I want to know Christ ... and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. Philippians 3:10
Suffering is not high on our list of desires. We do all we can to avoid pain and suffering. People spend billions of dollars every year on medications to reduce or eliminate pain. Worldwide relief organizations work diligently to relieve hunger and suffering in the wake of disasters around the world.
Yet in this text Paul says he wants to share in the sufferings of Christ. He wants to be so intimately connected with Jesus Christ that he experiences Christ's pain. Paul is not suggesting that Christians seek suffering for suffering's sake. But when persecution and suffering come as a result of following Christ, we can receive it with joy and thanks for the sake of God's kingdom.
Following Christ is rarely simple and easy. It is often filled with turmoil and trials. These challenges are simply part of our oneness with Christ. A disciple cannot expect to break bread with Christ and not be subject to the same ridicule that Christ himself endured.
Christ's pain was not only the pain of nails tearing through his flesh. It was also the humiliation of being beaten, bruised, spit upon, and mocked before all humanity. Such humiliation is shared with those who are one with Christ. Through suffering, Christ overcame death and the power of Satan. He endured that suffering for us so that we can have life.
Father God, give us the strength and power to endure the suffering and pain of following Jesus. Help us to meet such trials with thanks and joy in Jesus. In his name, Amen.
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