What is the purpose of suffering? What impact does it have in our lives? How are we to endure it?
I’ve been doing a study of Philippians over the past few weeks. While studying this epistle written by Paul while in prison, these are questions that must be pondered.
As I examine these scriptures alongside others in the New Testament, I can’t help but conclude that suffering for the sake of Christ was meant to be a gift.
“So many of us want to run away from suffering, to avoid it at all costs. We do not realize the awful price we may pay if we are not willing to suffer.” – Kay Arthur
So back to my original question..what is the purpose of suffering?
Searching out this question has potential be life-changing. Therefore, I want to share what the Spirit has revealed to me…
1. Suffering is evidence that we do not belong to the world
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ John 15:18-19
2. Suffering is evidence that we are children of God
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ~ Romans 8:16-18
3. Suffering is evidence that the Spirit rests on us
..but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ~ 1 Peter 4:13-14
4. Suffering is evidence of eternal life to those in the world
in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. ~Philippians 1:28
..we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-12
5. Suffering is evidence that God is purifying us
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 1:6-9
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-3
6. Suffering is evidence of a godly life
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. ~ 1 Thesselonians 3:2-4
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, ~ 2 Timothy 3:12
7. Suffering is evidence of our future eternal rewards
“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. ~ Matthew 5:10-12
2 THINGS TO REMEMBER IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING
1. The Lord will never abandon us
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” ~ Deut. 31:8
At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. ~ 2 Timothy 4:16-17
2. It’s only temporary
even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials... ~ 1 Peter 1:6
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
So how is suffering a gift?? The author of the study, Kay Arthur, summed it up in 3 simple answers:
1. God is glorified
2. I am purified
3. Others are justified
God, I pray that you would help my heart to fully grasp this concept of suffering being a gift. Like Paul and the apostles, to count it all joy when I encounter persecution for the sake of Your Name.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. ~Acts 5:41