The Privilege of Suffering
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him...
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.” We continue to try to hold on to our lives, to enjoy the things we want and insist on satisfying our desires and pleasures without realizing that inevitably and irresistibly that life is slipping through our fingers and we are losing it. The one who is willing to abandon it, throw it away if need be — waste it, seemingly — on those concerns that involve the cause of Christ and the gospel, has saved that life. If you are not prepared to suffer, then just forget about being a Christian, for the Word warns us that they who would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer some degree of persecution, and the Lord said, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Inevitably in the Christian life there will be some degree of putting up with misunderstanding, patronizing pity, ridicule or scorn and the like. Someone has well said 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.
So 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. Paul said, “this is the same struggle you saw I had.” He suffered both emotionally and physically.
From Paul's friends he endured criticism, difficulty, suffering and rejection. It is necessary to our growth in grace. But there is one thing we need not ever do under conflict, and that is to be afraid. Fear is the enemy that will remove us from faith.
Father, I thank you for the struggles and difficulties you have placed in my life. I trust these circumstances are in your control and through them you are conforming me into the image of your dear Son.