For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:8b, 10 (ESV)
How many of us would give up our careers (financial security), homes, families, comforts and the rest of our stuff, including our physical lives, to share in the sufferings of Christ? Is it fair to say that we are too attached to the things of this world to undertake such an adventure? Albert Barnes wrote, “Many are willing to reign with Christ, but they would not be willing to suffer with him; many would be willing to wear a crown of glory like him, but not the crown of thorns; many would be willing to put on the robes of splendour which will be worn in heaven, but not the scarlet robe of contempt and mockery. They would desire to share the glories and triumphs of redemption, but not its poverty, contempt, and persecution.”
Paul counted all thing loss so that he could be a partner with Christ to participate in his hardships, pain and afflictions. It was Paul’s ambition to suffer in the same ways that Jesus suffered; to identify with Christ’s sufferings. Jesus suffered reviling and reproach. He was mocked, shamed and shown malicious contempt. He suffered hardship, grief and rejection. And at the last he suffered the humiliation of scourging, crucifixion and death. Jesus began bearing his cross long before he was nailed to the cross. His sufferings were awe-inspiring to Paul and Paul esteemed them worthy to attain.
There are many different ways to suffer. Peter wrote, But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:15-16 ESV) When Paul speaks of sharing in Christ’s sufferings he is referring to suffering for the sake of Christ; for our faith in Christ. Vance Hanver once said, “We are not bearing our crosses every time we have a headache; an aspirin tablet will take care of that. What is meant is the trouble we would not have if we were not Christians.”
Paul wrote, 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. (Philippians 1:29 ESV) The Greek word Paul used for granted means to grant as a favor that is gratuitously, in kindness. It also means to pardon, rescue or forgive. God, in his kindness toward us, granted us salvation (believing) and in the same kindness he grants us to suffer for Christ’s sake. God’s kindness is manifest in blessing those who suffer for Christ’s sake (Matthew 5:10-11; 1 Peter 3:14). We will be partakers of glory.
Peter said, But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13 ESV) Suffering with Christ identifies us as children of God. And should we suffer with him we will also be glorified with him. To those who suffer for the sake of Christ there is coming a glory that far exceeds the worth of the present suffering (Romans 8:16-18).
How much trouble do you have because you are a Christian? Do you suffer for the sake of Christ?
Scriptures for meditation:
Hebrews 2:9-10; 5:8-9
1 Peter 4:1-2, 19
2 Timothy 3:12