What credit can you claim when, after doing wrong, you take your punishment for it patiently? But, on the other hand, if, after doing right, you take your sufferings patiently, that does win the approval of God. For it was to this that you were called! For Christ, too, suffered–on your behalf–and left you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21)
Back in the 1970’s I attended for a brief time a church whose pastor was one of the foremost “prosperity teachers” of his day. One constant refrain in his sermon was his making fun of those who claimed they were “suffering for Jesus.” His idea was that Jesus didn’t make anyone suffer and that, if they would adopt the “God kind of faith,” they wouldn’t be suffering any more.
Evidently he hadn’t thought through a few things.
Reading the scripture above should put an end to the idea that Christians never suffer. Our Lord did so while on this earth and promised that his followers would experience persecution and suffer for being his followers, just as he suffered for being who he was.
But the truth is that, although some in the congregation were really suffering, others weren’t. They lived in a prosperous Texas city; had they driven far enough south, or even in parts of their own metro area, they would have seen real poverty and suffering.
And for those who were suffering, we must ask: were they really “suffering for Jesus?” Or were they doing so because of their own mistakes? Were they experiencing poverty for the Savior, or were they just careless with their money? As the scripture says above, we can’t take credit for suffering for bad things we’ve brought on ourselves.
Too much of what is taught these days tells us that we can live a pain-free life. But Our Lord never made such a promise.
“I have spoken to you in this way, so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will find trouble; yet, take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)