In order to live out the gospel, we must die to ourselves. We must suffer.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). I have to say that I don’t particularly like the current trend when people say “Really?!” But that is exactly what I found myself saying to the Lord. I’m not a soldier, an athlete OR a hard-working farmer. I’m just a wife with 3 children. I like my flannel pj’s and a cup of Earl Grey tea.
But here’s the truth. God’s word is true. And in His word He is clearly calling me and all His children to be His soldiers. Our daily circumstances are in fact the battleground as A.W. Pink wrote. And He is sanctifying us by the Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer to fight the good fight of faith. So the truth I must confess is that my flesh doesn’t want to be a soldier. I don’t want to be on the battlefield. I want comfort and ease. This is the battle that rages within between my “old girl” and “new girl.” I must battle every day by God’s grace to put the “old girl” to death.
So I confess my unbelief – my pride in my unwillingness to believe. And I cry out to the Lord to ask for His forgiveness and His help. Asking Him to strengthen me by His grace. Asking Him for the grace to believe His word and submit to His authority and take His truth to my heart, coming up under His truth and living it out each and every day.
The Lord does have a call on our lives. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with the spilled and precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The call is to live for the One who died for us. He died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).
And yes, the call is to suffer. As I continue to think about all this means, it occurs to me that suffering is a key component, if not the key to gospel living. In order to live out the gospel, we must die to ourselves. We must crucify our flesh. We must suffer. We must “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10). But we cannot endure on our own. We are weak and unable. We must go to the Lord. His grace is without measure. Paul writes in Col. 1:11, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” The power to endure, the ability to endure comes from God alone.
Without suffering there is no gospel. Without death there is no life. Christ came, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again. He suffered for my sins and because of my sins. Without the suffering and death of our Redeemer, we would all be destined for eternal damnation. His suffering was His gift to us. We can then rejoice in our own suffering as our response of gratitude to our Savior. We can be thankful that when we suffer for the gospel we see a small glimpse of what He endured for each of us out of His great love.
God’s ways are not our ways. He is God and we are not. Therefore the truth is suffering has purpose. Suffering is a blessing. The Lord uses it to bring us closer to Himself. When things are going well I am always tempted to be more independent and not see my need for the Lord. In His love and care for me, the Lord allows suffering to draw me back to Him. In suffering I see more clearly the reality that I am powerless and He is all powerful.
So, we do not want to go out in that below zero temperature without our coat! We must not go to battle without any armor. The Lord has provided all we need. We access His armor and power and grace by faith. Take time to think over what Paul is saying to us. And to then ask the Lord to show us what deliberate measures we can take to be more dedicated, devoted, diligent and disciplined in our walk/run with the Lord. May He give us all understanding in everything.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10).
Written by: Susan Sampson