How does Christian suffering play a role in our spiritual growth?
Hello Pastor Chas, I’m curious to know how you would respond to those who use scriptures such as Hebrews 5:8 and 1 Peter 5:10 to show how Christian suffering plays a role in our spiritual growth and maturing? Would you mind elaborating?
1. Heb 5:8 “though He (Jesus) was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
What Jesus suffered through was not sickness, disease, tragedy, sin consequences, or lack of knowledge of God’s promises and unanswered prayer. It was only Christian suffering. It was the “cup of suffering” that He had to drink, and the cup that He promised we would also drink. (Mark 10:39, 14:36). Paul wanted to “know…the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phi 3:10), and it had nothing to do with the uncommon tragedies of life.
2. Christian suffering includes: *) giving up our own will just like Jesus: “Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” We no longer get the freedom to live as we please. We submit to the will of God. This can interrupt our selfish plans, and it causes some momentary suffering. *) religious persecution: “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). Family and friends may shun us or snicker at us, and in other countries, they may kill us. *) By following Christ, we “suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Just like Jesus, we also suffer in the flesh as we lay down our reputation. *) Those who receive Christ also begin to mind the same things he did. “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This means that we begin having similar thoughts and feelings as him, and that can bring some suffering. We suffer and mourn because of the sins of the world. We agonize because of the pain the world is in without Christ. We watch our loved ones continue on the broad path of destruction, and there is some suffering in that. Jesus wept over sin, he wept over unbelief, and he was grieved over people’s hardness of heart. We can expect the same.
3. The main point from James 1 is that though we will have trials, we should never say that God gave them to us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2). Notice it clearly says “when you fall into trials” rather than “when God gives you trials”. And in the same chapter it clearly says “Blessed is the man who endures trials (temptation); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tested (tempted/tried/tested: Gr. peirazo), "I am tested or tempted by God"; for God cannot be tested or tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:12-13). God doesn’t tempt us to lose faith or give up.
4. God’s plan is to train us ahead of the trials. God has given us great promises, instructions, commands, and written guidance to strengthen our faith so that we can trust Him properly in times of need. And He’s given us His Spirit, if we learn how to live in the Spirit. Without the education ahead of time, life’s tests will do more harm than good. Many people have not actually made it through life’s trials, and ended up angry, broken, distant from God, or dead.
5. In 1 Peter 5, “after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you”, it was not referring to sickness, starvation, divorce, or car crash. It was referring to life’s struggles and common tribulations of achievement and growth. How do we know that? Because God promised that we’d always have food on the table and basic necessities taken care of (Mat 6). And God promised that He would heal and deliver all who come to Him in faith (Mat 4:23, Mat 8:16-17, Mat 15). So, God will not contradict His covenant promises, for those are the means by which we overcome the world and the devil.
Though God knows what trials may come our way, He does not give us those trials. He only helps us out of them.