A passage that caught my attention this morning is 2 Cor. 4:10-12. The NLT version makes Paul’s comments a little easier to understand. It says,
“Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.”
What is Paul’s point? Suffering is normal for the disciples of Jesus and can be used by God for a purpose. Barclay wisely observes, “Life is designed to keep a man from pride. However great his Christian glory he is still a mortal man; still the victim of circumstances; still subject to the chances and the changes of human life; still a mortal body with all that body’s weakness and pain. He is like a man with a precious treasure contained in an earthen vessel, which itself is weak and worthless. We talk a great deal about the power of man and about the vast forces which he now controls. But the real characteristic of man is not his power but his weakness.”
The first benefit of suffering is that it keeps us from pride. It shows us how frail we are and that we were designed by our creator to be dependent upon him.
The second observation is that if we want to share in the life of Jesus we will share in the death of Jesus on earth. In other words, suffering in the flesh is normal for the believer and should be expected.
The third statement Paul makes is that others can see Jesus in us when we suffer. He is the source of our strength when we have to suffer for him. We should not try to endure on our own strength. He is the one who can enable us.
Finally, Paul shows us that the fruit of suffering can lead to eternal life for others. The price of eternal life for those who have not yet believed the Gospel is my willingness to suffer if need be to get them the message.
As Barclay also observed, “Paul could go through what he did because he knew that it was not for nothing; he knew that it was to bring others to Christ. When a man has the conviction that what is happening to him is happening literally for Christ’s sake he can face anything.”
Father, as much as I do not want to suffer, I understand that suffering is normal for me as a disciple of Jesus. Thank you that you give me the strength for being faithful through times of trial and showing me that the fruit of my suffering can result in the salvation of others.
Following Jesus with you,
One thought on “The Paradox of Suffering”
Great message, Jeff.