How to Suffer with Joy

by John Kimbell

Is it your expectation that as you give yourself to obedience to Christ and to loving service for others that you will suffer? Or are you surprised by this?

  • Do you assume that volunteering to serve in the children’s ministry should bring no difficulties or inconveniences whatsoever into your life?
  • Do you assume that committing yourself to consistent, servant-hearted care for the members of your small group will just happen at no cost to you?
  • Do you assume that parenting and discipling your children should be trouble-free?
  • Do you expect all your neighbors to break down your door to ask you about the gospel, or will it take sacrifice and effort to move into their lives in order to make Christ known?
  • Will the unreached peoples of the world hear the gospel without toil and struggle on the part of the church?
  • Fill in the blank with the ministry that God has set before you as ask yourself, Do I expect to suffer?

We must not be surprised that the way of Christ and the way of ministry is a pathway of suffering. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (emphasis added), and he rejoiced that through his toiling and struggling to make the gospel known, and all of the difficulties that were necessary for him to do that, people would hear about Jesus and trust Him as Savior and be saved from their sins.

Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel. But Paul is not the only one called to share in Christ’s sufferings. He wrote,

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints (Colossians 1:24-26).

When we suffer in our efforts to make Christ known, and to love others in His name, and simply to live as faithful followers of Jesus, we too are called to rejoice. We don’t rejoice in our sufferings for themselves. That would be weird. That would be wrong. Suffering in itself is not something to delight in; instead, we rejoice in how God works through our suffering.

Additionally, we rejoice in how those sufferings confirm our personal identification with Christ. Romans 8:16-17 says,

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

This means that when you suffer as a Christian, your suffering is not meaningless. It is not purposeless. God uses it to serve others. Christ identifies with you in it. He does not look lightly upon your suffering. He even regards it in some sense as His own. This is why you can rejoice in your suffering.

But more than this. Do you realize that this costly pathway is also the pathway of true and lasting joy? Eternal joy will be multiplied in the lives of others through your ministry, and every sacrifice that you make, Jesus says “will be restored to you a hundredfold in this life, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

This will not be easy. Paul himself had to toil and struggle and suffer in the proclamation of Christ. But he also knew the glory of the riches of this mystery—Christ in you—so that we don’t do this on our own. We toil and we struggle, yes. But we do so with all of Christ’s energy that He powerfully works within us as we trust and depend on Him.

That’s why the apostle Paul was able to rejoice in his sufferings with Christ for the sake of the body of Christ. We, the church, are called to follow His example, for joy.

 


John Kimbell is the preaching pastor for Clifton Baptist church.

Written by Guest Blogger

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