Brothers and Sisters,

What is suffering? Suffering is the bearing of pain, inconvenience, or loss; also, the pain endured; distress, loss, or injury that is incurred. And we know that sin, and the resulting separation from God, is the source of all suffering. But now, in the gospel, Jesus has fully entered into and redeemed all our suffering by His death and resurrection. 

Now this is an amazing thing, that the Lord redeems suffering in this way, by absorbing our suffering into Himself so that we might know God. More amazing still, it will be through our suffering, as we live a life and die a death like his, that others will come to know God. What a privilege! Truly, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. But there is a balance to keep in perspective.

First, not all suffering is equal. Sometimes we suffer for doing evil, and that is not the same as suffering for the sake of the gospel. Sin is deceitful, and we do not want to allow for excuses when our behavior is sinful. For example, it is wrong to purposely offend people with the Truth, or to bludgeon people with Truth. The Truth must be balanced by love. If we have no love, and we suffer for it, is Christ honored by that? (See 1 Peter 4) But even if we must suffer for our own sinfulness, it will still turn out for our good. The Lord disciplines those he loves. (Hebrews 12:5-11). 

Second, if the Lord allows suffering in our lives, and we are not at fault in any way, we also know that he will strengthen and sustain us through the trial. Thus we can count it all joy when faced with trials of any kind, knowing that the Lord is producing good in us through them. (James 1:2-3) We briefly mentioned this as we commented on Eph. 3:7, that whatever the Lord calls His servants to do, He will also empower and equip them to do it, especially if we are called to suffer for His sake. He is with us always; He will never leave or forsake us.

Then, if we think and say we are willing to suffer for Christ, what's stopping us? Today is the day to die for Him, not in some unknown future.  Reject comfort in exchange for service. Turn off the TV and love your neighbors. Prayerfully consider how much money is enough, and how much turns our hearts to idolatry. Then give the rest away. Give until it hurts–here we have no eternal city, but we seek one that is to come. Spend less time at work and in your hobbies, and more with your wife and kids and grandkids. Seek God's face. Let's deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. What He calls us to do, He will empower us to do–for His glory, and our good.

For His Glory,

Pastor Eric Farley (Fieldstone Church Plant)



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