The Gift of Suffering

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But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the Good News.  Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.  We are in this fight together. You have seen me suffer for Him in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of this great struggle. ~Philippians 1:27-30

I began studying the scripture in-depth in my twenties. I had just taken a leave of absence from teaching due to illness, and was frustrated with my new job as a secretary. My pastor asked how he could be a blessing to me (great question from a servant-leader) and I let him know I wanted to find a Precept class. Did he know of any in the area? We were recent transplants.

He said he didn’t but would love for our church to start one.  Would I be willing to lead? You must know, at that point in time, I had only spoken a couple of times in front of a group of peers.  My target audience was always under the age of twelve.  But…with the offer to pay for leadership training, and the encouragement from a caring pastor, I said I’d give it a shot.

His spurring me toward “good works” and study of the Word, led to ten years of Precept Bible Studies.  I count it a huge privilege that God allowed me to enjoy those years of study and leading.  He has been good to me.

All of that to say, why did I highlight those phrases in the passage above?

Well, you see, Philippians was the first course I taught and those two phrases have been planted in my mind and heart for over twenty years now.  Those two phrases, I believe, are God-given words to me.  Prophetic words for my life.  Words God planted in my heart to get me through the coming years.  I believe that with my whole being.

One is a command: You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.

The second is a prophecy: …but also the privilege of suffering for Him…

To walk in a manner worthy of the gospel…”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” It’s as simple as that. Love of Christ will lead to love of His ways. To love Christ means to follow Him in all aspects of our lives. 

“Walk worthy, Michelle.”  Those words have caused me to think clearly through many choices in this life.

And for me, “it has been granted to you to suffer for Him” (NASB) has allowed me to know the path I’m on is a privilege.

Some see it as a burden, this life of difficulty in the flesh.  And I must say, somedays I agree.  However, God’s Word says it is a privilege to live with suffering. 

The gift of suffering allows us to know Jesus better.  He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  It is possible to get a glimpse of His suffering as we experience our own and then to more fully understand the joys of the life to come.

It really isn’t all about now.  He is doing an eternal work in us.  One we won’t see this side of a New Heaven and New Earth. 

His path for me has not been easy.  But, is it ever easy for a soldier,…an athlete,…a runner to go through training? 

The gift of suffering. 

It is a privilege. 

God’s Word says so.

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11 responses »

  1. I have always liked how Luke started to write the book of Acts when he said in verse 3 that “to whom He presented himself alive after his suffering by many infallible proofs” In the King James the word for suffering is passion. Jesus is passionate to cleanse us and change us and only we think of it as suffering.

    those who live godly will suffer….

    Keep looking up!

  2. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes (Psalm 119:71)

    I think you also mentioned this verse here a few weeks ago. It has also been a word of truth for me for a while now. God uses suffering to draw us closer to Him because He loves us. For some it is difficult to understand and they say what kind of good God wants suffering for those He loves, but I recently read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis where He asks the same thing, plays devil’s advocate and eventually compares God to a surgeon. If a surgeon knows there is a cancer growing but doesn’t operate because that would be painful, that is evil, while a good surgeon would operate because He knows it would bring life, even if it painful in the short term.

    And even in our suffering we know He is faithful and we have a promise that He will complete His good work in us. And that is enough to know, even if it isn’t always easy. God bless.

  3. “Jesus is passionate to cleanse us and change us and only we think of it as suffering.”

    Great perspective, Mike. Thank you.

    I just read that same analogy today, Rain. It is painful, the surgeon’s scalpel; but when the old is cut away, the new can be revealed. I do take heart knowing He will complete His work. Thanks!

  4. It is difficult to grow without suffering. It is interesting for me to see how trees are planted in the Big City where we live.

    They dig a hole, plant the two year old tree in the ground, then they have to place wire harnesses around them and stake them in two or three directions to ensure the tree is not blown over by the wind.

    I grew up in the country of East Texas, lots of trees, but I had never seen a “tree harness” until I hit the big city.

    The reason is clear – trees in the country grow naturally. They grow where they fell as seeds, therefore, their roots are deep and they have suffered rain storms, wind and winter as they grew. They are strong enough to hold when a big storm comes to challenge their roots because they have been firmly established in the ground since their birth.

    Likewise, if we are not tested under sufferings, how can we grow stronger in the Lord. What would drive us to our knees to cry for His strength? How would our roots grow deeper if we are not challenged by trials and tribulations?

    Like in sports, you are only as good in the game if you have worked hard in practice and pushed yourself to the limits.

    I know I have been driven to my knees many times, but unfortunately I wait for a trial to push me there.

    When we are weak – He is strong. Which is good, since we are so very weak.

    Sorry for the long response.

    Love u – Phat

  5. No need to apologize, Phat, when a response is that good!

    I do pray my roots are deep enough to withstand whatever challenges come. I didn’t grow up in the country. I’m a Big City girl, as my husband likes to remind me. I wonder if I’ve had too many harnesses to keep me protected from the storms of life. All with good intentions, but the help can debilitate a tree if it doesn’t experience some of the storm’s fury.

    I need to learn to endure.

    I love you, Phat.

  6. There seems to always be a constant themes/verses in our life that we must constantly turn to God for . I call them life verses.

    For me Romans 12:1-2, Jer 29:11, and Heb 11:1.

    Then tend to be centered around our strongest struggles with faith.

    The way you communicate what you learn from your suffering, is always 100% on point. God has a true purpose for you, and you are worthy to Him of the Good news.

  7. “Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.”

    That spoke to me. God is talking to me about warfare … that was very timely.

    I love all of these thoughts here as well. About God’s cleansing and purifying, and the necessary element of what looks on the surface like suffering here. Good thoughts.

  8. “…and the necessary element of what looks on the surface like suffering here.”

    I know the suffering is necessary, Annie. But, man! It doesn’t feel surface level.
    At times I can’t breathe…I have to remember to breathe.
    He does have it all in control. I know I don’t. But God does.

    He will complete His work in us. I’ll take courage in His purifying work.

    Thanks, Sparkle!

  9. Oh, hey, Carl!! I skipped you…sorry ’bout that.

    It’s interesting the life verses you mention. I didn’t know at the time that was what those verses would become, but they certainly have been my life mantras. (That’s probably a wrong word to use here, huh?)

    Thanks for your encouragement. Romans 12:1-2 Oh yeah!

    Blessings to you!

  10. i respect and admire you so much. your strength of character, your depth of passion for Jesus.

    “walk worthy.” i needed that. thank you.

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