Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Fellowship of Suffering

Suffering for Being a Christian
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

By now you can see that suffering for being a Christian is a big theme of Peter's letter. One of the big outside threats to the community of faith was the persecution of the early church. The purpose of the persecution was that it might thwart this new Christian movement. One of the biggest tests of our faith is when we have to suffer for being a Christian. And this can happen in many different ways. So Peter gives an outline for how they could endure this suffering and keep the faith.

1. "Don't be surprised at this fiery trial has come upon you as though something strange were happening to you." In other words be ready for it. Expect it. Prepare for it. It is a test. When we are ready for a test it is not a surprise. It is not a sneak attack. So if you are a Christian, you should not be surpised when trials come your way. We can't say, "why is this happening to me?", as if we are promised to have an easy life. But one could say "why is this happening to me" in the sense of understanding what God is doing in you.

2. "But rejoice inasmuch as you are participate in Christ's sufferings." It seems odd that anyone would say have joy in your suffering. It just doesn't make sense. But when we remember that our Lord suffered for doing good, we realize we are in good company. Our Lord suffered greatly, and as we follow Him it says we "participate" in his suffering. So when we suffer on behalf of Jesus, we grow closer to him and understand him in a deeper way. Sometimes it says we share in the fellowship of his suffering.

Paul said something similar, "That I might know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings; being made conformable to his death" (Philippians 3:10).

Fellowship is the union of friends sharing similar interests or problems. To suffer is to feel pain or distress.
Paul yearned to share the pain and distress that Christ experienced. Did he not have enough suffering in his own life? Did he not have the hurts and cares of all the churches heavy upon his heart? Yet still he prays - "Oh, that I might know how to share Christ's pain". David Wilkerson

So when we suffer, let's remember two things. Let's not be surprised as if something strange were happening to us. We should be prepared and alert and ready. Second, in our suffering we participate in Christ's suffering in deeper way, which draws us closer to him. One day it says that our joy will be overflowing when Jesus returns because we have endured the test in suffering. Finally, Paul says in Romans 8:18, "But I do not consider the suffering of this present world worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us through Christ Jesus."

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