. Cling to Him even more tightly and let Him steer your life boat. Like Peter do not look at the mighty winds and the storm and begin to sink. Instead keep your eyes exclusively fixed on Jesus knowing that He will bring you through in victory.