Share in the Sufferings of Christ
Its easy to read this passage and almost skip over it. We think, "Trials? Persecution? Suffering for Christ … Yeah, thats only for people who live in places like the Middle East or North Korea where Christians are killed for their faith. How can this passage relate to me?” Or we think, “Yeah I was called a name once or twice in high school for believing in Jesus, so I guess that means I was persecuted.” While trials and persecution may not result in death in America, its still there. It’s just far more subtle, and our culture is the culprit.So, what does a modern day trial look like in America? And how does this test our faith?
Here’s a few examples:
In a world that idolizes sex and relationships, your Heavenly Father has called you to wait upon his perfect timing in marriage. The world doesn’t understand this mentality. All of your relatives ask, “When are you going to bring someone home for us to meet?” Your coworker says, “Just start dating casually, you don’t need a commitment. Sex never hurt anyone.” When all of your roommates are all in healthy relationships, and you’re the only one who is single, this can be a legitimate trial of faith. Don’t give in to the pressures of this world. Your Heavenly Father is faithful.
In a world that says to drink to escape your problems, your Heavenly father calls you to obey the law of the land, to live above reproach, and to turn to him instead. Again, the world does not understand this. For many of our Lead students, who have chosen to abide by the Wesley covenant, this can be a legitimate trial of faith. Your friends say, “What’s one drink going to do? Who would know? Why do you have to obey that rule, anyways?” Don’t give in to the pressures of this world. Any temporary suffering you may endure is worth it. Your Heavenly Father is enough.
In a world that gets swept up in new religions (think Universalism, New Age, etc.) and calls Christianity archaic, your Heavenly father calls you to look to him alone. You know that Jesus is the only path to the Father, but when close friends or relatives start to waiver in their faith and fall into these other religions, it can be a legitimate trial of your faith. When they try to poke holes in your faith, will you stand strong in what you believe? Will you trust in God’s righteousness and goodness? Don’t give in to the pressures of this world. Your Heavenly Father is with you.
Finally, in a wold that says money can buy happiness, your heavenly father calls you to, "seek his Kingdom first, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). While commercials and tv shows provide you with an endless list of things that will fulfill you momentarily, God provides us with an alternative: Himself. When the world says BUY, BUY, BUY, He says to give with a generous heart. Our world will try to convince you to waste your life on yourself (pursuing success, jobs, cars, houses, & money). The trial of your faith is this: who’s riches will you seek - the world’s or God’s? Don’t give in to the pressures of this world. Your Heavenly Father is better than all of these things.Don’t be Surprised. Instead, Rejoice.
I love the way that the New Living Translation writes verse 13: "Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” Paul is saying that we should ANTICIPATE trials. They are to be expected. In fact, if your faith isn’t being tested, perhaps your life looks too much like the world. When we chose to live a life that challenges this world, it will turn heads; people will notice. And hopefully, when they notice, they will want to know the God that we know. And this is where the rejoicing takes place. Rejoice in your trials, because it probably means that you are exactly where you need to be. Rejoice in your trials, because God is partnering with you to make his name known to the ends of the earth.
Father we pray for courage to stand apart in our culture. We pray for faith to trust in your name alone, when we are tempted to trust in the ways of this world. We pray that would you fill us up, so that we may overflow as we partner with you in ministry. We pray for joy, despite all circumstances, all fears and worries. We pray for joy that comes from resting in your goodness. Amen.
Author | Devon Radford