Suffering for Jesus
by Pastor Cary Gordon
When a man becomes a Christian, not only has he joined the company of Heaven’s kingdom through obedience to Jesus Christ, but as far as the spirit world is concerned, we who repent and believe are presently seated on a heavenly throne of authority because we are in perfect unity with Him! He is the head, and we are His body! It sounds too magnificent to believe for many ears, but look what the Bible says about it:
Ephesians 1:3-4, 18-23 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who HATH blessed US with all spiritual blessings IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that WE should be holy and without blame before him in love… The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance IN THE SAINTS, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power TO US-WARD WHO BELIEVE, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and SET HIM AT HIS OWN RIGHT HAND IN HEAVENLY PLACES, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, NOT ONLY IN THIS WORLD, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the HEAD over all things to the CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
So where do we go from here? How do we employ the attributes of His heavenly government in this present world? We all recognize that while we may be seated in heavenly places spiritually, we are all very much physically on earth. Paul, understanding the complexity of our present-day heavenly position, wrote:
Philippians 2:15 “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
Peter wrote of the same subject:
1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy NATION, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
So what are we supposed to do with the grand privilege of being called “joint heirs,” “sons,” and a “chosen generation,” a “holy nation” of God? How do the children of God behave in such a way as to be called those who “shine as lights in the world”? Well, one way is by walking in the biblical power of peace.
A genuine benefit of our entitlement as heirs is that we have been granted authority over all of hell itself. Biblical peace is most accurately defined as "an aggressive force against the enemy." Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!” But there is another side of this divine union with Christ that many have willfully overlooked. It is not as pleasant a thought as what we might like to hear concerning our “joint-heirship” with Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. It was no doubt with this in mind that Jesus warned the 70 to find joy in their son-ship and not merely in their authority.
Luke 10:20 “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
What unpleasant truth concerning our authority over Satan do you suppose Jesus was thinking about? He knew that the exercise of our authority over the devil would never go without some level of protest and/or insurgency from the realms of darkness. In what form does this organized spiritual rebellion materialize?
John 15:18 & 20 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you…Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”
Peace was made for the storm, because God knew living in this world would require that we endure storms. Yes, Satan was defeated on our behalf at the cross of Calvary. He is a defeated foe. He is already on the run. But we should not underestimate this terrorist of the spiritual world. Lurking and leaping from shadow to shadow, he is constantly contriving any and every conceivable way to inflict pain and death upon those who have been commissioned by the throne of Heaven to enforce the laws of the kingdom—to “occupy” until He comes. (See Luke 19:13.)
In Jesus’ famous parable of the two builders in Matthew, chapter 7, He spoke of one man who built upon the sand and another who built upon the rock. The interesting thing to note is that both builders went through the storm. No one, no matter how full of faith, is exempt from this fact of life. Having understood through personal experience what Jesus said in the previous verse, the Apostle Paul wrote of two guarantees for those born into this world.
2 Timothy 3:12-13 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
Two things are very clear after reading this verse:
1) All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.
2) Those who do not live godly lives (evil men) WILL grow more and more evil.
Whether or not we will suffer persecution is beside the point. The real issue is what we do while we are suffering and whether or not we allow the suffering to prove us quitters. There are a lot of authors, but not many finishers in this world of ours. We, like Jesus, are commanded to be “authors and finishers,” for He is the “author and finisher” of our faith, according to Hebrews 12:2.
Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, was once asked, “How can I become a success?” Ford replied, “If you start something, finish it.”1
Matthew 10:22 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
Suffering for Jesus?
What kind of sufferings are we told to endure on behalf of Christ? Certainly, we are NOT supposed to endure the sufferings He already endured for us, such as poverty, sickness, and sin. To believe otherwise is to undermine the very work of Christ at Calvary. He took our poverty, sickness, and sin upon Himself so that we, through grace, could be forever free from their recompense. (See John 8:36.) In this way, Jesus suffered in our place, as our eternal substitution.
Romans 4:25 “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
When we are sick, poor, or in sin, it is terribly prideful for one to say, “I’m suffering for Jesus.” By doing so, we are suggesting that He was not an adequate substitute for us on the cross. When we suffer in these three areas, it is generally self-inflicted in one way or another. It is wrong for believers to just sit back and accept this type of suffering; because Christ’s blood paid the price for these, enabling us to walk free from them—now in this life and in the life to come. When a believer encounters these three categories of suffering, he should first look introspectively to see if he has need of repentance; for it is through the open door of sin that such attacks from Satan besiege us. Once the door has been closed through repentance, the Christian must resist such assaults of Satan by using their authority through the name of Jesus.
Those who teach that sickness is from God insult His goodness. I have often wondered at the great hypocrisy revealed through such teachings. Those who believe that they are “suffering for Jesus” with cancer or some other horrible thing will claim it is the “will of God” for them to have such ailments, but then turn around and seek medical help with the direct intentions of alleviating and hopefully curing their illness. If these poor souls truly believe it is God’s will that they suffer in sickness, then why in the world do they seek a remedy through medical science? Wouldn’t that just be rebellion against His will? This irony only further exposes the error of such beliefs. Are we to believe that God is One who practices the immoral philosophy of “the end justifies the means”? If it is true that God causes evil and human suffering in order to “teach us something,” as some claim, then it must also be “okay” for us to rob the bank downtown—so long as we send the money we steal to the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
While Jesus walked the earth, He never laid hands upon anyone and gave them cancer or heart trouble, nor did God decide in some sort of schizophrenic rampage that, after the last apostle died, He would cease to be a miracle-working God and begin harming people rather than helping them. This kind of teaching is as ABSURD as it is INSOLENT to God. Neither sickness, sin, nor poverty have anything at all to do with God, for He is none of the three and is certainly not their author. Christ took all three evils upon Himself at the moment He was raised upon the cross. Therefore, when we read the following verse, we should be careful to understand what “sufferings” we are being told to accept and endure willingly.
1 Peter 2:21 “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
It is imperative that we not confuse Christ’s sufferings on the cross with those we are commanded to endure while following His example. Obviously, Peter was not suggesting that we should all be physically crucified any more than he was suggesting that we suffer in sickness, poverty, or sin. No, the sufferings we are told by Peter to endure are not self-inflicted through acts of disobedience, which lead to poverty, sickness, and sin, but rather they are brought upon us by others. These are the sufferings we share with Christ. We will be persecuted for our obedience to the Father of Heaven, just as He was. These are the same sufferings He endured, not upon Calvary, but before He went to Calvary, during His 3½ years of preaching ministry.
Hebrews 5:7-8 “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”
Notice that the previous verse is a reference to Jesus’ incarnation, as it states, “Who in the days of His flesh…learned He obedience by the things which He SUFFERED.” In the context, the sufferings that are spoken of are not exclusive to the crucifixion, but rather the period of life between Jesus’ birth and His thirty-third birthday. If this verse were merely dealing with the suffering of crucifixion it would have said, “Who ON THE DAY of His flesh.” But the verse specifically states, “Who IN THE DAYS of His flesh.” Jesus spent 30 years of His life growing and learning before launching into His holy ministry. Yet something of significance occurred in Jesus’ thirtieth year. He was baptized and set into His ministry by the voice of the Father in Heaven. Verse 5 of this same chapter points out this significant day and what Father God announced as Christ emerged from the water:
Hebrews 5:5 “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, ‘Thou art my Son, TODAY have I begotten thee.’”
From that momentous day forward, for the next 3½ years, Jesus took on a whole new level of sufferings. Jesus suffered long before He went to the cross by enduring rumor-mongering, tale-bearing, seditions, heresies, accusations, intimidations, arguments, slanders, malignments, criticisms, murmurings, threatenings, lies, shame, and ultimately betrayal. The good news is that Jesus, who is our example, was never defeated by sufferings. All of these kinds of suffering are completely contrary to the spirit of peace. This fact alone makes it only fitting that the power of peace, suffering’s converse opponent, be used as the ultimate weapon that will ensure we overcome such attacks not only personally, but corporately.
Acts 5:41 “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
Romans 8:17-18 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Some of the richest lessons I've learned over the years, particularly on the subject of corporate peace, were revealed in the kiln of great personal pain, betrayal, and heartache. I have discovered, however, that the kiln of pain bringeth forth gold. I'm honored to biblically suffer for Jesus!
1 Thrive, Vol. 1.5, The Heart of a Finisher, Tulsa, Oklahoma, p. 2.