The Gift of Suffering For Christ
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30; ESV)
Did you do a double take on the above quote? Yes it actually says that suffering for Christ is a gracious gift of God. The word Paul uses means “graciously given.” Such does not happen haphazardly; it is in the hands of the Sovereign Lord to give as he pleases. Every Christian knows that God has given him the grace to believe in Christ. But that is not all–you also have the honor, should he choose, to suffer for the sake of Christ.
Everyone more or less suffers in this fallen, cursed world. I know of no one who is free of illness, trouble, and heartache. However, only the Christian may suffer for Christ. This is not about having the flu for Jesus. If your arm is broken, it is broken. Suffering for Christ’s sake is the hurt, pain, and loss you experience from being persecuted for being one of his followers. People of other faiths were suffer what is common to our lot as human beings, maybe even suffer for their ‘faith.’ But they will never be privileged to suffer on behalf of Christ. In fact they are often the persecutors.
Some Christians are going through horrific persecution in many parts of the world. For others of us it is relatively mild–no more than an insult or slander. But whether it is slander or imprisonment, financial loss or martyrdom, such suffering God gives to his people. In fact, He honors you with persecution for His name.
We see this in the joy of apostles after they were beaten and warned to preach no more in Jesus’ Name: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41).
The apostles were not worthy to suffer for Christ, nor are we. But Christ graciously counted them worthy, so He gave them this honor of being beaten for His sake. Their pain was still excruciating to be sure. Yet it was Christ’s gift to them.
We should not infer from this truth that believers should intentionally draw persecution upon themselves. Christians should not be intentionally annoying. Suffering is what Christ graciously grants. It is His will not ours. But when he grants it, we should fortify ourselves with this truth, that we are being counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name.