I don’t know about you; but, I did not get up this morning saying:  “I cannot wait to suffer today!”  I would suspect it was not on your mind either!  For most sane people we do all we can do to avoid suffering!  It is considered to be a mental illness when a person tries to intentionally hurt themselves.  Suffering is not a subject we desire to discuss in most circles.  But, suffering is the foundation of our salvation.  Without Christ being willing to suffer and die we could not be saved!  Suffering is one of the primary tools God uses to bring us to Him.  Suffering is often used by God to bring change in the lives of His children—we are often forced to change because of suffering.  Suffering creates a dependence on God.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were evicted from the garden by God–they were introduced to suffering.  Man you are going to toil to bring forth a harvest.  You are going to suffer in your work.  Woman you are now going to have labor and delivery.  When you have children–birth will be a form of suffering.  Your suffering will remind you that sin produces suffering.  Also, this suffering is a forerunner telling you that if you reject God’s attempts to save you– you will suffer for all of eternity in a place prepared for the Devil and his angels–hell.  The ultimate place of suffering is hell!  The terrible thing about hell there is no relief for the suffering.

Jesus trying to prepare His disciples, the future leaders of the church, for the reality that he is going to die and leave them and they are going to suffer being His disciples!  The disciples never really grasped the reality of what Jesus was teaching them.  As Jews they had been raised to look for a Messiah–a deliverer–that would take them out of suffering to rule and reign in His kingdom.  When they looked at the gifts given by the wise men they rejoiced about the gold–that said to them that this was the King.  They rejoiced about the frankincense that told them Jesus was the anointed of God!  But they could not understand the myrrh–the embalming ointment of the Middle East, that was telling everyone that Jesus had come to be the “suffering servant” of God.  Jesus was the Passover lamb that was going to suffer and die to redeem all the world from their sins!

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus was a man–the book of Hebrews tells us that in all ways he understood what it was to be a man.  In the garden as the hours moved toward the crucifixion Jesus asked God is there a Plan B.  Any man in their right mind would not relish or look forward to being nailed to a cross.  But, Jesus goes on in His prayer and says Lord I surrender to Plan A.  Jesus commits himself anew to the mission of his life to die and suffer on that cross to save people who are alienated from God by sin!

Peter tells us in 1 Peter “do not be surprised” when suffering comes.  But we are surprised.  Suffering sends us reeling.  There is not even a close second to the power of suffering to distort our views of God.  The disciples looking at a blind man asked our Lord–who messed up in this man that caused him to be blind?  Jesus responded nobody messed up–he is blind for this hour that the Son of Man might be glorified!  The church in the New Testament turned the World upside down by our they suffered and died.
In John 15 one of the few times Jesus prophesies as he tells the church–“marvel not if they hated me they will hate you.  If they persecuted me they will persecute you.”  But, in today’s church we need to examine and be very concerned about verse 19 that states: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”

These are sobering truths and realities.  So, in our culture we live today why is the American church not hated and not persecuted?  All over the world people are being martyred for the cause of Christ.  We must asked another question was Jesus a false prophet?  God forbid!  Then the only other conclusion is that we belong to the world!  The end result is we act like the world and no one can tell the difference between the church and the world.

What are some reasons for suffering in our lives and the world we live in?

1. We make foolish decisions that lead to suffering.  God tells us not to “love the world and the things in the world.”  But, our flesh desires these things and go deep in debt trying to obtain what our flesh wants.  The end result is that we and our families suffer because of the decision to go into debt.  We suffer when we make deliberate decisions not to take care of our bodies.  The end result is get sick and suffer.

2. We suffer because following Christ is a war and battlefields promote suffering.  If we are 100% committed to follow Christ the Word tells us that we have an enemy and is going everywhere trying to destroy us where we do not serve Christ!

3. We suffer in order to mature and be pleasing to the Lord.  James 1 tells us we are to “count it all joy when trials and tribulations come your way knowing this that these things develop your faith…”     The Word tells us “it is impossible to please God without faith.”  The faith we need to please God is developed when we suffer through trials and tribulations!    So, if we are developing as a child of God we will suffer.

Easter reminds all of us that Jesus suffered in order to redeem us from the “curse of the law.”  Is your walk today so close to God that you are being persecuted and suffering?  Are you suffering today because of bad decisions on your part that began we the decision to disobey God in many areas of your life?

Remember our risen Lord today stands at the door of our lives and invites us to know Jesus in the “fellowship of suffering.”

He is alive and soon will return for His Bride!