…that I may know Him…and the fellowship of His sufferings… (Phillipians 3:10)
How often do we as believers desire to share with Christ in all good things, being joint heirs of the kingdom, being participants in the resurrection of the saints, being recipients of eternal life; oh how wonderful are His promises and how glorious are His mercies toward us!
But on the other hand, how often do we truly desire to share in “the fellowship of His sufferings“? When the inspired Apostle Paul referred to sharing in His sufferings he could not have been making reference to the death of our Lord upon the cross, for that was a place He alone could go, and no man could follow.
It was not the cross of Christ of which Paul was speaking, rather he was speaking of an intimacy with the King of Glory so true and so real that suffering for Him would serve only to deepen that intimacy. Interestingly, according to the Holy Writ Paul’s request had already been granted after his conversion as we see when the Lord, speaking of Paul, told Ananias “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16)
Paul’s bold stand on suffering is a clear demonstration of the revolutionary worldview of the redeemed in Christ. The born-again Christian’s focus is upon the eternal, upon the things of God; therefore temporal suffering is of no real consequence and is in fact to be expected as can be seen in the revealed Word of God:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
As a result of the fall of man, the unregenerate are conformed to this corrupted and dying world by their natural – and sinful! – reasoning. It’s incomprehensible and offensive for them to be told they should suffer for anything whatsoever. This is not to say that the believer in Christ ought to go about seeking after suffering so that he might be seen of men to be pious or holy, or to seek after “points” from God as the result of his works. This is a form of selfish pride, and the Lord sets His face against the proud.
Yet the believer in Christ need not seek after suffering since the entire world system is his mortal enemy and there are very few situations wherein taking a bold stand for the Gospel of the Kingdom will be met with anything other than derision, ridicule, suspicion, or outright hostility. This world system is enmity with Christ, because the god of this world, Satan, seeks to usurp the throne of One True Living God and to be like the Most High. (Isaiah 14:3).
And while the enemy is now “as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) we know from revealed scripture the surety of the enemy’s final condemnation in the Lake of Fire where “their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44,46,48)
With the blessed assurance of the Lord the inspired apostle could take a bold stand, clearly understanding that earthly suffering is temporary, but the immeasurable victory it brings through Christ is eternal!
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
May we who have been called by His holy name, and who have been purchased by His precious blood be found by our Eternal King as always ready, willing, and able to be partakers in the “fellowship of His sufferings” to His eternal glory forevermore!