My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8).
Following on from Suffering in the Book of Job – Part 1, we can ask: was Job experiencing the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? This is something the New Testament speaks about,
- “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
When suffering is experienced by Christians it is appointed (providentially) as part of believer’s mystical spiritual union in Jesus Christ through redemption (Gal. 4:5-7). The believer’s suffering is called by Paul, “the sufferings of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:5).
To suffer on behalf of Christ is to share in reproach, rejection, hostility, hatred, martyrdom etc. This flows from their identification with Christ. In Matt. 5:10-12 we read,
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Christians all over the world can and do suffer reproach today simply because they are “in Christ.” Luther wrote, “there are three things that preserve the church and belong to the church: firstly, to teach faithfully; secondly, to pray constantly; thirdly, to suffer reverently.”
Thus believers are to look to Christ for sanctification as well as for justification. Suffering is part of God’s plan for his people and their mystical union with Christ makes it inevitable.
Suffering is something God’s people are to be happy about! Peter makes this plain, “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13). All that the true people of God go through, put up with, and endure on earth, comes to them in fellowship with their Saviour Jesus Christ and is to be a matter of spiritual joy.
It is the Christian’s glory and joy of soul to suffer for their Saviour (Matt. 5:10-12). The English Baptist preacher Charles H Spurgeon said,
“Trials do not come by chance (1 Peter 1:6-7). Trials are sent because God judges them necessary (James 1:2). Trials are weighed out with discretion and are given by cautious wisdom. “Trials” is a beautiful name for affliction.”
These trials we are told work for us, “being much more precious than gold”. By them God is refining, and perfecting his people in order that they will bring him, “praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). The Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne often prayed that God would sanctify his trials to him, “I often pray, Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made.”
Suffering never comes alone for it is always followed by the comforts
of Christ (2 Cor. 1:5), i.e. support and encouragement from and by the Holy Spirit and the Word are given. We need to look to Christ always in times of trouble (Heb. 12:1f).
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s suffering preceded glory and so it must be in the life of the children of God. Believers must share in Christ’s sufferings – the servant is not greater than his Master. Burdens are made lighter when God’s children accept his providence and help and let the peace of God fill their souls,
- “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Rev Ian S McNaughton is presently serving as the Vice-Chairman of Barnabas Fund in the UK.
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
For Other Articles by Rev Ian S McNaughton
Listening to Jesus Pray – Part 2