27 Aug 2006. Sunday. The suffering Christian

Today’s sermon in Rom 5:1-11 mentioned the sufferings and afflictions for Christians, and there are many other passages in the Bible that speak of rejoicing in our sufferings, persecution for the godly, etc. I admit that I have wondered why some Christians live in poverty, get retrenched, get cancer, and as Philip Yancey helpfully pointed out, Christians die at the same rate as everyone else: 100%.

I suppose I may never understand in this earthly life why God would choose to use sufferings in the life of Christians to achieve the fulfilment of His will. But
His ways are much higher than my ways.

For other faiths, suffering is perhaps merely a repercussion of bad deeds, and many give offerings and pray to evade suffering in their lives. Yet as a Christian, I have to contend with the fact that suffering is ‘assured’ for true believers. Should a Christian welcome suffering then? It seems like such an unnatural thing when nobody likes to suffer. My adult care group had a mini debate over this during our sharing after sermon, and to me, the answer is still inconclusive. Yes, Paul the Apostle was prepared for the sufferings he faced during his trips and even delighted in them (2 Cor. 12:10), but we should never say, ‘Come, O suffering!’ for the sake of suffering. Even for Paul, his will was not to seek suffering, but rather, his desire was to gain Christ, to know Him even through the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. So, what should it mean for me?

I dare not say that I am prepared for any suffering that God will bring upon my way, but I’m grateful that through the years, God has changed my heart, from being unwilling to suffer, to accepting that I will have to suffer if I call myself His follower. I just pray that I will know Christ in the midst of my suffering.

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