In this article I want to establish what it means to suffer for Christ or to partake of Christ’s sufferings. I stated in my last article that I believe it is always God’s will for us to be healed, so what does it mean when it says to partake of Christ’s sufferings?
Let me ask you, did Christ ever suffer with sickness and disease when he walked on the earth? No, the only time he suffered with sickness and disease was on the cross, in our place, so we wouldn’t have to suffer with it. What he did suffer though was persecution, rejection and false accusations.
“He is despised and rejected by men.” — Isaiah 53:3.
“He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.” — John 1:11.
Jesus was accused of working for the devil when he cast a demon out of a man in Matthew 9:34. Can you imagine being sent to earth to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and being accused of working for him?
Jesus said we would be hated by all for his name’s sake (Matthew 9:22), and if they persecuted him, they would persecute us (John 15:20).
We need to make sure when reading the Bible we don’t take verses out of context, and we can clearly see this truth about partaking of Christ’s sufferings referring to persecution in the next verse, which says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified.” — 1 Peter 4:14.
Paul suffered persecution wherever he went, and that is what his thorn of the flesh was referring to. It was a messenger of Satan to buffet him (2 Corinthians 12:7) to try to stop him from preaching the gospel. It was not some form of sickness. Paul pleaded with God to take it away from him, but God has given people free will, and unfortunately they have a choice if they want to listen to the lies of the devil and reject the gospel. But God told Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” God told Paul to rely on God’s grace and not his own strength to get him through the persecution.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” — 1 Peter 4:19.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” — 1 Peter 5:10.
Those verses are following along the theme of persecution. It doesn’t say let those who are suffering according to the will of God with sickness and disease or after you have suffered sickness and disease a while God will perfect you. That type of thinking has been read into these verses over the years, and many have come to the conclusion that God wants us to suffer with sickness so he can perfect us. I totally disagree.
If you are fulfilling God’s call for your life, you will suffer persecution as 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
I can tell you I have not suffered persecution like Jesus or Paul, but I have suffered it, and it is not fun. I can see why Paul pleaded with God to take it away from him, and I have done the same. But his grace is sufficient for us to get us through it and make us stronger in the process.
I was just prophesized over last week and was told that the more I become aware of my identity in Christ the less the persecution will hurt me. I had to think of verse 10 and how when we get over ourselves and are totally focused on Christ, the strengthening and settling will almost come automatically. It honors God when we stand up for him despite the consequences we may face. When doing so, we are blessed, and the spirit of God and of glory rests upon us (1 Peter 4:14). That’s a beautiful thing.
It is the cry of my heart for people to know that God does not want us to suffer sickness and disease but wants us healed, so stay tuned for more next week.
Amber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her AmberRiceMiller Facebook page.
Published: September 26, 2016