God is teaching me much about suffering. Did you know it’s actually an honor to suffer for righteousness’ sake? Philippians 1:29 indicates and confirms that.
29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
Scripture also says Christ learned through suffering. How did He suffer? Well in the Garden of Gethsemane, He struggled with yielding to His will or the Father’s will even unto physical death. Who knows how He suffered knowing Judas would betray Him? And that, during His time of great need, His disciples would literally abandon Him? Granted, John returned and stayed with Mary at the foot of the cross while He was dying, but scripture does say they all fled. As a man, Christ was without sin. Scripture doesn’t say, but did He suffer from sexual urges that He controlled? Did He suffer because the disciples could not possibly understand things, things He knew that they could not yet bear? Did He suffer denying Himself marriage and a family because He knew His mission while among us that had to be His primary focus?
42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
So what is it about suffering that makes it an honor spiritually? What kind of person does God choose for this kind of suffering? First, the person has to be spiritually mature. Note that Paul wrote this way to the Philippians. To other fellowships, he wrote of the need to be rooted and grounded in God’s love and to show the fruits of that love in their lives as opposed to the carnality that cropped up needing correction. The Philippians were commended by Paul that they willingly contributed to his ministry needs without being asked or prodded to. That shows a dedication to the work God gave Paul to do, a seeing beyond themselves and their needs. A putting the kingdom first. Job was that kind of man, too. God specifically pointed him out to the devil as spiritually unshakable and allowed the devil full access to his life and circumstances with the boundary that Job’s physical life be spared. We all know the terrible things that happened to Job, and he did remain faithful. Job was perplexed and demanded God to let him know what he did wrong (scripture says he was faithful and righteous), and God eventually answered him in code so that his windbags of so-called friends would not understand that the devil was the source of Job’s suffering. The list goes on to include David, Joseph and many others.
Did you know you can do everything right spiritually, and life can still be hard? I do. Some of my colleagues do. We just didn’t realize that suffering is a spiritual badge of honor. Again, Philippians 1:29 says it is. Pastor G and I stand with Paul in that regardless of life’s circumstances physically, we know how to cope. Life, at times, has been hard, and we know what it’s like to be hungry and homeless. That phase lasted for a number of years, and God has always been faithful to provide for our needs. Sadly, we have been badly misjudged by those who were sincerely wrong and limited in their understanding of God and His ways, which are higher than ours. Like those windbags who considered themselves Job’s friends and supporters, people have accused us of lacking something in our spiritual life like obedience or faith. Would that they had understood the spiritual badge of honor that this kind of suffering is.
My prayer for you is this: that you ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see what is really happening and not rely on your own limited understanding. That you are there for the one who is suffering and love him or her. If you personally suffer this way, I pray God equips you to endure to the end of this period. From personal experience, I can share that this kind of pain and suffering does have its end, and God can choose to restore what He allowed you to lose. What you will appreciate over time are the blessings of spiritual growth in your life and ministry, if God has blessed you with doing a work for Him.
Suffering changes a person. It helps us focus on what is important. For Pastor G and me, it was about moving forward spiritually regardless of physical circumstances. God blessed us abundantly and continues to do so. Currently, we praise Him for us being on the good side. He has placed a blessing-filled table before us, and no enemy can touch those blessings.
So, are you spiritually mature enough to suffer for righteousness’ sake? Will you accept God’s badge of honor and suffer along with Christ for a season? God’s will be done. Be physically and spiritually safe and be blessed.
copyright 2017, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved