Suffering with Christ
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God… The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:14, 16 & 17. The Greek word for suffer is sympaschō and it means to suffer or feel pain together, to suffer evils (troubles, persecutions) in the like manner with another. In this case Paul’s telling us as children of God that we are joint-heirs with Christ if so be we suffer with Him. What kind of suffering? Tribulations, persecutions, distresses, and many will suffer through illnesses, some quite severe.
To suffer with Christ is not very appealing to many Christians today. The world has grabbed hold of many who call themselves Christian which means that any idea of suffering with Christ is rejected as nonsensical. Paul’s words above fall on deaf ears for a huge number of professing Christians. What greater privilege than to suffer with our coming King.
The phrase “if so be” which Paul inserts before the word “suffer” above is self explanatory. He’s giving sort of a “what if” scenario. If indeed we suffer with Christ, then we are heirs with Christ. Not all Christians will suffer with Christ; some professing Christians will only admit to being Christian while in the company of other Christians. They have no intention of letting their secret out in a secular dominated public arena. As Paul points out, our inheritance is dependent on our suffering with Christ. So, those Christians who cloak their Christianity will avoid the persecutions associated with knowing and acknowledging Christ as Lord. Therefore they will not partake of the inheritance freely given “if so be” we suffer with Christ.
Paul knew about suffering; he went through a lot by the time he wrote this letter to his Christian brethren in Rome. “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7. Beloved of God is another way of addressing Christians. The Roman Christians Paul is addressing knew of his many trials and they were fully aware of his sufferings for Christ. He’s trying to explain to them that they too will suffer persecutions if they continue walking with Christ.
“Are they ministers of Christ? …I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;” 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. It’s obvious Paul suffered much in his walk with the Lord. I wonder, in today’s world of modern conveniences and hi-tech living, how many of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ can actually say we suffer with Him.
“if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”. Romans 8:17b. That statement should make the followers of Jesus Christ sit up and take notice. The Apostle Paul considered Suffering with Christ a privilege. And lest ye forget let me reiterate, your inheritance is dependent on your suffering with Christ.
There are all kinds of suffering, and as Christians we may pass through a period of some suffering and consider it not much more than simply an annoyance. Then again, God may want us to remain in the midst of suffering until He determines an end to it; sometimes that end will result in His taking us home. Again, why? God has His reasons for our sufferings and one of them is pointed out above by Paul. We, as born again believers in Christ, are justified. That means we’ve been given a free gift from God which is that of eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son. That part of salvation is complete. Another way to put it is, “it’s a done deal.” But there’s more, much more. There are rewards that will be handed out by Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment. This isn’t a judgment like a punishment but a judgment based on our attitude toward the Kingdom of God while here on earth. Some Christians will receive rewards, others won’t. It all depends on what we do here on earth after our justification as we are led by the Holy Spirit of God.
Rewards are given to those whose works were Holy Spirit inspired; their works will endure the flame of perseverance. Those who did things for others as a show of their own piety will see their works burned up like wood, hay, and stubble. “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.
So, what do we have to look forward to then? I’ll tell you, once justified we can look forward to everlasting life with Christ as our King forever. But there’s something else we look forward to which is apart from that most treasured gift. Just as Paul went about setting up churches and admonishing believers, he did so even though the suffering was intense. He looked forward to the rewards Jesus would hand out after he finished the race. These rewards given out to the faithful are those things to which we should aspire. Did you know that simply longing for Christ’s appearing garners an award?
Many of you write and ask how I’m doing in regards to my health, your concern is much appreciated. I wrote a commentary a while back entitled “Patience and God’s Miracles” in which I hastily stated that my health was greatly improved because of the infusions I’d been receiving. Well, I should have heeded my wife’s advice and held off on that commentary a while longer, at least until I was sure that my exaltation was not premature. Consequently, I must now explain to everyone that the relief I was feeling from this horrible disease after the initial three infusions only lasted about seven days, and they’ve been quite expensive. Actually they haven’t been much help.
I began to wonder why, with the fervent prayers of many of my brethren going up to God from every corner of this planet and those of my family here at home, was I continuing with this disease that had so effectively embedded itself in the bloodstream of my body? I began to do some research of my own. I wanted to give a clear and concise answer to anyone who might enquire of me as to why God allows the suffering of His saints. Of course God gave me the answer I was seeking.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4. Sometimes we just need a little reassurance from God of the fact that He knows what He’s doing and we who are suffering numerous trials should count it all joy. Patience is one of the goals of our trials, but there’s more, much more.
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12. The Greek word hypomenō is the equivalent of our English word “endure”, but the Greek word is more precise in its meaning, which is “to remain” - i.e. abide, not recede or flee, to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ, to bear up bravely and calmly: all ill treatments. We’re to count all suffering, trials, temptations, and persecutions joy, joy knowing we are suffering with Christ.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8. Stephanos is one of two Greek words which means crown, but it’s not a king’s crown which would be diadem in the Greek. Stephanos actually means: a prize such as a victor’s crown. It refers to the eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ. It's a crown of righteousness, and a crown of glory. Do you love His appearing? This crown is an earned crown and it has nothing to do with our justification (salvation). It’s a reward that will be given to all who love and desire Christ’s appearing. Worldly Christians love the world hence they aren’t looking for Christ to appear any time soon. So their answer to my question would be no.
There are many such rewards which will be handed out at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. But alas there will be many Christians who receive no such rewards, thus there will be much disappointment for those who cling to the idea of “Well I’m saved and that’s all that matters to me”. Paul describes his life as running a race and to win the race so as to receive the prize. There is more to this Christian walk than just fire insurance, much more.
Trials for the born again Christian can be many. Perhaps they are not exactly like Paul’s but to each one of us they can be distracting, even overwhelming. While passing through these trials it’s important that we not lose sight of our first love, Jesus Christ. Debilitating, formative hurtles can bring us to a point that we may even despair of life itself. Paul despaired of life. “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:” 2 Corinthians 1:8. Then Paul goes on to ensure the Corinthian Church that they have no need to despair. “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10.
God has given us the power to turn away from sin and from the grip associated with temptation, trials, and tribulations (which are persecutions). Personally, I now count all my trials (illness) as joy. All born again believers in Christ should realize that the suffering which we endure is suffering with Christ. By suffering with Christ, God’s word assures us that we will be “joint-heirs with Christ.”
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. God will never let us be tested more than what is common to man. This means God has given us the strength to endure all trials, even the infirmities that the enemy has been able to inflict upon many of us.
In my personal situation concerning the vast amount of trials that have come upon me of late, my faith has not only endured but has been greatly strengthened, and my walk with the Lord is now on a more stable foundation than ever before. God has drawn me closer to Him and our relationship is now much more intimate. That’s why I now count all the suffering I’ve gone through with this disease (Myasthenia Gravis) pure joy.
Most important is how we weather these storms. Do we sit and fret? Do we worry and ponder? Do we complain and lose hope? Do we blame God for our suffering? Or do we overcome in the face of all adversity? “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5. I have determined for myself to be an overcomer, to stay in the race and to finish in first place. As Paul so aptly put it “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4:7. I encourage all of you do the same.
God bless you all,
All scripture is from the KJV and always God breathed