Lately I have been hearing pastors on radio and television state that it is a good thing to suffer in life, and praise it when it happens. I agree about praising it, because our Lord is with us, but it's starting to sound like we should kind of look for ways we can suffer. Is this true, does God want us to intentionally seek ways to suffer to prove we love him?
First, let us review why we suffer. We have assumed that you are not talking about suffering for such things as illness, a disaster or an accident since you say that it appears “we should kind of look for ways we can suffer.” We have assumed that you are talking about suffering for Jesus Christ.
Why do we suffer?
Sometimes Christians suffer for their own errors and mistakes. Such suffering does not honor the Lord. If we suffer because we violate the law, physically assault someone or make some stupid decision, then we should not be surprised or upset.
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (NASB) 1 Pet. 3:14-17
It is important to remember that a number of people like the Jesus who loves everyone, including all the children of the world, but not the Jesus who claims to be God. For example, most people like the following two passages where Jesus talks about love:
For God loved the world so much . . . (NLT) John 3:16
The second [commandment] is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (NASB) Mark 12:31
But the same people do not like the last part of the following two passages.
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NLT) John 3:16
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB) Mark 12:29-31
Jesus taught us to love others, but the same Jesus also said that God existed. He was God! He also talked about spiritual issues such as our evil nature, eternal life, and punishment. Some people do not like the Jesus who claims to have the authority to forgive sins and to perform miracles. While these same people agree that Jesus died on a cross, they do not believe that He died for our sins, returned to life and ascended back to heaven.
Here are some great passages to think about.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life . . . For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (NASB) John 5:39-40, 46
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (NASB) Mark 2:5-7[Jesus said,] “I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (NASB) John 10:30-33
Some today say that Jesus never claimed to be God. But the passages above show that the Jewish leaders understood that Jesus claimed to be God. Why do some today have trouble accepting their conclusion? They were present and understood what Jesus was claiming. The truth is that Jesus claimed to be God. Some find such a conclusion to be unacceptable. They accept the mild, loving, kind, sweet Jesus and reject the Jesus who claimed to be God. They do not want a God who claims that He will some day judge us for our conduct and determine our eternal state.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life . . . He who believes in [Jesus] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (NASB) John 3:16-19
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (NASB) Luke 13:1-3
People also reject Jesus because He tells us that our deeds are evil and as a result some will go to an eternal punishment. As a result, we who follow Jesus will suffer. Jesus warned us that we would suffer if we followed Him. Listen to these passages:
The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. (NASB) John 7:7
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (NASB) John 15:18-19
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (NASB) John 15:20
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (NASB) 1 Pet. 3:14-17
Any Christian who is serious about living for the Lord Jesus Christ and seeks to live a godly life will suffer.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NASB) 2 Timothy 3:12
We will suffer if we believe in and follow Jesus. A true Christian wants to live a holy life and not one that is filled with sin. As a result we can expect to be persecuted and insulted just as Jesus was and is.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NASB) Matthew 5:10-12
Should Christians seek to suffer for God? The answer is no. There is no merit or honor in purposely seeking persecution or insults. They will come if you boldly follow Jesus and tell others about Him. God encourages us in the following passage to seek peace as we live a godly life.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (NASB) 1 Timothy 2:1-2
We can avoid persecution and insults by being “secret Christians.” But that dishonors the Lord and is a direct violation of Jesus’ teachings. Anyone who lives the secret Christian life should ask himself or herself how much he or she truly loves Jesus. We will conclude with the following encouragement to let others know that we are Christians.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (NASB) Matthew 5:14-16
Suggested Links:Blessed Are The Persecuted
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