Summary: In this message we see the Biblical truth about suffering.
Sunday, February 10, 2002
It was June 1995. It was a typical day in the Todd household. Marlene and David were up and off to work and school respectively. I was in the shower and Melissa was paddling in the water in the kitchen sink to keep her occupied so I could finish my shower in peace. Drying off, I stepped out of the shower and onto the bath mat lying on the kitchen floor. It went one way and I went the other. When I came to rest on the floor, I looked down at my left leg and saw that my left foot was pointing straight out at a ninety degree angle and that my kneecap had moved from the front of my leg to the outside. I have never in my life felt such pain. I felt sick to my stomach, the pain was so intense. I actually thought for a moment that I was going to lose consciousness because the pain was so extreme.
I learned two things that day about pain and suffering
1. My instinct is to end pain and suffering as quickly as possible.
2. My instinct is to do whatever is necessary to avoid any future reoccurrence of the same pain.
- twice as careful getting out of the tub
- wear inserts in my shoes to straighten out the leg
It is because of those two basic instincts that what Paul says about suffering for Christ strikes us as so strange.
Paul doesn’t treat suffering for Christ as something to be avoided at all costs. In fact as you read the last few verses of chapter one of Philippians you could almost get the idea that Paul sees suffering for Christ as a kind of badge of honour.
Paul gives us a challenge in the face of suffering and then gives us two amazing truths about suffering for Christ.
1. Paul challenges us to stand firm in the face of suffering.
Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.
When the going gets tough, everybody quits.
The cause of Christ is greater than our individual personal comfort. Paul challenges us to persevere in the cause of the Gospel even in the face of personal attacks and suffering.
That day when I dislocated my knee I am convinced that I didn’t pass out for one reason. I looked over at my two and half year old playing in the sink. I had someone more important than myself to work for. That day I put my hand under the knee cap and straightened out the leg until it popped back into place because I had a greater responsibility to care for Melissa.
That is just a shadow of the idea Paul is speaking of, but he is saying the same thing. Stand firm in the face of suffering because the Gospel is our greater purpose - greater even than our instinct for self-preservation.
2 The first truth about suffering - suffering is a sign.
2 Cor. 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
John 15:18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ’No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.
23 He who hates me hates my Father as well.
3. The second truth about suffering - suffering for Christ is a privilege. 1:29-30
2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
The question for a Christian is not if she will be persecuted, but when.
Persecution is not a burden but rather a high honour that Christ bestows on his faithful servants.
19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.