My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10-11 NET)
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he has been describing the goals he has for his own life. These should be our goals as well. Paul’s overall goal was to “know” Jesus. The path to that goal is to experience Jesus’ power as we studied yesterday and to “share in His sufferings”.
Everyone in life experiences pain to some degree but many people have trouble with the concept of suffering as part of the Christian life. But this should be no surprise as Jesus told us this would happen [Matthew 21:34-36; John 15:21; Acts 9:16]. We see it occurring all the time in our world.
Pastor Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American and Muslim convert to Christianity. He is now serving an 8-year sentence in an Iranian prison for being a Christian where he has been repeatedly beaten by inmates and guards.
While we don’t see this level of persecution in the United States (yet), we do see a government that forces Christian business owners to compromise their beliefs on issues such as same-sex marriage and a society that unashamedly ridicules people who openly live for Jesus (e.g. Tim Tebow). Even I have received several death threats since I started this blog eighteen months ago.
Since Jesus Himself suffered there is no reason for any Christian to believe that he/she won’t suffer too. But we will not suffer nearly as much as He did. While on the cross Jesus experienced the ultimate suffering – God abandoning Him. This is the worse thing a human could experience and is the equivalent of being in hell.
Thankfully, this is something born-again believers will never have to experience because Jesus experienced it in our place.
When we are rejected and ridiculed (or worse) as Jesus was we become closer to Him. People who only share good times aren’t very close. Their relationships are superficial. The closest friends we have are those with whom we go through difficult times.
The other benefit of suffering for Jesus is that it is the only way we can experience His strength [2 Corinthians 12:10]. When the world brings us low, Jesus will raise us up [John 16:33; John 14:27; 1 Peter 4:16 et. al]. This is great encouragement.
The world around us tries everything it can to remove pain from their lives. But in so doing they are not growing or becoming better. Disappointments, failures, and hardships grow our character and make us better people. They make us more like Jesus, which is God’s goal for His adopted children [Romans 8:29].
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.
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