Suffering is a word that we would like to avoid at all costs. No one likes to suffer, because it’s uncomfortable. We would all like to live quiet, peaceful lives for the rest of our existence, and never have to worry about anything. Unfortunately life is not like that. If you are breathing you will suffer at some point.
I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the phrase “no pain, no gain.” While we all like to quote it, especially when we go to the gym, we don’t really like to live it. Can’t we just gain without the pain? The short answer is no. In life and in our Christian walk, we gain the most when we go through pain.
The Bible is full of characters who had astonishing and complete victories. Hebrews 11 tells us that these great men and women subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of the lions, and accomplished other great feats. But it also tells us that others were sawn asunder, tortured not accepting deliverance, and suffered cruel punishments. The indication is clear. If you are going to live for God you will experience the greatest accomplishments that are possible. But you will also face the greatest suffering that is possible. You just have to make up in your mind why you are living for God. Is it for blessings only? Or is it so that you can be transformed into his image?
The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:16 that it is a blessing to suffer as a Christian. Suffering itself is meaningless and terrible, but suffering as a Christian is what makes it all worth it. Why? Because we have the privilege of bearing his name. There is no greater honor. I don’t want to suffer, but if I’m going to suffer I want it to be as a Christian.
I tell our church all the time that the moments I have felt closest to God are moments of suffering. When you’re going through a trial it certainly doesn’t seem like a blessing. But I look back years later and realize that all the things I have been through have made me the man I am today. You have to realize that God is not nearly as concerned about your comfort as he is your character. The whole goal is to make us more like him, and that only happens through suffering.
I will leave you with this. Paul said that he wanted to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection. We love that part. We can preach great sermons on that part of the verse. But the next part doesn’t preach nearly as well. Paul said that he wanted to know him in the fellowship of his sufferings. Do we really want that? If you do you will get closer to Jesus than you have ever been.