Not many of us like to think about suffering. When we do suffer we try to end that process as quickly as we possibly can. It makes sense, right? It's uncomfortable and downright painful at times to experience suffering. No one wants to suffer. Everyone wants to be comfortable. However, when we examine what is said in the Bible, we can't get around the fact that it makes plain that Christians will suffer.
Just for clarity, I want to say that I'm not speaking of seeking out suffering nor am I speaking of suffering from natural occurrences such as sickness, natural disasters, or death of loved ones unless these occur because someone is living their lives for Christ in a way that they wouldn't normally. What I am saying is that if we are seeking to live our lives in a sold out manner for Christ, we will suffer. This is what I mean by suffering on purpose.
God's Glory or Mine?
The Bible makes clear that every single aspect of our lives should be lived for God’s glory. We should live our lives for God's glory among those who don't believe. We should live our lives for God's glory among those who do believe. We should live our lives for God's glory in times of prosperity and in times of tragedy.
The question then becomes are we truly seeking to live our lives for God’s glory? What does that look like anyway? Is it just going to church 2-3 times a week and praying before meals? Is it posting Christian things on my social media? Could there be more to it than that?
In his book Desiring God, John Piper says this in the chapter on suffering, “It seems that most Christians in the prosperous West describe the benefits of Christianity in terms that would make it a good life, even if there were no God and no resurrection.”
In other words, most of us aren’t living our lives in such a way that would be considered foolish if Christ is still in the grave. We aren't taking many risks. We aren't giving much up. More often than not, we're not even speaking up about the God we love who gave His Son to save our lives.
Peter tells us in verse 1 of chapter 4 of 1 Peter that Christ suffered and we should be prepared to suffer for following Him. He doesn't say it might happen. In fact, he says that since Christ suffered, we are to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking. In other words, be prepared to suffer.
Jesus says it like this in John 15:20, "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.”
Why Should I Suffer?
Both Peter and Jesus make it clear for us that to be a Christian means you will suffer. Why will you suffer? Peter tells us in verses two through four We no longer live like the world. We no longer agree with what they espouse and they celebrate. In fact, we are a people who believe in a very exclusive message that promotes a very different way of living.
If we are truly trying to live like Christ (which is the Christian goal) then being a Christian means we will be weird. We will be different. Things are changing in our country and our culture and things we believe the Bible says about how we are to live are now beginning not just to be seen as weird, but are starting to be seen as hateful.
We believe that abortion is murder because all humans are made in the image of God. We believe God designed marriage and that He says it is exclusively between one man and one woman. We also believe that the way to heaven is narrow and few will find it. Jesus is the only way to get there. You can't get there through another religion or working harder. Many say that God is all about love and wouldn’t dare send anyone to hell, but they did not find that in their Bibles. We can only spend eternity with Jesus if we surrender this life to Him.
Being in the church and saying you were a Christian used to be culturally popular, but it is no longer that way. Peter lists for us living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. This list shows us that there's nothing new under the sun. When we don’t celebrate these things with the world then we will suffer.
Recall your time in high school. Looking different from everyone else has never been popular. When we are seeking to glorify God with our whole lives, we will face suffering. That is what Jesus promises. That is what Peter and Paul tell us as well. That is the picture we see from examining Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the picture of the church in Acts. Be prepared to suffer.
However, we can take heart because God has good purposes in our suffering and good promises for us when we endure suffering. Those are the things we will examine in the next blog post.