A few years back I met Steve Reed, pastor of the Daybreak Community Church in Kansas City, KS. Even though he’s just across the state line a short distance from where I live on the Missouri side, our encounter took place in Guatemala. Steve grew up on the mission field in Peru and his dad later served for many years as the Director of Missions for the Kansas City, KS Baptist Association. Steve has been involved in cowboy evangelism in Guatemala and we met at a meeting of the Guatemala Affinity Group, a networking group that WorldconneX helped bring together. At the end of our visit, Steve gave me a copy of his book, entitled The Suffering Clause.
Steve takes the title from Acts 9:15-16 where the Lord instructs Ananias to go to Saul with the message that Saul is a chosen instrument who will bear His name before the Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel. He then adds these words: “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Steve refers to this suffering clause as the fine print in the Apostle Paul’s call to ministry.
Tonight in our Wednesday evening prayer meeting / Bible study time, we looked at Philippians 1:27-30 and focused in on verse 29 where Paul writes, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” We don’t frequently consider suffering to be a gift, but Paul certainly employs the language of gifting or permission here when he says that God has granted us the opportunity (dare I say privilege?) of suffering for Christ. The consistent message of the NT is that suffering isn’t punishment from God for sins committed but rather the school in which God forms the character of Christ in us and molds us into the image of Christ. That doesn’t make the actual experience of suffering less painful, but recognizing God’s redemptive purpose for it certainly affords us a more positive outlook on it. We might even be able to go so far as to “consider it all joy” as James counsels us to do.