January 13, 2010

To Live is Christ — includes suffering

Before I return to my devotional guide, I’m taking one more look at the context of this year’s focus verse. My goal and God’s goal for me is to become more like Jesus Christ. To reach that goal (or any goal) means having a clear picture of what the goal looks like. What can I expect to look like if I am like Jesus? The Bible spells it out.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (Philippians 1:21, 29–30)
This passage says that living for Christ includes suffering. This is not about getting sick or suffering from a catastrophe like a fire or a car accident. As Paul says, it is suffering for Jesus’ sake, even suffering the same way Paul suffered.
But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
Paul preached the gospel with great boldness and as a result, some people did not like what he was saying. No one enjoys being told that they are sinners in need of a Savior. Because Paul was living for Christ, he worked hard, was whipped, put in prison, and left for dead. He was given forty stripes minus one five times, beaten with rods three times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, and spent a night and a day in deep water. He traveled often, was in peril in the ocean, in danger because of robbers, his own countrymen, and the Gentiles, and in danger in the city, in the wilderness, and among false brethren. He suffered from exhaustion, sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, being cold and without clothes. Besides all this, he had a daily deep concern for all the churches. He felt weak, and burned with indignation at the godless behavior of others. (See 2 Corinthians 11:23–29)

To live for Christ could mean all of this, because Paul also wrote, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Gulp. I cannot be like Peter who boldly said he would follow Jesus even to death, but had no idea of his own weakness and wound up denying Him three times. I know myself and perceive a great deal of cowardice. To be like Jesus will take the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, at least at this point, I will back out and refuse to open my mouth concerning the Gospel lest I suffer because of it.

One thing that encourages me is that the Lord is faithful in His dealings with me. He will not give me a challenge without also giving me the wherewithal to rise to it. First is being able to open my mouth at every opportunity. Second is being able to persist with obedience even if it results in suffering.

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