The sacred trust of suffering

Posted: July 13, 2012 by J in Bible, Church, Discipleship, Theology

This ministry of suffering is entrusted not only to leaders but to the whole church:

For God has graciously granted you not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him…    Philippians 1:29

So Paul sees his participation in Jesus’ suffering as a role model for all believers:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death...  Therefore, all who are mature should think this way.   Philippians 3:10,15

In fact he views the Christian calling as essentially one of suffering:

…so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions of yours. For you yourselves know that we are appointed for this. For in fact when we were with you, we used to forewarn you that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened…    1Thessalonians 3:3-4

This fellowship of suffering is so basic to the Christian life that without it there can be no hope of glory:

…and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.    Romans 8:17

For Paul, then, the gospel is a call to participate in Jesus’ suffering, and later on in his glory also. This is God’s will for us: that, by joining in with Jesus’ story, we follow him through death and into eternal life. Suffering is not an unfortunate by-product of faith: it is core Christian experience.

In Paul’s gospel we are called to  come and suffer with Jesus.

And (as we saw yesterday) this responsibility to suffer falls especially on church leaders.

Tomorrow: did you notice the strange twist in that?

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