I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:10-11)
After Paul commends the Thessalonians for their exemplary leadership in Christ, he tells them how beyond thankful he is that they received his words as God’s own words and not mere human ones, despite the suffering it brought them from their own people! He encourages them with a reminder that their brothers and sisters in Judea go through the same suffering from their fellow Jewish people; even the Lord Jesus experienced persecution at the hands of Jews. In that sense, they had become a part of His story by sharing in His suffering and death.
One of the coolest truths of the Gospel is our connection with the Messiah; because we’ve been joined with Jesus Christ by faith, what’s true of Him becomes true of us! In Christ, we become children of God, we’re declared righteous, perfect, and holy, we receive new life because of His resurrection, we share in His inheritance and rule over the Kingdom, etc. That’s such a sick deal! By simply receiving the free gift Jesus purchased for us by His death on the cross, we share in His perfection and blessings! And here’s the best part: that also includes sharing in His suffering and death! Wait, what…? That doesn’t sound like Good News.
To any normal person, Paul would’ve seemed like a complete sicko: he constantly viewed his unfair persecution and suffering as a blessing from God, something he actually wanted more of! The truth is, Paul saw suffering as a strange gift since, in hardships and tribulations, we become more like Jesus as we share in His own suffering. When we become partakers of Christ’s suffering, we’re able to relate to Him on a deeper level, and learn from Him how to be a disciple on a new playing field. And not only that, according to Peter, the fires of hardship test and refine the precious gold that is our faith! (1 Peter 5:10)
So what does Jesus have to say about all this? In Luke’s Gospel (I didn’t forget), Jesus tells two parables about how we should come before God, and then puts them together later. He tells the story of a persistent widow and a humble tax collector, how we as believers should come to God with genuine faith that consistently runs to Him and a repentant humility that recognizes how desperate and broken we truly are before Him! Later, when Jesus has all these babies brought to Him and the disciples try to stop the parents, Jesus tells them that those who receive the Kingdom with childlike faith are those who enter it. Childlike faith is both persistent and humble; when you put the widow’s faithful persistence and the tax collector’s broken humility together, you get childlike faith! When we share in the strange blessing of Jesus’ suffering, God wants us to come to Him as children, full of persistent faith and desperate humility as we seek His comfort and strength.
- What a strange post, celebrating the trials and tribulations we endure in Christ like a blessing! The truth is, God uses for good what Satan intends for evil, including the crap we go through on a daily basis. When we becomes brothers and sisters in suffering with Jesus because we’re united with Him, let’s fall to our knees in childlike faith and humility before our Abba Father, and cry out to Him! When we do, everything is put into perspective, and we’re able to rejoice in the fire, and praise Him in the deep waters. When we share in His suffering and death, we will certainly share in His glory and resurrection too.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Psalms 119:71)