“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT), emphasis mine
I wrote about the power of the cross this past Freedom Friday. I wanted to talk a bit more about the promise of suffering.
We often think we are doing something wrong when we experience lots of trials, suffering & temptation. I spoke about the reality of lifelong temptation in this post. We’re also promised trials, as we can see in these verses. But why are we also guaranteed to experience suffering?
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)
“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19 (NLT)
Peter reminds us that suffering should not be a surprise. There is no promise in Christianity that if we believe in Jesus, life will always be easy and pain-free. Quite the opposite. The promise instead that we receive is that God will carry us through our suffering, if we allow Him to.
If we are to truly know God, we must also truly know suffering.
“For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:16-18 (NLT)
Remember also you have a choice in how you respond to suffering. You could respond with bitter and angry fist-shaking toward heaven, asking how a good God could allow such heartache. God can handle it if you do respond that way. Or we can respond as Jesus responded. “God, if there is any other way, take this cup from me…but not as I will, rather according to Your will.” Or we can allow our suffering to drive us to God.
We will likely never suffer to the point of dying on a cross. In the midst of my trials, I can look at the cross and say to God, “You did that for me? Then, I will cling to You and, as Peter said, trust my life to the One who created me.”
As we continue to reflect on Good Friday and Easter, let us also reflect on the life of Christ. Let us continue to consider the cross and how to live a life that reflects its resurrection power.
I want to close with this passage. Consider Paul’s words, life & example, as he considered all things to be garbage compared to knowing Jesus, even in His sufferings.
“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Philippians 3:6-11
Read the rest of the passage here.