CHRIST, THE SUFFERING OF MY LIFE
T. Pierce Brown
I find it very difficult to relate the listed scriptures and the subject to my life. Just what have you and I suffered for Christ’s sake?
It may be disquieting to study such passages as Romans 8:17-18, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul was speaking of such things as being beaten with rods, stoned, and in danger of losing his life FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST. He was not talking about the suffering that comes when a man gets fired from a $60,000 a year job and has to take one for only $45,000. Nor was he talking of a man who has to leave his lucrative and/or prestigious position because of sin.
If the joy of the future world is related conversely to the amount and kind of suffering you and I have done FOR THE CAUSE OF CHRIST HERE, what may we expect in eternity? I am not suggesting that if a Christian does not act in such a way that he brings suffering on himself, he is not really living for Christ. But I do suggest that it is probable that one reason we have not suffered more for Christ’s sake is that the world does not see us as different enough or dynamic enough to pose any threat to its way of life, so it allows us to co-exist in a very comfortable relationship.
It is probable that some that suffer are actually suffering because of their bitter, hateful, mean-spirited attitude. Others suffer — to whatever small degree it may be — because they stand firmly for the truth, and refuse to compromise with the world or worldly-minded brethren in doctrine or life.
It may be helpful to compare and contrast our suffering with the suffering of the Apostles and early Christians. That may help us to be thankful that we live in a world where not all our freedom from suffering is a result of our compromise with the world, but partly because the influences of Christianity have changed the world into a better place. Who, with any proper perspective and understanding of history, can doubt that one of the greatest reasons why Christians in theUnited Statessuffer so little for their beliefs and practices is because of the influence of Christ on those who formed our government? And who can also doubt that we are losing those freedoms as governmental officials and leaders in education, etc. are rejecting the teachings of Christ and turning to humanism, and all other “isms.”
The comparison may also help us to evaluate our conception of the real worth of Christianity to us. Suppose you heard, “If you want to obey the Lord, you must deny self, expect to walk two miles in sub-zero weather, break the ice in the lake to be baptized, then be in constant danger of the authorities who will burn you at the stake, throw you to the lions, or torture you on the rack if they find you are a Christian.”
Would you have obeyed the gospel under those circumstances? Do you suppose a person who did would ever have to be nagged to attend a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening Bible study? Do you suppose he would even think of needing a special personal evangelism workshop to pump up his enthusiasm?
In I Peter there are at least a dozen references to their suffering for Christ which indicated that it was their common lot, expected by most of them, and of a great deal of value if they did it “according to the will of God” (I Peter 4:19) and for “righteousness sake” (I Pet. 3:14). Some values of this kind of suffering are humility, gratitude, patience, and Christlikeness in general. So, if all you have suffered is the scoffing ridicule of false teachers, rejoice, and count your many blessings, but be prepared for worse suffering if you would be true to your Lord. And when it comes, “Count it all joy when you fall into divers testings” (James 1:2).