Suffering and its Place in our Life in Christ (Poetry and Prose)
Books like “Filling up the afflictions of Christ,” by John Piper that speaks of personal accounts of suffering for Christ really challenged my understanding of the Christian life. Such realizations brought shame upon my shallow depths of knowledge about scripture. Truly, one can never know enough, we must continue and never welcome complacency with a kiss of pride and foolishness. Such stark encounters with what it means to suffer for Christ---to live our life in (and for) Christ, gave answers to many of the questions that I never felt passionate about to ask.
In this article, I simply want to, perhaps, share this new found understanding that God has given and continues to reveal to me. May all be blessed and God glorified!
1 Peter 2:9-12; “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Philippians 3:20-21; “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
“Is Christ nothing but a magic spell to cast away our distress?
Is Christ nothing but a rag with the duty to clean our every mess?
Is Christ nothing but an indulgent lover that nods away to all our requests?
Is Christ nothing but a cruel dictator when He sends trials and tests?
Is Christ nothing but a force of security that excuses our impurities?
Is Christ nothing but a savior that ought to give you your best?
Will Christ be your Lord only when He stays a stranger and solely offers you rest?”-apG
One of the greatest snare to a believer is to know that we are citizens of heaven yet lives so at home here on earth. That’s why when the call of suffering comes we are deceived into thinking that our home is being attacked; we anticipate heaven here on earth when we should be displaying glimpses of heaven instead.
And because of this unbiblical mentality we easily define suffering as unjust and unloving of God to do or allow, thus forfeiting God’s good purpose for it. Let us then be vigilant to keep our hearts from building a nest here on earth. Remember that we were saved for a higher purpose, we are called as pilgrims here on earth and not tourists. Serve God in the day and night, submit to His purpose even if tears cloud your sight.
The Purpose of Suffering
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is,that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Seek not the atrocity of broken chains that speeds away to rebellion,
Deny not the work of the Light, Refuse not the cup of suffering,
For a ransomed soul embraces sanctification;
He gains everything by losing it all
His spirit is lifted higher every time he falls,
Whatever God does or allows, a humble servant heeds His call,
All for the glory of his Savior---a ransomed soul’s all in all.-apG
The word of God is clear when it says that the purpose of God in saving us is to make us like Christ---to sanctify us, to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 4:15-16). It is also straightforward in saying that we will be sent as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16); for what purpose? Evangelization—taking the gospel to every unreached soul.
Obedience is the pathway to holiness (sanctification) (-J.Bridges), sharing the gospel and living worthy of it is a command and heeding a command is obedience. John Piper puts it best when he explained why we cannot divorce suffering from obedience (first and especially in sharing the gospel);
“But the most amazing thing about Colossians 1:24 is how Paul fills up Christ’s afflictions. He says that it is his own sufferings that fills up Christ’s afflictions. This means, then, that Paul exhibits the sufferings of Christ by suffering himself for those he is trying to win. In his sufferings they see Christ’s sufferings.
Here is the astounding upshot; God intends for the affliction of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people….Paul’s missionary suffering is God’s design to complete the sufferings of Christ, by making them more visible and personal and precious to those for whom He died. (Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ).”
That is why we ought to embrace suffering as God’s appointed way to fulfill His good and loving purpose---our sanctification, the proclamation of the gospel, for our good and all for His glory! It’s also true that suffering can come in different ways and degrees for every saint, but the details doesn’t really matter; what truly matters is our trust and obedience to our God. John G. Paton once said, “…God is too loving and wise to err in all He does and permits...” –This can only be said and believed by someone who has truly devoted himself to the truth of scriptures and daily surrenders at the feet of his King. And this is the very desire that should fuel and direct our lives. Only then will we come to the point of not only celebrating bloodless blessings to sincerely anticipating with great rejoicing the privilege of dying for Christ every day.
Matthew 16:24; “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
The Potter and the Clay
Galatians 2:20-21; “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Jeremiah 18:6; “He said, "Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Romans 9:20; “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?” Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?”
Bought by the grace of God! Sin no more has power over me!
Washed by the blood of the Lamb! His cleansing do I plead!
Precious Savor now intercedes! My life, for his purpose, do I give!
The unworthy loved by the King, the sinner cleansed from within!
A broken vessel made whole by grace! Now a new creation running the race!
May I be poured out before I behold your lovely face!
So use this lowly heart to glorify your beautiful name!
Jesus paid it all!
Oh! Forbid these hands to give you shame!
Teach me now, O Lord, glorify your name!-apG
Suffering is beautiful because Christ suffered for us. Suffering is beautiful because Christ is glorified. Suffering is beautiful because it brings us closer to Him. Suffering is beautiful because as we suffer, others see Christ. Suffering is beautiful because we have a living and loving Savior who paid the price.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”j
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!