Pastor’s Corner: “Privilege of Suffering”

Philippians 1:29 (NLT) – 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 

I read of a pastor from America who was asked to preach on suffering to a church in the slums of Mumbai. He asked himself, how was an affluent American supposed to share with Christians who lived in utter poverty and who faced persecution from the other two more dominant religious groups?  

The Bible clearly reveals that suffering is inevitable for all believers. Our convictions should be contrary to that of the world and as a result our words and deeds will be hated. The persecution we may receive in the U.S. for our convictions are only harsh words, maybe an unfriending on Facebook and at worse a slashed tire. The believers in Mumbai faced beatings and removal from their meager dwellings.  

In a packed room filled with adults in chairs and children sitting on the floor, the pastor gave examples of believers in Scripture who counted it a privilege to suffer for Jesus. After all, He suffered for us. He told of the great heavenly rewards that far outweigh anything we experience here. He shared how Philippians 1:29 refers to suffering as a gift comparable to salvation, because it was for the sake of Christ. At the end of the meeting another pastor with two small daughters came up to him and explained that the message spoke to his heart. He was going to ask for money for tin to build a space in the slums to shelter his family. The message convicted him that he should continue to share space in others’ shacks, as it was a privilege to not have a home for the sake of the gospel.  The American pastor had to ask himself if he believed the message as strongly as this pastor from Mumbai did. How about you? 

The normal human reaction to the influx of persecutions and pain is an immediate desire to escape the advancing difficulties and dangers. But in reality we should embrace them with a thankful heart – confidently expecting our heavenly Father to use them for our spiritual benefit and for His eternal glory. Acts 5:41 (NLT)41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 

Remember, the Lord Jesus himself said, He who saves his life shall lose it. But he who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it. Inevitably in the Christian life there will be some degree of putting up with misunderstanding, patronizing pity, ridicule or scorn and the like. When we appear before the Lord, he doesn’t look us over for medals, but for scars. They may not always be physical scars. It is the trials and suffering we go through that deepen our lives. 

Oswald Chambers beautifully expressed this. He described how God is purposely working to make us into fine wine, but that we can never attain to this if we keep objecting to the fingers he uses to crush us. We could accept it if God would just use His own fingers to make us his specially broken bread and poured out wine. But when he uses someone we dislike or certain circumstances that we do not want to allow, we push back. Chambers reminds us that we must not dispute the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever to be made fine wine to drink we simply must be crushed. Grapes cannot be drunk. They only become wine once they submit to the crusher. 

God has wisely designed that life involves suffering. And it is not a sacrifice; it is a privilege that we are granted, for Christ’s sake.  

Reflect: We don’t need to invite suffering. If we are true to the Word, it will come to us. 

In His Grace, 

Pastor Hamilton