The Fellowship of His Suffering:
Have you ever suffered at the hands of another?
Have you been ridiculed, slandered, and belittled for no reason other than the individuals ability be hateful?
Have you felt anger well up inside your soul?
Have you felt the need to respond in a physical or verbal way that brings resolution to your own personal injustice?
In these moments, it is the greatest challenge that our principles will face. In the moment when we are attacked, if we choose to respond as they do then are we any different?
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1: 28b-30
So in light of this, how does one conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish?
Doesn’t it make sense that we desire justice or vindication for the wrongs done against us?
Yet, If we ‘repay anyone evil for evil'(Romans 12:17), are we on the road to becoming like the very person that has injured us?
Have we ever considered why people lash out in the first place?
Have we considered why so many attack good people and those good people suffer greatly?
Reflect on these questions for a moment:
Who do we claim to be?
Do we claim to be followers of Christ?
Do we claim to be loving husbands/wives, loving fathers/mothers, and loving members of our community?
Do we claim to be good firefighters?
What is the litmus test to judge whether we are who we say we are?
If we react in anger on the road, with a christian and fire service sticker on our car, what judgement do others make about our actions in that moment?
If we ‘repay evil for evil’ in our moments of anguish and the world broadcasts our incident and sits in judgement upon our actions; what do we think they will determine about the sincerity of our faith?
If our anger controls us and we right the wrongs committed against us; how does our actions affect a young aspiring leader who has been carefully studying our lives?
Jesus reminds us of the higher call placed upon our lives:
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46)
Did we notice the challenge He lays before us? Not to merely love those who love us but to love those who hurt us, to love those who slander us, to love those who mistreat us, and to do so with sincerity. This can only be done if Christ lives and reigns in our hearts.
The challenge before us lies in the depth of our devotion. How quickly we will fail in the fiery moments of torment if our devotion to God is shallow and insincere.
The Apostle Paul wrote about suffering for God many times in his letters. He didn’t merely write words for us to follow. He wrote out of his great suffering. This is one example of his suffering, yet he stood firm:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.
I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Paul obviously suffered greatly for his faith, but consider what he was called to do. He was called by God to go and preach the Gospel. And consider how he treated others in spite of his suffering.
What are we called to do?
Have we forgotten of all the leaders who have gone before us?
Did they not face great opposition, persecution, and adversity?
They suffered because they knew the goal was worth the cost. They took their eyes off worldly comforts and realized the impact of their daily actions would pay generational dividends.
Let us remember that our conduct reflects our conscience and our daily walk shows who we truly are.
The true test of one’s character is not during fair weather but when the storms of opposition rain down. It is then that we see those who are superficial and not strong. It is then when we see how strong our faith truly is. So let us remember:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries