Friday, April 19, 2013

The Success of Suffering

In Jesus' day, the view that suffering resulted from moral failure was widely held. When a blind man was brought in front of Jesus for healing, the Disciples asked, “Whose sin had caused this young man’s blindness—his or his parents?” Jesus clarified it was neither, but only that the works of God should be revealed in him. In other words, something about suffering was divine.

Clearly the Bible teaches that suffering is a virtue. Jesus told His disciples that in the world they would face suffering, and overcome it just as He had (Jn.16:33). Paul declared that anyone desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus would suffer persecution (2 Tim.3:12). And James proclaimed that suffering was an opportunity for great joy.  Clearly, the apostles taught no ‘success’ in the kingdom of God could be expected without traversing the portal of suffering (Acts 14:22).

This is counter-intuitive in 21st century American where we refuse to accept suffering as the norm, let alone as a sign of God’s blessing (Matt. 5:4; 12). But the Scriptures are unambiguous: success without suffering is ‘unbiblical.’ 20th Century NYC pastor Dr. Edward Johnson once said, “Suffering and success go together. If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered; if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.”

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