“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29 NKJV).” The word suffer in this verse is a primary verb meaning to experience a sensation or impression, usually pain. We will suffer whether we like it or not. We’re Christians, why are we suffering? Does our God expect us to suffer?
Suffering, A Condition of Fallen Man
Genesis 1:31 tells us God saw that everything He made was very good. Our God didn’t make mistakes when He created humanity. Our God had no intention for mankind to experience any form of suffering.
Human suffering entered this world when the first humans disobeyed God. Disobedience of our God is sin. Romans 5:12 says by one man sin entered the world. Death entered the world because of sin. Thus all humanity is under sin and condemned to death. Sin, and consequently death, lead to suffering in our flesh.
I wish living for our God was all sunshine and roses. The reality is we are suffering. We surrender to our God, yet we still experience unwelcome sensations telling us our lives hurt. We must learn to not only endure suffering, but to glory in it.
To Suffer With Christ
Romans 8:15 says we received the Spirit of adoption. The next verse tells us the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we’re the children of our God. Romans 8:17 tells us if we’re children, we’re also heirs of our God and joint heirs with Christ. The verse also includes the clause, “if indeed we suffer with Him.”
To take on Christ is suffering with Christ. Imagine how Jesus Christ was suffering while enduring the agony of the cross. Are we going to suffer like Christ? Jesus asked his disciples, James and John, if they were able to drink of the cup He was about to drink (Matthew 20:22). They responded yes. Christ replied clearly that they would indeed drink of His cup (Matthew 20:23). Yes, we’ll experience suffering.
We’re not going to hang on a cross until we die. Christ dying on the cross isn’t what our suffering is about. Our suffering for Christ is about crucifying the flesh. It’s dying out to ourselves so we can rise in the newness of Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul wrote “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11 NKJV).”
From Suffering To Glory
Paul understood suffering. He understood how to endure suffering. He learned contentment no matter what his condition. He knew how to be abased yet abound. He learned how to be full yet hungry. He learned how to have enough while suffering need. What was his secret? “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13 KJV).” Jesus Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in all points like us (Hebrews 4:15). Christ suffered everything you and I are either suffering or will suffer.
Romans 8:17 says if we are willing to suffer with Christ, we’ll also be glorified together with Him. The time is coming when we’ll put off this mortality and take on immortality. This corruption will take on incorruption and we’ll be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1Corinthians 15:52).
We are suffering while in this existence. We can submit ourselves to our God and let the strength of Christ reign in our mortal flesh. We’re condemned to suffer and die for our sin. Thank our God, Christ took our suffering upon Himself and redeemed us from condemnation. Our suffering will be turned into glory when we exchange this existence for eternity with our God.