Destined for Suffering
Dr. Jay Flickinger
We live in a day when the popular Christian culture preaches a gospel of material wealth and physical health. A “name it, claim it” gospel. Just turn on so-called “Christian television.”
If you plant your “seed faith” (think your money) to whichever “preacher” is on the air at that moment, they promise God will give you the increase. All the while the only one “getting the increase” is the preacher. Riches gained at the expense of the poor, sick and elderly. For their own sake they become rich, so that by their attaining riches you might become poor.
They are the polar opposite of the Lord Jesus who, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2Co 8:9 ESV). The riches He provides are spiritual, not material. For His kingdom is “not of this world” (Joh 18:36 ESV).
Other well-meaning churches entice people with the gospel by telling them, “God wants you to have a wonderful life.” While that’s true, it’s not an easy life by the world’s standards. Better to be honest and tell them God offers forgiveness, peace, joy with suffering.
The message of the Bible is not one of material wealth and physical health. God doesn’t promise a life that’s free from suffering and trials. It is a different message—a message of the loss of all things for the sake of gaining Christ and His kingdom. Do you want to follow the Lord Jesus? The path He offers is one of self-denial, with suffering.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luk 9:23-24 ESV).
Like the Lord, Paul did not promise Christians an easy road. “When tribulation began, he reminded the believers that they were not entering something unusual. They were not being singled out because of some sin. They were experiencing what God had ordained for his beloved children. So he urged them not to be ‘moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1Th 3:3 ESV). Christians are destined for suffering.
To Christians the Apostle Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1Pe 2:21 ESV). Not only is the believer in Christ destined to suffer, they are also called to suffer. Instead of promising at trip to “paradise on flowery beds of ease,” the Lord calls us to a life of suffering. “In this world you will have tribulation” (Joh 16:33).
However, that is not all of John 16:33. The entire verse reads, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Joh 16:33 ESV). In life’s hardest moments God has promised peace, a peace that transcends all human understanding (Phil 4:7).
Second, take heart, Christians never have to suffer alone. For their Lord has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me” (Heb 13:5-6 ESV). The Lord is near (Phil 4:5).
As Nazi concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom beautifully put it, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Finally, take heart, all suffering comes from the hand of a loving Father, a Father who only allows what is best for His child. Therefore, we can be victorious even in tribulation. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28 ESV).
Called to salvation, called to suffer; yet in life’s difficulties God is working all things for the eternal good of His children. They are called according to His purpose. What is His purpose? Conformity to the image of His Son and the glory of His eternal kingdom (Rom 8:29-30).
Dr. James W. Flickinger teaches theology at Cornerstone College of Virginia. Jay is an ordained SBC minister who served as a senior pastor for 20 years in several churches.
“The Whole Creation Groans in Every Grief: Why I Love the Apostle Paul,” Desiring God, last modified February 25, 2019, accessed February 28, 2019, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-whole-creation-groans-in-every-grief.
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Kaylena Radcliff Wed 28 Jun 2017 10:08 BST, “A War Story: \’There Is No Pit so Deep God\’s Love Is Not Deeper Still\’,” accessed March 5, 2019, https://www.christiantoday.com/article/a-war-story-there-is-no-pit-so-deep-gods-love-is-not-deeper-still/110251.htm.