“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (Philippians 1:29 ESV)
Paul tells the Philippian church to live in a manner worthy of the gospel so that they will be united in purpose, striving side by side in the gospel and standing against opposition. Then throws the grenade. Not only is belief in Jesus a gift, given to you for the sake of Christ’s glory, but you are also given suffering for the same reason.
Come to Jesus, he will give you faith and suffering.
I was reading this text with a young man in our church and the suffering that comes to the mind of a 12-year-old is certainly different then what comes to mind of a 37-year-old, but to be prepared for the gift of suffering is one of the more faith defining disciplines.
But notice it is not suffering for suffering’s sake. You don’t suffer because believing in Jesus is lame or because you aren’t as free as others. Suffering is for his, for Jesus’ sake. For his glory. So how does that fit in my neat little life of be good and be rewarded? It might not. And that’s the point.
Suffering as a gift is actually a gift when it clobbers us into Jesus. When the weight of everything else drives us to our need of a savior and his empowerment to live. Like Spurgeon said, “I kiss the wave that throws me onto the Rock of Ages.” Suffering tears down our self-reliance, the other idols we look to and gently, or not so gently, sends us humbly to our only hope, Jesus. So the goal of suffering is to increase our love of and dependence on Christ.
That is walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. Reliance on Jesus, fully aware of my need and inability to live “up to” anything. Oh how we might see the gift differently when we realize it is going to increase our love of Christ.