That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10 KJV)
Called to Suffer
Like Apostle Paul did, many believers cry out to know the Lord; to know the power of his resurrection, but not as many, very few in fact are interested in the fellowship of his suffering, or being conformed to his death.
We all want to walk in the power; that explosive omnipotence that raised him from the dead, but you won’t find many takers when what is on offer is the fellowship fostered by shared suffering.
Why has the gospel come to be associated with the eradication of suffering? It doesn’t appear that this notion can be supported by a correct reading of the bible. Under the new covenant; from the book of Mathew to Revelation, the idea of suffering appears just as commonly embraced as the saving grace of Jesus.
When encountered in the service of Christ, suffering becomes a privilege. As Apostle Paul writes “…you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29 GNT)
Speaking of suffering as an integral part of our calling, Apostle Peter wrote,.. “For even to this were you called it is inseparable from your vocation. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you His personal example, so that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21 AMP)
In teaching that suffering lines the path that we must follow in the footsteps of Christ, and longing to be conformed to his death, the Apostles invoke the words of Christ himself who says without equivocation, “…If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also.” (Luke 9:23 AMP)
Is our call to suffering some masochistic fantasy? Do we pursue suffering merely for its own sake?
We do not seek suffering, but we cannot escape it. As inevitable milestones, suffering marks the way that we must take, if we are to follow our Lord, and arrive eventually at the home he has gone to build for us.
Suffering is simply a consequence of the decision to live for Christ. Dearly beloved, do not be deceived, even in following the Lord, Terms & Conditions apply.
Now there are many deceivers who will never mention the terms, and conditions. Like shylocks, they will hide the truth in small print. But be not deceived…
Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution will be made to suffer because of their religious stand. (2 Timothy 3:12 AMP)
We suffer, not because we want to, but because if we are to live out our convictions in this world, the only response the world meets us with is suffering.
We must beware then that we don’t love the comforts of this life, and trade in our blessing in eternity for them. For such a profane person was Esau, that his belly became his god, and for a moment of respite, he lost an eternity of ease.
“Many”, we are told, “walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19 KJV)
Indeed those whose god is their belly are always literally the enemies of the cross of Christ. For a man who worships his belly cannot “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow” as Christ commanded.
The higher purpose of suffering
The believer is not a masochist, and God is not a sadist. There is a higher purpose for the suffering we endure.
There is a deeper understanding that the power of ressurection cannot indeed be known separate from the fellowship of his suffering, and the conforming to his death. For it is written…
We are hedged in (pressed) on every side troubled and oppressed in every way, but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair;  We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted to stand alone; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed;  Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered, so that the resurrection life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies.  For we who live are constantly experiencing being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the resurrection life of Jesus also may be evidenced through our flesh which is liable to death. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 AMP)
This portion of the scripture makes abundantly clear that…
It is in
“Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered,”
“the resurrection life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies.”
We are therefore not helpless against suffering. No. We meet it headlong. We meet it triumphantly not reluctantly, for we know that
… our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!, (2 Corinthians 4:17 AMP)
And this is why we are able with the Apostle James to say…
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.  Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. (James 1:2-3 AMP)
Image source: http://thecripplegate.com/ministering-to-the-suffering/