Friday, June 11, 2010

Learning to Suffer Well

To use a baseball illustration, most Americans have somewhat of a disjointed view of life with God in the picture. Our view is that adding God to the equation when standing in the batter’s box of life naturally means that hitting the ball should be made easier. After all, God is the giver of life and the source from which all good things flow. If I struck out 100 times out of 150 attempts without God, then adding him should decrease my at bat to strike out ratio.

What I’m learning, however, based on the scriptures is that this is somewhat of a disjointed view of God.

A lot of churches are doing a disservice to Christians today in an effort to bring more people into the church. We preach Christ like infomercials preach the promise of their products. We make shallow promises about how God makes life easier, richer and healthier. We sell unbelievers on how joining the church will make you life better but rarely mention the difficult conversations and pain that it takes to get there.

In an effort to get people to join the church, commit to God and pat ourselves on the back after a Sunday, we summarize that adding God to your life will make the pitcher’s pitches seem like a change-up instead of a fastball.

So you can imagine how shallow we respond as Christians when we’ve committed our lives to Christ and a curveball comes our way. Francis Chan illustrates it well when he talks about how it’s as if we’ve created God for us instead of the other way around.

The more I read the scriptures, the more I realize that a Christ centered, Spirit-filled life actually doesn’t make the at-bats of life any easier. In fact, the pitches get faster, the frustrations become intensified and the suffering multiplied.

This thought isn’t new to the scriptures. It’s just that teaching these scriptures don’t leave the hearers with warm and fuzzy feelings. Just look at II Timothy 3:12, "And all indeed that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” When was the last time that your pastor talked about the blessing in persecution?

It seems to be that the Christian life promises to be harder, sweatier and more challenging. It guarantees suffering, persecution and hardship. Becoming a mature Christian doesn’t mean knowing more about the Bible and leading a small group of 25. It means learning how to respond correctly to life’s problems and frustrations when they arise.

Our responses to the strikeouts at the plate of life are well documented. “I thought this was the ‘blessed life’…where’s God in this? Why are we going through all of this suffering? I thought God loved me?”

These responses are typified in today’s world. It’s natural, it’s justified and it’s…fleshly. It’s time that Christians learn to respond to suffering differently. We need to learn how to suffer well. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10:

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

Wow. What a response! Paul wants to give up the good life, the easy life, and the life of easy blessing and head down the road less traveled straight to persecution, suffering and eventual death. That’s the road towards Jesus…and it’s the road that doesn’t get preached enough. That’s having an understanding that in this life, we will suffer and learning that when suffering comes doesn’t mean that Jesus is abandoning us. It means that we are more like Jesus then that ever!

If you are serving Christ, desiring to be more like Him and praying for His will to be done in your life…know without a shadow of a doubt that suffering in some form is coming. But it’s through our suffering that our testimony of Christ’s resurrection power becomes in full view. Because though Christ suffered and died, he was resurrected and lives…and while we may suffer for a little while, be rest assured that suffering will turn to rejoicing.

I want to walk into suffering already rejoicing. I want to learn how to suffer well.

Walking in Love- DD

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