Suffering with Christ

Suffering with Christ

If you are considering the early (8a), outdoor service on Sunday, please check the website on Saturday afternoon for a final update. We may have to move it indoors due to rain.

Please be praying for our services this evening (7p) and Sunday, that Christ would be present and working, that all who come would believe and be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Also be sure to greet and show the love of Christ to visitors, many of whom come to our second service on Sunday. Our simple work is to sow seeds; the Lord causes them to grow.

In spite of all we know of Good Friday, and the strange truth that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isa 53:10), American evangelicals have always been slow to accept suffering as a legitimate tool in God’s hand (as though by disagreeing with the concept they could avoid the experience). The subsequent loss in wisdom, maturity, and depth has led to an inversion in which American Evangelicals see God as a means to happiness, rather than seeing themselves as the way God is accomplishing his ends. In this framework, suffering always seems wrong, and we may try to use God to fix it. It doesn’t work, of course, and the result is the kind of disillusioned person who says God “let me down,” as if such a thing were possible.

Any honest reading of Scripture reveals we are the children and heirs of God, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17). Because of the life and pattern of Christ, whom we are following, and to whose image we are being conformed, suffering is not only tolerable but essential. So Paul says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Rom 5:3ff). Likewise Peter: “…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” (1 Peter 1:6ff).

Both Paul and Peter suffered as servants of Christ and knew suffering’s re-shaping effect from the inside. They knew the power of the dark night of the soul to re-cast life in a Godward direction. So Peter could say that because “Christ suffered in the flesh” we should arm ourselves “with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:1ff).

Take a step toward maturity. Kneel with Christ in Gethsemane and tell God that, of course, you would like a life free of suffering. Then pray, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”