“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He upon whom we have set our hope” [2 Corinthians 1:8-10]
Look over the verses above closely. They resemble very closely the Scriptures quoted last time in 1 Peter chapter 2. If you noticed or remembered, those verses began with this statement, “For you have been called for this purpose.” [1 Peter 2:21] What purpose would that be? Would it be to discover my spiritual gifts, find what my life occupation might be or to find the road that will help me fulfill my own dreams in this world? God forbid, no- a thousand times no! The Christian life cannot be about us, it must be about Him.
I must decrease
The text above is clear, Christians are called by God to suffer for His name’s sake. A verse that makes this even more clear is this:
“For to you it has been granted (by whom?) for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” [Philippians 1:29, 30]
Why must we suffer
In all Christianity, God acts first as always and we must obey by walking in what He has finished upon the cross. Obviously Jesus has to suffer Himself in the payment for sin, but not only, but daily He suffered prior to that in order for Him to learn obedience. (Hebrews 5:8) We learn to obey through suffering as well, but there’s more. Our old nature was crucified with Christ- it was condemned entirely and now we must reckon that to be so (true)(Romans 6:11). But how do our sufferings cause us to learn to obey God?
- We have the sentence of death within ourselves (through Adam’s nature still IN US physically)- What God has allowed
- He orchestrates the events of our lives for He alone knows what we need- What God is doing
- Our sufferings force us to trust in our Father and not in our old selves as a resource- more so if our sufferings are severe as Paul’s. Note the similar words in the two verses (“sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves” and “but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously”)
- Then notice the results of said trust, again in both verses (“who raises the dead and “so that we might die to sin and live righteously”)
Can you see it?
When we refuse to suffer or avoid our God’s providential dealings with us, we prove our own reliance upon ourselves and how little we do or desire to trust Him. Their is no peace, no effectiveness, no fruit in walking along those lines- therein is death.
On the other hand, if we recognize that our Father has in His great love caused us to be born again, allows us and even orchestrates our sufferings for both our good and His glory, literally forcing us to trust in Him alone, allowing us to be burdened excessively, purposefully beyond our own strength and even allowing us to despair of life itself, well then their is hope for a resurrection in the power of Jesus Christ- for it is Jesus Himself resurrected shining forth in all His glory through us!
He must increase
There is no hope in any attempts to be reliant upon our old selves. That life is crucified and must remain in the grave. We must see ourselves entirely in Jesus Christ and Him raised as the very solution to every problem, sin, and need will we ever have or face in this life. It is not so much what Jesus can do that matters, but who Jesus has become for each of us Himself.
If professing Christians are not following in His steps through suffering, they cannot be delivered practically from sin , nor can they be expressing the genuine article- Jesus Christ Himself in us, our hope and their hope of glory!