Equipping the Church to Suffer
How does a pastor equip the church for suffering in a culture that has not yet experienced significant suffering? I do not mean to downplay significant trials in our lives dismissing them as trivial. However, in my view, as Americans, while we are beginning to experience a small degree of suffering, we have not experienced the same degree of suffering as that of our brothers and sisters in most of Church history or even at present throughout the world. Not yet.
So, the question for us to consider is, “How can believers equip ourselves for future suffering?” Make no mistake, suffering is coming for those who are resolved to identify with Christ. Our secular culture hates the so-called intolerance of Christians and is growing in hostility towards us and all that we stand for. I believe, suffering, to a greater degree, is coming. The question is, are we ready for it? 1 Peter 4:1 says,
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking”
The phrase “arm yourselves” is a military term which can be translated “equip yourselves.” What are we to arm ourselves with? Believers should arm ourselves with a certain “way of thinking” that we will suffer as Christ suffered. In other words, we should not be alarmed by our secular country’s growing hostility towards Christians. Suffering is the norm for those who follow Jesus not the exception. We are to remind our brains that Jesus suffered. Let me write that again. Jesus suffered. Just read it again and again if necessary. Jesus suffered. What makes us think we will be any different? In 2 Tim. 3:12 Paul flat out says
“all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
Many people are perfectly willing to accept God’s forgiveness in Christ. Many more are perfectly willing to accept the inheritance that comes with Christ. Many more still, are willing to embrace the future blessing of life in with Christ. But too few are willing to suffer with Christ. Suffering is not optional for Christ’s followers. We will suffer. Association with Christ will not lead to societal acceptance. We cannot have both. We will all eventually be Colorado cake bakers in one way or another. I will leave you with Peter’s words to consider from 1 Peter 4:12 which says,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you”