The Fellowship of Christ's Suffering
This is Day 21 of my 40 Day Lenten Blog
What will we do to gain Christ? St. Paul said that he would consider all things that he had to be rubbish and would throw them away so that he could gain Christ. Paul wanted to not only know Christ, but to "know the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so somehow attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10).
Paul understood Jesus well when the Lord said, "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). Christ meant that if we want to be His disciples we will have to give up our lives for Him and join what Paul called the "fellowship of his sufferings." A.W. Tozer believes our unwillingness "to accept and experience the fellowship of the Savior's sufferings, which means acceptance of His cross," is the reason that modern people "exhibit very little spiritual power." "How can we have and know the blessed intimacy of the Lord Jesus," Tozier asks, "if we are unwilling to take the route which He has demonstrated?"
That's a fair question. And it might be the primary reason for the decline of the Church. The Early Church grew like wildfire, largely because they demonstrated mercy and sacrifice. But are enough of us today willing to suffer sacrifice? True sacrifice is hard and today it's tough to get people to sacrifice an hour on Sunday morning, much less real sacrifice.
We don't suffer well anymore. And I say "we" on purpose, because I am definitely including myself here. We'll take medicine for even the slightest irritation. We'll have a mental breakdown over the slightest inconvenience. How many of us would give up Netflix for Jesus much less go to prison or the cross for Him?
But Tozer clarifies that in the modern day "taking our cross is not going to mean the physical act of following Jesus along a dusty pathway. We are not going to climb the hill where there are already two crosses in place and be nailed up between them. Our cross will be determined by whatever pain and suffering and trouble which will yet come to us because of our obedience to the will of God."
Am I willing to obey God even if it means pain and suffering? I ask myself that question a lot. I also ask myself if I have ignored God's commands in the past to avoid suffering or because they were inconvenient. I think the answer is "yes" to the second question and "I pray that I am," to the first. I guess I'll find out.
Today's prayer: Lord, please give me the strength to obey Your commands and join the fellowship of Christ's suffering. Amen.
R.C. VanLandingham lives in Florida with his wife and kids.He is the author of several books including the Christian fantasy books Peter Puckett & The Amulet of Eternity, Peter Puckett & the Enchanted Chalice, and Magdalene Hope & the Elves of Evermore.