The Scripture teaches that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” ( 2 Timothy 3:12).
While not all suffering is God’s plan for us, there are some kinds of suffering which will come to us in one form or another if we wholeheartedly seek to do the will of God.
Other suffering we experience because of our own lack of wisdom or knowledge. If you are proud or ignorant you can be deceived by the evil one in some decisions you make. The outcome of those decisions will lead to personal suffering.
It is much better to decide now that you need to seek humility, wisdom, knowledge and love all the days of your life.
Suffering in sickness is not the will of God. Jesus took our diseases and carried our pains, and with His stripes we are healed. (Matthew 8:16,17)
Yet God both permits and uses suffering in our life to establish and settle us in all the will of God. He wants us to identify with Him in His suffering for a lost world.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourself also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
We need to prepare our minds for suffering - even be willing for it. Christians must be prepared to continue in the grace of God in the midst of sufferings, adversities, hardships and persecutions. Paul and Barnabas at one stage were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ “.
There is much teaching in the New Testament regarding suffering and persecution. It is to be expected when we follow hard after God. Our loyalty to God will be challenged by Satan. He does not want us to plunder his kingdom. Only those who are determined by God’s grace to be faithful to Jesus through suffering will pass the test.
It seems though that God has a sovereign purpose even in suffering for which we can see no reason. If our attitude is right, he can use suffering to perfect our patience and prepare us to contain a greater measure of His glory.
Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
It is very important, in the midst of our suffering, to keep our eyes on the Lord and the invisible things of His spiritual kingdom. Only then will suffering produce what God intends.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18)
Our sufferings for the Lord will be turned into glory, especially in the future life but at times even in this life. Suffering and persecution can be the fire in which all the impurities and weaknesses in our lives can be brought to the surface and eliminated. The Bible compares this process to the process of refining gold. To be purified, gold must be melted in the fire. All the impurities then come to the surface and can be eliminated.
God-ordained suffering in the life of the believer is always for our good. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
One thing to also bear in mind is that God will be with us in our suffering to comfort our hearts, and make us able to comfort those who are suffering with different kinds of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Suffering will not last forever, but the positive results from it in our life will! Meditate on the promise and possibilities of the following verse.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
In completing this study, it would be good to consider the fact that God already loves and and delights in us as believers in Him. He rejoices over us with gladness! (Zephaniah 3:17). This He does regarding all His children who are justified before Him through faith in Jesus.
Yet we have also seen that God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these” we “may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)
God promises to sanctify us completely and preserve our whole spirit, soul and body blameless before him at his coming. (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).
Even in this life, God says that he will “sprinkle clean water” on us, cleanse us from all our filthiness and from all our idols. He promises to give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us. He promises to take the heart of stone out of our flesh and give us a heart of flesh. He promises to out His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes, keep his judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
He also promises to put His laws in our hearts, and write them in our minds (Hebrews 10:16). Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25) and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God is able to “purify our hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9), “perfect, strengthen, settle and establish us” (1 Peter 5:10).
God has given us many promises. Our response should be to believe them, expect God to do it, and humbly rejoice in the presence of God always.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and of spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Our attitude should be like that of Paul the apostle:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14,15)
“Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24,25).