Just as Jesus "bore our griefs and carried
our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4), so we are to participate in His
sufferingóby barring ourselves from sin and self, and
choosing instead to follow what He would have us do. (Rom. 8:17)
"Suffering" simply means barring
ourselves (or preventing ourselves) from following sin and
self. (1 Pet. 4:19)
This is what Philippians 3:10 refers to when it
says, "That I may know Him, and the power of His
resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being
made conformable unto His death."
We are to identify with Christ, not only by
verbally assenting to, ascribing to and holding on to what He did
for us on the cross, but also by daily experiencing the crucifying
of our own "self." In other words, we are to actually
bear our own cross and follow Jesus. (Matt. 16:24)
"Though He were a Son, yet
learned He obedience by the things which He suffered, And being
made perfect [complete], He became the author of eternal salvation
unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:9)
Are you willing to learn obedience this way?
Itís costly! It might just cost you everything. But through it,
you will not only gain abundant life, but also the ability
to abide in the unutterable joy of His presence (the fulness of
Christ). Paul could genuinely rejoice in his suffering,
because he found the true meaning of it: Suffering
is simply filling up what is lacking in our faith.
Suffering is the way God has chosen
to bring redemption to a fallen world. Jesus suffered for us and
gave us His example to follow. We cannot "die to
ourselves" without suffering. Suffering has as its goal the
sanctification, the purification, of our souls and spirits. Thus,
suffering is a part of Godís will towards us. It comes
about as God unrelentingly identifies the most potentially
damaging hindrance to our relationship with Him, and then lovingly
begins to strip that thing away from us. He crushes us, He breaks
us, He shakes us and removes anything that is in the way of His
accomplishing His will in and through our lives.
Most of the time, we not only donít realize why
God has called us to suffer, but we also donít realize that
God has called us to suffer. C. S. Lewis puts it another
way: "The question is not why the righteous suffer, but why
some do not!" (The Problem of Pain, p. 93)
The Bible tells us that only through death can
there be life. Unless we are willing to participate in the
fellowship of Christís sufferings, we will not be able to
participate in His exaltation. In 2 Timothy 2:11-12, it says,
"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we
shall also live with Him; If we suffer,
we shall also reign with HimÖ."
Life Includes Suffering
For many years I purposely overlooked the
sufferings of Job because it scared me, and I didnít understand
sufferingís purpose. I can even remember one dear lady who came
up to me years ago and shared that I was to look forward to
"suffering with Christ." Well, back then I thought she
was a crazy heretic and I stayed clear of her.
Now, of course, I understand she was speaking
the truth; I just wasnít able to hear it at that time.
Eventually, in Godís timing, the story of Job became incredibly
real to me as I began to experience deep suffering in my own life.
I believe God put the book of Job, which is one
of the largest books of the Bible, right in the center of the
Bible for a very good reason. Itís an example of faith in the
night seasons. God intends for us all to use it as a
"road map" on our journey through the dark night, always
keeping in mind that at the end of the road, Job
finally "saw" God as he never had seen Him before and
his life was changed forever.
Life itself includes suffering.
As Ecclesiastes 9 tells us, all things come alike to all and
time and chance happen to all (verses 2, 11). Suffering can
come as a result of our own sin, the sins of others, the
schemes of Satan or from the fallen state of the human race. God
is above all of these things, and He will use any or all of them
as He sees fit to accomplish His perfect will in our lives.
There are two ways we can respond to
suffering: We can either 1) despise it; be defeated by it; give up
in it and quit; or we can 2) delight and rejoice in it; be
strengthened by it; and continue on in it by faith.
Life includes suffering. Some important points
to remember when we are going through suffering are:
ē God allows our troubles to
drive us to our knees and to bring us back to Himself.
ē Sometimes our troubles must get
worse before freedom comes. (Satan, obviously, does not want our
freedom, therefore, he does everything he can to stop it.)
ē Itís important to realize
that we canít get ourselves out of trouble. (If God has
allowed this trial, then He is the only One who can get us
out. Therefore, itís not our battle, but His.)
ē Our troubles should always push
us towards God, not away from Him. If they push us away from Him,
we should check to be sure Satan isnít the instigator.
ē Once we understand that God is
involved, it should give us hope.
ē God wants to use our trials as
a way for us to learn His statues and His laws.
God always has a reason for the things He allows
in our lives. He is preparing us for a future which He alone
knows. He is preparing us as His "bride." He not only
wants to make us perfect (holy), established, strengthened and
grounded in Him, He also wants to make us "joint heirs"
Conformed to His Death
By allowing suffering into our lives, God is
conforming us unto His death. Philippians 3:10 not only talks
about the fellowship of His suffering, it also goes on to say we
are to be made "conformable unto His death." Listen
again, "That I may know Him, and the power of His
resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, [and
by this] being made conformable unto His death."
The Living Bible translates it this way,
"to find out what it means to suffer and die with Him."
Being "conformed unto His death" simply means
personally walking out Christís death in our lives. It means
"dying daily" as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31. It
means constantly setting aside our own thoughts, emotions and
desires and all of our own self-centered ways (belief systems,
expectations, etc.) that are contrary to Him. Itís called
"dying to self."
What Philippians 3:10 is saying is that in order
to truly "know" Him and the power of His resurrection,
we must first experience the fellowship of His sufferings
by being conformed unto His death. The Bible always teaches
us that death must precede "life." In order to have more
of God in our life, there needs to be less of self. If we donít decrease,
then how can God increase? In other
words, for God to fill us with Himself, He must first strip us of
our old self.
Godís will for believers throughout the Bible
is that we might be "conformed into the image of His
Son." (Rom. 8:29) This is the goal of our instruction: that
God might reproduce His Life in us. Most of us talk very
openly about this and pray for it in our own lives. However,
what most of us donít realize is that in order to be conformed
into His image, we must first be conformed to His death. This
is what Philippians is telling us.
In other words, in order to experience the
fulness of Christ, we must each experience our own personal Garden
of Gethsmane and Calvary. Nothing is made alive (quickened) unless
it first dies. Listen to Christís example in Philippians 2:5-9:
"Let this mind be in you,
which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of
no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was
make in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a
man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even
the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted
Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name."
Romans 6:5 validates this, "For if we have
been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be
also in the likeness of His resurrection."
How comfortable it is for us to simply preach
"Christ crucified." The question we must always ask
ourselves is, how can we preach this if we donít really live it?
Thereís no way we can communicate it, if we have not experienced
it! Our daily prayer should be what Paul prayed in Corinthians,
that we would know nothing but Christ crucified and that death
would work in us, so that life could be formed in others. (2
Again, life only comes from death. Just as
Calvary preceded Pentecost, so death with Christ precedes the
fulness of the Spirit. Jesusí cross must become our cross, so
that what others see and hear in us will truly bear "the
marks of Jesus." Otherwise, no "life" will ever be
As Galatians 6:17 tells us, "I bear in my
body the marks of the Lord Jesus."