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Suffering for Christ's sake.

Updated: Jun 17



“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” - 2 Timothy 2:3


This verse may fly in direct contrast to the current idea of Christianity. To a group of people already frustrated with their current way of life, poor and deteriorating socio-economic circumstances, and the rising cost of living among others, the idea of the gospel mustn't accommodate any form of “suffering”. 


Sadly, the promise of freedom, joy, heaven, riches, and so on has been misconstrued as no longer having to do hard, mundane activities to get something and be somebody. That, everything must be supernaturally and miraculously provisioned with little to no effort required. Yet a deep dive into the gospel narrative reveals how shallow and problematic such thinking is.


Among the many metaphors Apostle Paul uses to describe the Christian, that of a soldier is quite interesting. 


"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." - Ephesians 6:11-13


Paul calls us soldiers, taking a stand against the schemes of the devil, against rulers, authorities and powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So right after being born again, we’re in some kind of war. Why is enduring suffering a mark of a good soldier? What exactly is this suffering? And why should we endure it?


If we had our way all our needs would be met with little to no effort. Nothing should cause us to adjust, everything should be obstacle-free, smooth and soft. This kind of thinking suggests that we are all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise i.e. we are our creators - which you and I aren't.


 

I think the best picture to explain suffering with Christ is in Jesus’ invitation to carry his yoke:


“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28


There’s a component of suffering required at each stage of our journey. Even in our world, we know that most worthwhile achievements have an associated cost. The birth of a child comes with the pain of being in labour, starting a business venture involves much more effort and resources that may scare away the timid. The same is even more true for our Christian journey.


How about the guy who was sexually promiscuous before being born again? Although godly desires may overshadow the desire for that, for the rest of his life, he has the responsibility of ignoring the temptations to fornicate. This is also suffering.


How about accepting the uncertainty in the faith walk? By the world’s training people are generally impatient and will assume clarity should happen automatically. When you find out God will only tell you enough to keep you going and will require you to trust him fully and completely. This is also tough.


How about facing your fears?? Doubting your doubts?? Wrestling with what God has said, Trials of faith. The bottom line is our walk with God would reveal all the inconsistencies and weaknesses we’ve held on to and regarded as normal. 


What makes this picture of suffering even more beautiful is that we’re not alone. The one who gives us the burden is beside us to carry it with us.


 

“...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me”

- 2 Cor 12:7-8


It is interesting to note that Apostle Paul was enduring a thorn in his flesh and that 3 times he sought to be spared of it and yet God didn't take it away. Instead, He pointed to His grace as being sufficient for his weakness.


We may not always see our end but can we trust that the all-knowing God has a plan for our current suffering? He calls us to suffer with Him and for Him because, in the end, we will be captured by what we didn’t know we were looking for.


Maybe then we can conclude like Paul:


“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.”



God bless you!


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