What Is The Purpose Of Suffering In The Life Of A Pastor?
The purpose of suffering in the life of a pastor is the same as his purpose for the Christian. In every trial, one of the first things to go out the window is our identity. We forget about that. That’s the first fuse to blow. We forget who we are. You are a Christian and the life of a Christian is one that is marked by temptation, trial and persecution, and suffering and death. Does that sound strange to you? You know, as fallen human beings, even as sinners saved by grace, the very mention of suffering makes us uncomfortable. Any talk of sickness, persecution or dying makes us squirm in our seats. It makes us uneasy.
You need to know that it is the will of God for every Christian, to experience sufferings and trials of various kinds. God has sovereignly ordained trials and sufferings in the life of a Christian to refine our faith. He means that for our good so that when those trials come, it will be seen in the lives of his people, that they have no other comfort, other than Him alone. And that brings him glory. It is his will. 2 Timothy 3:12, tells us that it is his will, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Or take Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted, (that’s a gift language, It’s a gift to you), It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in Him, that’s faith, but also suffer for his sake.”
So pastors here are two gifts you get when you are born again, faith and suffering. Authentic, biblical, Christ-honouring faith goes hand in hand with suffering. We suffer because we have been united by faith to the one who suffered and who has sovereignly ordained sufferings as the means to sanctify us. It is the mark of the children of God. God has only one son who is without sin. But he has no sons who do not suffer in the path of obedience, and in the pursuit of righteousness. Listen to Paul in Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided, (that’s the condition), provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” You cannot be glorified, if you are not sanctified through suffering. That is why God’s children can rejoice in suffering and trials because it is the evidence of God’s grace working in their lives. It is not a lack of it. It is the evidence of God’s grace. In 1 Peter 4:12-14, Peter 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.” It’s not strange, this should be normal, expected. “But rejoice,” he says, “insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Rejoice now, so that you may also rejoice later. Pastors, you will suffer not just for preaching the gospel, you will suffer also for doing what is right for doing what scripture commands.
Matthew 5:10, “blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or take James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy my brother’s when you meet trials of various kinds.” What sort of trials? When you’re giving drops, when the government imposes irrational and obedience, opposing sanctions on churches, when members repeatedly refuse your counsel, when you are slandered for practicing church discipline, because you love the church, “count it all joy, my brothers. When you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” You see, the gospel is not that Jesus suffered and died in my place, so that I can have a suffering free life now. No, the gospel is that Jesus suffered and died in my place for my sins so that I can suffer well trusting that I am secure in him. And every trial exposes my sinful heart and draws me closer to my Saviour.
You see what trials do? Brothers, your trials, your suffering, is not meaningless. Christ has freed us from the power of our sins, so that we would not love the world, but look forward, put our hope in the glory, in the world to come. The Son of God, the second person of the sovereign, Triune God, took on human flesh and died in the place of sinners, of sinners who worship their autonomy, who worship their desires, who worship their comforts and their glory. He did this for sinners, and he rose from the dead to give us new hearts that find our delight in him alone. If you don’t know him, repent of your sins and put your trust in Christ alone. Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Every follower of Jesus is called to a life of suffering in the path of righteousness. Beware of any message that teaches otherwise.
Suffering in the lives of Christians is the Lord’s loving and fatherly discipline to make us more like his son, and therefore, don’t despise it. “My son,” he says, in Hebrews 12:5-6, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines, the one he loves, and he chastises every son whom he receives.” God disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness. And that may come in the form of a tyrannical government, it may come in the form of an idolatrous society, a child with special needs, a job loss, a terminal disease, extended family members who love and worship Indian culture rather than loving the truths of Scripture. It can come in many forms. But remember, it is God’s love towards you, for your eternal good, for your holiness. That is the purpose of every trial. No trial, no suffering, not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ is that faithful bridegroom, who says to his bride, the church, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you, in sickness, or in health, in suffering, or in well being. And he is the only bridegroom who can say this, “not even death can do us apart.” That knowledge can supernaturally produce in us the joy of contentment in the midst of suffering.
This article is the fourth one of the five-part article series of the transcript of Session 3 preached by Brother Anand Samuel in the AIPC 2021 Online Conference held on Sep 17-19, 2021.Please click here to view the sermon.