Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4
For first -century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception. Paul tells us that in the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow. We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan attacks to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance – which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future. You probably find your patience tested in some way everyday. Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in His strength.
No one enjoys suffering, but suffering is a necessary, normal part of the Christian life. In fact, the Scripture says we can expect hardships and suffering to increase. “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” — 2 Tim. 2:3; 3:1-4, so we must be prepared.
So as we look at the role of afflictions in the Christian life, keep in mind that they are any tests to your faith. They could be tribulations from loss of health, or tribulations in broken or strained relationships, or tribulations in vocational hardships and disappointments, or tribulations in accidents or natural disasters, or tribulations in verbal or physical assaults, or simply everyday inconveniences from traffic jams to plumbing problems. Anything that makes life harder and threatens your faith in the goodness and power and wisdom of God is tribulation.
These are normal, not abnormal. It would be abnormal for a Christian not to have them, because Paul taught all the churches, according to Acts 14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God
We learn from the book of 2 Timothy that we may experience suffering as a result of our testimony, our godly living, or our stand for truth. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. – 2 Tim. 1:8; “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” – 2 Timothy 2:8-9. We may also experience suffering when we are rejected or left alone, or as a natural consequence to our fleshly, worldly desires.
Suffering will indeed come, but God can give us grace and power to overcome every trial and to fulfill our purpose and mission in His kingdom. In his second epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul shares some important truths about how we can endure suffering.
Ten Principles for Enduring Suffering
- Don’t forget why you are suffering. Remember your purpose and Whom you serve! The Apostle Paul said he was willing to suffer for the proclamation of the Gospel, for the sake of the elect, and for the glory of God. Our suffering, big or little, can be used to bring about the same purposes. (2 Tim. 2:8–9)
- Remember that you are a prisoner of Christ, not of your circumstances or other people. (2 Tim. 1:8)
- Keep going back to the things you know to be true from God’s Word. Don’t doubt in the dark what you have seen in the light. Remember what you received as a result of your salvation in Christ (2 Tim. 1:5). Remember your calling and the grace of God (2 Tim. 1:1, 9-13).
- Keep doing whatever God has called you to do. Persevere, stay the course, and be faithful, regardless of any opposition or hardship. (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
- Trust God to deal with those who oppose the truth. Don’t take matters into your own hands or become bitter and argumentative. (2 Tim. 2:23–26)
- Remember times in the past when the Lord delivered or rescued you. Be quick to praise Him and testify to others (2 Tim. 3:11; 4:16-17).
- Rely on the resources God has given you:
- The grace of God (2 Tim. 1:2, 9; 2:1; 4:22).
- The gift of God—your God-given ability to serve Him (2 Tim. 1:6-7).
- The power of God (rather than your own strength) (2 Tim. 1:8; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 6:10).
- The indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:14).
- The Word of God, which will keep you grounded and give you perspective (2 Tim. 2:7, 9; 3:12-17; 4:1-2).
- Remember that you are not alone in your suffering.
You already have:
- The presence of Christ (Matt. 28:20)
- The prayers of other believers (2 Tim. 1:3)
- The “fellowship of suffering”—other believers who are facing hardships for the sake of Christ (2 Tim. 1:8; Heb. 13:3; Col. 1:24).
Cultivate these to help you endure:
- Godly helpers – Find and cultivate a group of like-minded believers whose faithfulness and prayers can inspire and strengthen you (2 Tim. 1:2, 4-5; 4:9-13, 19-21).
- Godly heroes – Read the biographies of missionaries and other faithful believers so God can cultivate faith and wisdom in your heart (Heb. 13:7; 2 Tim. 3:10, 14).
- Godly heritage – As you learn about those who’ve gone before, you will be able to instill faith and courage in the next generation. Pass the baton to others. (2 Tim. 2:2)
- No matter how difficult things are today, you can face the future with hope. Trust the truth of Scripture.
The Truth is:
- All wrongs will one day be righted (2 Tim. 3:8-9; 4:14).
- The Lord will deliver you from all evil—in His time and way (2 Tim. 4:17-18). In the meantime, counsel your heart according to the truth and promises of God (Psalm 27).
- All your suffering, efforts, labors, and faithfulness will be rewarded in “that Day” when believers stand before the Lord (2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 2:12; 4:8; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; James 1:12).
- You will give an account, so guard the “deposit” entrusted to you (2 Tim. 1:12, 14; 1 Tim. 6:20).
- In all your suffering, remember Jesus Christ.
- His life and His suffering and sacrifice for you (2 Tim. 2:3)
- His triumph over Satan, sin, and death (2 Tim. 2:8)
- His power, promises, and presence (Matt. 28:18-20)
- What He is doing for you in heaven (John 14:2-3; Rom. 8:34).
Expect suffering—it is inevitable—but don’t forget the powerful resource that you have in Christ. Entrust your life to His ever-present care and control. He loves you, and He will help you endure.
How are we doing today when things go bad for us? Do we rest in the grace of God and experience joy in God and keep on loving people? Or do we forget the grace of God, overflow with complaining and become self-absorbed and critical instead of loving? So omnipotent power of grace is the key. We stand in this grace, Paul says in verse 2.
But grace does not work like magic. It works through truth. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32) – from complaining and from paralyzing frustration and from a critical spirit. Grace opens the eyes of the heart to truth and inclines the heart to embrace it and live by it.
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