Sharing in suffering4
"I want to know Christ—yes, to know the ... participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ..."
- from Philippians 3:10
Remember, the goal here is knowing Christ.
Suffering is the place where relationship goes one of two directions: it is either permanently forged or permanently ruined. Paul wants a deep relationship with Christ, so he wants to be looped in on Christ's suffering.
Christ suffered greatly: disappointment, rejection, persecution, betrayal, abandonment and, ultimately, death.
But Christ's suffering was not for nothing. His suffering was redemptive, missional and intentional. He suffered as he pursued the mission of God in our messy world. He ran toward - not away from - the mess.
If you are going to be with him, you will suffer too. To be on mission with God is to expose yourself to risk: relational, emotional, financial ... perhaps even physical risk.
But your suffering in the pursuit of the kingdom of God is not in vain. If we turn toward Jesus and not away from Jesus in the midst of the suffering it can serve in two ways: first, it can be a part of God's work of redemption in this world. And second it can be the fire that forges deep intimacy with Christ.
Now, as a quick aside, when Paul writes about participating in Christ's suffering, he isn't glorifying suffering. To paraphrase Tolkien, good may come from evil but evil remains evil.
When we think about God and suffering, we often think about God's presence in the midst of our suffering. What's he doing? Is he here?
But Paul runs in the opposite direction. He wants to participate in Christ's suffering. He's asking to "get in" on the work of grace that brought new life to the world, and he knows that includes risk and suffering. When we do this, it has a transforming effect.
How has your experience of suffering for the sake of God's kingdom influenced your intimacy with Christ?
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