"In a world that is consumed with peace, prosperity, fulfillment, and comfort, it is a challenging thought to envision yielding our lives to a Leader who may lead us through a measure of suffering." Following Christ Joseph Stowall
Philippians 1:29 "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake."
Look at what has been granted -belief in Jesus- and I know that this is a blessing. But suffering? Suffering is a gift? Huh? No thank you, Lord. I don't want it. Or do I?
I do want to be close to you, Lord. I do want to be the kind of follower who will go anywhere for Your name's sake. You said in Matthew 5: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...". You said there is a joy and rejoicing in my life when I suffer because of You. There is hope of future reward...like a child excitedly waiting for the day to open the present under the tree.
Peter and the apostles saw it as a privilege in Acts 5:40, 41 "...they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." They left their beating rejoicing. That could only be because You gave them a supernatural perspective. You filled them up with Your presence; like You said in Matthew 28, "I am with you always, till the end of the age."
Paul understood the preciousness of knowing You in the midst of suffering. "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death," Philippians 3:10 To know You is a great gift. To be given access to the Living God, Creator of the Universe, Maker of beauty I have yet to experience, is a wonder-filled promise! To know You is a privilege and if it must come with suffering, let it be so, and give me Your mind-set on it.
But let me give a caution to myself and to my readers. As Joseph Stowell wrote in Following Christ: "But there is no place in followership for self-inflicted crosses. Looking for crosses so that we can appear to be more committed is not a virtue. There is no merit in bearing a cross that we have constructed through our own waywardness."
So what do you and I get from these verses? Well, let's not be surprised when troubles come. We were warned. Let us remember, knowing Christ is worth it all. Pray for boldness to follow and speak as even Paul asked the church to pray for him. Relax (don't worry, as our Lord admonished so many times) and enjoy the day the Lord has given us today. His presence is with us now and it will be with us tomorrow.
"Some crosses are fleeting things and quickly gone; some crosses last a lifetime. But no cross lasts forever." Joseph M. Stowell