I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings. . . .
If we are honest, we’ll admit that we do not usually, if ever, hope for suffering. We may be eager to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection, but we are less passionate about wanting to experience the agony of his death. Yet in several places in the New Testament Paul expresses a desire to share in the sufferings of Christ (for example, see Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; 2 Timothy 1:8).
Across church history, many Christians have suffered for Jesus, whether they wanted to or not. To this day, parts of the church are persecuted, and in recent years we have seen or heard about horrifying spectacles of Christians being beheaded for their faith. If we are blessed to live free of such persecution, we tend to pray that things may stay that way for us. We also pray that persecution will cease for sisters and brothers who are hurting. Yet Paul speaks positively about suffering for Jesus’ sake, and he invites others to join with him.
Of course, in baptism we do die and rise with Christ (Romans 6:1-7). Spiritually we affirm this. Physical suffering may or may not come, but if it does, Paul indicates that it only draws us closer to Jesus.
This may be another way of expressing what Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39: nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ because Jesus achieved salvation by suffering and dying for us.
Whether we suffer in spirit or in our flesh, dear Jesus, help us to see how closely you identify with us and stay with us in all things. Amen.
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