Why Christians suffer: Divine revelation on a perplexing subject

Why Christians Suffer


Grantley Morris



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Did Jesus suffer temptation on earth so that we need never suffer temptation?

As already hinted, if Jesus suffered to spare us all suffering, thatís thrilling news for some, but devastating for those who are already suffering, since it implies that even the most devout sufferers are spiritual failures. Dare we risk magnifying their torment and getting the wrong side of God by acting like Jobís self-appointed experts?

Now that we know that all forms of suffering bear many spiritual similarities, any insight into one form is likely to help us understand the spiritual implications of other forms of suffering. For this reason, it might prove helpful to glance at temptation for insight into whether Christís suffering means we will never suffer.

Suffering and temptation are interconnected. I cannot conceive suffering stronger temptation than being tortured in the hope that one would renounce Christ. There is an element of suffering in other forms of temptation, however. Sometimes temptation might be little more annoying than a pesky fly, but consider, for example, what Jesus endured in the wilderness when, after not having eaten for weeks, he was tormented by the possibility of turning rocks into food. Such suffering has empowered Jesus to tenderly but victoriously minister to us (Hebrews 4:15-16) when we suffer the torment of craving things we must resist in order to honor God.

By suffering on the cross, Jesus defeated Satan on our behalf, thus ensuring that we need never suffer spiritual defeat. So, in the wilderness, and especially on the cross, Jesus suffered so that we can enjoy victory over temptation. But did he suffer so that those in spiritual union with him would never suffer temptation? The gut-wrenching moral falls of Christian leaders is certainly strong circumstantial evidence that not even spiritual maturity shields us from temptation.

Even though, through Jesusí suffering, we will enjoy freedom from temptation in heaven, itís different down here. Not even Christ-bought Christians basking in Jesusí victory, and living it to the full, are spared temptations that are common to every human on earth (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Our Lordís suffering has, however, paved the way for us ďto endure itĒ (1 Corinthians 10:13) victoriously.

Does this have implications for other forms of suffering?

Does this principle extend beyond temptation to other forms of suffering?

A careful reading of the Bible reveals that, instead of teaching that Christ suffered in this world so that we would never suffer down here, the Bible says virtually the opposite: that he suffered to inspire us to suffer as he did. Note in all the following, the emphasis is not on emulating Jesus as a teacher or miracle worker but emulating him in extreme suffering:

    1 Peter 2:20-21 But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps

    1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind . . .

    Hebrews 12:2-4 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who . . . endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (NIV)

    Matthew 20:27-28 Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

    Mark 8:34 He called the multitude to himself with his disciples, and said to them, ďWhoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

    (Emphasis mine.)

Christís voluntary sacrifice is the most pivotal event in human history. It was cataclysmic for evil and the greatest of all triumphs for good. It not merely transformed our spiritual and eternal destinies; it reversed them.

All of these Scriptures stress, however, that Christ suffered not to shield us from earthly suffering, but almost the opposite: to inspire us to embrace suffering as he did.

When I stopped to seriously think about it, extolling Christís suffering as the highest example for us to copy is so astonishingly common Ė and hence such a vitally important theme Ė that there are as many more Scriptures devoted to this as those cited above. For an additional five Scriptures stating this, see Christís suffering: Our Example. Finding all of these was so easy and the list grew long so quickly that I havenít bothered to ensure my list is exhaustive.

I challenge you to prayerfully question why our Lord so strongly emphasizes this in his Word. And it carries even more weight when we realize that our Lordís suffering, whilst most intense from his anguished prayers in the garden until his dying breath (Matthew 26:36), was by no means restricted to the end portion of his earthly life. Not merely by heavenís standards but by our own, right from Jesusí conception, our Lordís time on earth was hardly a divinely pampered one. Rather than being an aberration of his earthly existence, Christís crucifixion was the culmination of a lifetime of being rejected, ridiculed, misunderstood (even by his most loyal disciples) and mistreated. If you are convinced about the extent to which Christ suffered, not just in his last few hours but throughout his time on earth, keep reading, but for a deeper insight, please read Jesusí Suffering Prior to Gethsemane.

Being Christlike is not luxuriating while the rest of humanity hurtles to hell. It is being enmeshed in the horror of the battle, facing hostility and hardship with the love of God. There was nothing wimpish about Jesus. He was courageous, resolute and strong. He not only made himself our living example but through his atonement he has done all it takes spiritually to make us heroes like him. Having achieved all this for us, he now expects us to keep moving toward the goal of being as willing as him to embrace severe hardship.

I confess that, although half-aware that it was an oversimplification, I had for years let myself slide into giving more weight than warranted to reducing into the briefest of formulas the mind-boggling breadth of all that Christ achieved on the cross. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that although there is priceless truth in saying that Christ suffered so that we wonít suffer, it is not nearly as precise as I had hoped, but a sloppy oversimplification.

The problem with half-truths Ė no matter how well-intentioned Ė is that they are half-lies. Lies are as exciting as a mirage to someone dying of thirst. Ultimately, however, whereas truths empower us, lies set us for failure and crushing disappointment. Truth heals; lies wound.

Later, we will look at another aspect of the cost of godliness: we were born again to be like God, and to this day he is selflessly compassionate and deeply distressed over humanity. Scripture shows God not as currently sitting on his throne in endless bliss but reeling in emotional pain over the atrocious ways his loved ones (every human on this planet) act. We will leave this until further on, however.

The Story So Far

The direction we have so far taken seems to be indicating that, just as a significant part of Jesusí earthly ministry involved suffering, so it plays a role in the earthly ministry of Spirit-filled followers. Will looking at this from another perspective, however, confirm this, or will it suddenly reverse things or take it in an entirely different direction? Letís see by examining another form of suffering highlighted in the Bible.

Continued: Part 7

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2018, 2019. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.


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