Suffering and Sacrifice
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” – Philippians 1:29
Our current season of life is taking us through an emotional spin-cycle that is mentally and physically taxing. Wash and repeat. Wash and repeat. As soon as we think we've come to peace with selling most of our possessions and leaving our family and friends and beginning a new profession, the feelings return with a vengeance and demand to be talked down again. Through it all, we've dug into God's word for perspective and there are truths that are starting to take root in our hearts and heads. We're praying this truth will grow to become armor that protects us from the temptation and will of our enemy. We wanted to give you a glimpse into the kinds of thoughts and scripture we're having to rely on regularly right now. So, welcome to our head...
Jesus calls us to sacrifice and to suffer for the sake of the gospel. It's that simple. I've tried to find ways around it most of my life, one way or another, but in the end, the theology is there and we are left to wrestle with the 15th chapter of John. We are left with a choice. Will we be like Christ or won't we? Because he suffered, and he sacrificed. And he said that anyone who follows him would have to also.
Suffering comes in many different forms. Some comes upon us uninvited and unexpectedly, in the form of disease or uncontrollable trials. This is the hard, difficult truth earthly bodies in a sinful world - and not really the type of suffering I'm talking about right now, though it’s an ever-present kind. The kind of suffering I'm referencing comes, not because we welcome it or create it, but because we expose ourselves to the possibility of it. It's the kind of suffering that comes as a result of trying to follow hard after Christ. It comes in partnership with sacrifice.
Some people suffer with and for Christ emotionally as they are persecuted because of a CHOICE to share their faith and stand by the unchanging truth of God's word. Some may suffer financially because they CHOOSE to leave a lucrative job in pursuit of God. Others suffer physically because they CHOOSE to serve in an unclean environment that exposes them to germs or contagious diseases that they're trying to cure others of. Some are literally beaten or bruised or killed for the sake of God's kingdom because they're WILLING to be close to danger.
These forms of suffering, and so many others, are not naturally appealing. But in a broken world ruled by the author of lies, how will God's kingdom advance without such efforts? The good news is, all of this suffering is making us more depended on God. And it is temporary. Jesus said, "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world." And Paul said, “Our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh them.” What we do on earth is but a dot on the timeline of eternity.
Suffering or sacrificing for the sake of Christ is not a duty, but a privilege. And when we look at that that way it changes our perspective. We commonly read Philippians 4:13 as motivation that we can accomplish any task we put our mind to. But this verse is specifically encouraging believers to be content no matter their circumstances. Being content no matter where following Christ has taken us. In famine or in feast. In sickness and in health. In freedom or in prison.
Our family is just learning what it means to suffer and sacrifice for Him. In some ways, it comforts us to remember that Christ said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Though we are confident we’ll have a place to live in Spain, we don’t yet know where it will be.
We are trying to let go of temporary things we've held onto over the years. We are asking ourselves the following questions: What is Christ calling us to give up? Where is he calling us to go? What is he calling us to do? What is he calling us to risk? We invite you to join us in asking those questions.
Two things I know, I once was blind but now I see. And I found my life when I laid it down. Like Paul, let us consider everything a loss when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus. Let us count all else as rubbish so that we can gain Christ.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1