Summary: Believers are urged to see their lives as dedicated to service to the Saviour rather than merely being lived for their own interests.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” [1]

Suffering well is a ministry in itself! Note that I did not say that suffering is a ministry. Few of us tolerate suffering of any sort. Whenever we think of suffering, we may be focused on any of a variety of conditions. All suffering shares in common discomfort or distress arising from some particular condition that is out of the normal realm of life. Suffering likely will entail pain—physical, emotional and/or mental. Suffering may be the result of unjust accusation or it may arise from a broken relationship. Sorrow and grief arising from any of a variety of causes result when one suffers, and the pain may arise even from personal reversal.

While we know that suffering ultimately is the result of sin in our broken world, when our suffering has no immediately obvious reason we struggle against the burden of the challenge. We may complain when suffering results from our own wicked choices, but in that particular instance we know we are the cause of our own grief. However, pain, injury or loss of health that arises because we are part a fallen race often seems unjust; such seeming injustice often leads us to complain, much as Job complained when he was pummelled by the Adversary.

When hurting, we whinge and whine, grumble and complain, plead and wheedle, but the challenge of pain or the sense of deprivation continues nevertheless. Though friends tolerate some of our complaining, we know that eventually they will tire of our protests and grousing. And, yet, those who walk in the Faith must know they will suffer—often because of the Faith!

The Word of God is replete with warnings that following the Christ will bring suffering because you follow Him. As I have often pointed out, Jesus warned us who would follow Him, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” [JOHN 15:18-21].

I am always humbled by the statements given by those who gave us the Word warning us as believers. As he opens his first missive, Peter has written, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” [1 PETER 1:3-9].

Opening the Second Letter to the Church of God in Corinth, Paul spoke of their suffering. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” [2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-7].

In either letter to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul spoke of their suffering as something to be anticipated in this life. These saints had suffered because of their Faith. Paul notes their struggles when he writes, “You, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last” [1 THESSALONIANS 2:14-16].

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