Philippians 3:10 says “I want to know Christ…”
I suppose every Christian could agree with that. The verse goes on: “and the power of his resurrection.” Yes, the resurrection will be a good thing. We’re all looking forward to that. But the next phrase stops me cold: “and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.”
Whoa! Wait a minute. I’m not really interested in suffering. And “becoming like him in his death”? I don’t like to think about dying any time soon!
As I reflect on this verse more deeply I realize that everyone suffers over something, and eventually everybody dies. The real question is: Do I want to suffer and die in the manner of those who do not know Christ, or do I want to suffer and die in the grace of Jesus, knowing that through the power of His resurrection I will live again?
Throughout history Christians have suffered terribly, and many have given their lives for the name of Christ. The early Christian church was persecuted without mercy by the agents of Nero and other tyrants. During the Dark Ages the Waldensians and Huguenots suffered unspeakable tortures for their faith. But they did it bravely; they were like Christ in death.
Even today many who choose to know Christ are being disinherited by their families, harassed by neighbors and employers and persecuted by their governments.
Reasons for Suffering
Perhaps one of the reasons God permits suffering is that it breeds strength of character. Suffering also brings disillusionment with the things of this world and a longing for the spiritual things of the New Earth.
Suffering helps us to empathize with others, to understand their pain, and hopefully to be able to comfort and support them in a way we could not if we hadn’t gone through a similar experience.
When I can say, as in verse 8, that “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” then I will not be fearful of suffering or even death. I will know that the power of the resurrection is real. Verse 20 assures me that my citizenship is in heaven and that our Savior will give us new and glorious bodies for eternity.
Jesus said that those who are forgiven most love most. Perhaps those who suffer most will ultimately experience the deepest joy.