Sunday, April 01, 2007

Day Thirty-Four: Joy and Suffering

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Yesterday we meditated on the fact that the Father will prune the fruitful, which is to say he will discipline them. And we said that the reason this promise produces joy in the lives of believers is that they know the painful process of pruning is designed to shape them more and more into the image of Christ and cause them to obtain “the outcome of their faith, the salvation of their souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Sometimes the Father uses the shears of suffering to prune us, and so today I want to reflect with you on the relationship between joy and suffering.

Perhaps the most important lesson to learn about suffering as a Christian is that it is not an end in itself, but a necessary means to a greater reward. Even Jesus himself endured immense suffering “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2), and then he bid us to take his view of things: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). And Peter encourages us in much the same way: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

Fruit-producing Christians take joy in suffering with Christ because in it they are united with Christ, by it they are shaped into the image of Christ, and through it the Father save souls to the glory of Christ (Acts 5:41, Colossians 1:24, 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

And while there is something unique about suffering specifically for the name of Christ, the Father can and will use any kind of suffering to produce these ends: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Fruit-producing Christians take joy in suffering because the reward of Christ is worth the price of pain. Indeed, “…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Prayer Focus: Pray that the Father will help us see his designs in suffering and cause us to rejoice in him. Pray that we will not resist him, but rather embrace his wisdom and work in our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment