This morning while I was exercising, I listened to a speech given by Pastor Eric Mason, the founding Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, PA. He was talking about the role of suffering in our lives and how it can make us stronger and lead us to give more glory to God. God is the one that created us after all. He cited the Apostle Paul’s (Paul was an eye-witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the 1st century) second letter to the church in Thessaloniki, Greece, where Paul said: “That you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). When we trust in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on our behalf we enter into a spiritual kingdom called the kingdom of God. Jesus is the king. All who trust in Him across the globe, whether living or departed, are a part of His kingdom. As people who have entered into His spiritual kingdom, Paul also wrote: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Since the believer trusts in Christ’s resurrection from the dead on their behalf, they are spiritually raised with Christ and united with Him in the heavenly realms. This is a spiritual reality now for the believer! If this is in fact true for us, why do we put so much of our heart, time, and energy into non-eternal, material things that do not matter? Further, we are to show that we are worthy of God’s kingdom on this earth and display to God and the world that we get this. We are raised with Christ. Eternal things matter. This perspective gives us the mindset to persevere and make us stronger in the midst of suffering.
As followers of Christ, we do not follow a man who avoided suffering but endured suffering on our behalf. Although He had the power to avoid the cross, He endured the cross. Crucifixion was a first century mode of executing criminals. Although, Jesus was innocent, He went through this to bear the sin and evil of the world on our behalf and give us an example to follow. He never tells us to avoid the cross, but: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
In the midst of potential sufferings, it is easy for us to tell God why it would be better if we do not go through a trial. “I do not deserve this.” “God, if I do not suffer in this way, you can use me better for your purpose.” “God, if you give me convenience or victory in this area, then….” More often then not, are we not focused on the wrong things? Therefore, in the midst of suffering, trials, and grief, it is an opportunity to re-focus. Re-focus our lives on what matters. What matters? Jesus Christ says in a nutshell: Love God. Love People. “This is a summary of what I want you to do while you are here,” says Jesus. In the heavenly realms above that is what it is all about: love. Paul says: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).