How would you like to ruin the devil’s day? Want to see him with shoulders drooped, face all scrunched up in a frown of disappointment, and sitting on a bench pouting? That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Okay then, here’s the game plan: rejoice in your suffering.
No seriously. God has ordained suffering for your life to bring about much good, but the devil wants to take what was meant for your good and destroy you. He wants to discourage you, infuriate you at God, and push you to doubt God. But, you can totally foil his plan be rejoicing in your suffering.
Whether you realize it or not, suffering is a privilege from God. The early church considered it a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ. Acts 5:41 tells us that after the apostles took a beating for preaching the gospel, they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. Furthermore, Paul tells us that suffering has been granted along with salvation for all who believe on Jesus (Philippians 1:29). So, salvation and suffering are both gracious blessings from God. Suffering is actually a cause for joy!
To the natural mind, the combination of suffering and joy sounds like the makings of a psychological diagnosis. But, to the biblically informed mind, it’s nothing more than understanding God’s will for our life. It’s not that we’re to take pleasure in the pain. Rather, we take pleasure in the product the pain produces. With that mindset in view, let’s look at six reasons the Bible gives for rejoicing in your suffering so that you can frustrate the devil.
1) Suffering gives a contemporary visible witness that Jesus is worth joyfully enduring the most awful things for.
In Colossians 1:24, Paul says, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. When he says that he’s “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, I believe he’s talking about an ongoing visible example to us. Jesus Christ is not before our eyes suffering. In fact, He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father right now in heaven. But Paul was before the eyes of his contemporaries. He was an ongoing visible example to them. In fact, he even wrote this letter to the Colossians while in prison for preaching the gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 15:32, we learn that he had to fight wild best while in Ephesus. In 2 Corinthians 11:21-27, he gives us an even more extensive list of his afflictions: much hard work, imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes, three times beaten with rods, once stoned, three times shipwrecked spending a night and a day in the deep, dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren, and many sleepless nights in hunger and thirst and in cold and exposure.
Paul was much afflicted! Everybody in Paul’s day could look at him and his willingness to endure such hardships with rejoicing and had to make a choice. They could either call Paul insane or call Jesus awesome. That’s the choice our contemporaries should have to make concerning us too. Either we are crazy, or Jesus is awesome. God desires for you to rejoice in your sufferings so that people will come to the second conclusion: Jesus is awesome! They’ll look at your suffering and your rejoicing and come to the conclusion that Jesus is worth enduring joyfully the most awful things for. Who knows who will be saved or encouraged through our suffering.
Is making much of Jesus reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.
2) Suffering brings us into closer union with Christ
Paul tells us 1 Corinthians 11:1 to be imitators of him as he imitates Christ. Christ rejoiced in His suffering (Heb 12:2), and Paul imitated that (Col 1:24). So, we come into closer union with Christ when we suffer. Christians are called to take suffering patiently, “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Paul’s goal in Philippians 3:10 was to share [Christ’s] sufferings, being conformed to His death. This goal should be our as well. Furthermore, our suffering is connected with sharing in Christ’s glory when he returns: …if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).
Is closesness with Jesus reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.
3) Suffering assures the believer that he belongs to Christ
Jesus said, If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… (John 15:18-20). So, your suffering for Jesus proves that you belong to Jesus.
Is assurance of your salvation reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.
4) Suffering deepens our dependence on and hunger for God
Why do you think the gospel spreads so much more rapidly in Third World countries? I think it’s because they don’t have all the junk that we have to pacify or satisfy them. Many Americans aren’t impressed with the rewards God puts before us because they’re pleased enough in this life, but that’s why events of suffering and loss through calamity are so important. They shake us out business as usual so that we’ll turn from temporal joy and be prepared for eternal joy. It’s in these moments that we realize that all we have is Christ, and Christ really is enough. God uses seasons of tragedy and loss to drive men to the cross of Christ for salvation and then to greater depths of dependence upon the Lord.
The Scripture bears this out:
- Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong
Is a deeper dependence on and hunger for God reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.
5. Suffering makes us into Christ’s likeness
Comfort and goodwill are nice, but there’s something that God desires so much more for our lives, namely that we would be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God does this in many ways, but one of the ways He does this is through suffering.
Notice two of several passages that bear this truth:
- 1 Peter 4:12-13, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
- Romans 8:28-29, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
God loves us enough to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. Suffering is simply one of the tools in the Potter’s hand.
Is becoming more like Jesus reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.
6. Suffering can discipline in God’s children, making us more holy.
For those that are God’s children, suffering can be used to discipline us. The following texts point this truth out:
- Jeremiah 19:15, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am about to bring on this city and all its towns the entire calamity that I have declared against it, because they have stiffened their necks so as not to heed My words.”
- Hebrews 12:7, It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
- Revelation 3:19, Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent
Is becoming more holy through God’s loving hand of discipline reason for rejoicing? Absolutely! Then rejoice in your suffering and frustrate the devil.