C. Suffering and the Persecution of Christians
Obviously sickness is not the sole cause of all human suffering. Nor is the individual always the cause of all his suffering. Here we note other dimensions of suffering in people’s lives and indications of the significance of this suffering, at least from a Biblical perspective.
The disciple of Jesus may suffer wrong for doing right: “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to our credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19-21)
“But even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14)
He may suffer for righteousness’ sake and in accordance with God’s will: “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)
“So then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)
Every Christian must expect suffering for Jesus’ sake. To suffer for Him is to praise God for the privilege of bearing His wonderful name. To endure reproach and shame on His account is to glorify Him.
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:14,16)
Disciples of Jesus should accept the fiery trials that accompany discipleship. Through these trials they become partakers of Jesus’ suffering in this world so that they can share in His future glory. (1 Peter 4:12,13; John 15:18,19)
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:17,18)
“If we endure, we will also reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2:12)
The present trials are only temporary and serve to strengthen our faith: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater value than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour, when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6,7)
Yet He promises His blessing in the present age also: “And the God of all peace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)
By permitting suffering in our life, God disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness and reap a rich harvest of righteousness and peace (Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:7,10,11). In the process, though outwardly we waste away, inwardly we are renewed daily and prepared for future glory (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Moreover, He also comforts us in all our troubles and, thus, enables us to comfort others in their troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). But, above all, God permits sickness and infirmity so that His works may be made manifest in our lives. To God be the glory through Jesus the Messiah! (John 9:3; 11:4)