A few years ago, I started doing Crossfit. It took me a while to get the hang of it. I was a little slow with some of the moves requiring technique… but put me on an assault bike, and I will grind until I die. One day I pushed my legs past what they could handle and one of my calves locked up so much I couldn’t walk for a while. I love pushing myself in competition with others. I have a competitive edge that borders sick… But at the end of class, there was always something special about stretching out on the gym floor—gasping for breath, with muscles burning—alongside someone else who had endured the fiery furnace of class that day.
There is a fellowship that is gained through suffering with others. You have a bond that can’t be forged sipping mai tais on the beach. This is one of the beautiful things about a godly marriage. Seventeen years later, Stacie and I have been through the fire together, and we are still partners in this hope journey. I feel the same way about a good number of our staff families at Echo Church. You just love someone differently when you suffer for the same cause.
In the book of Acts, things start with a bang, but along the way—around chapter eight—friends started getting martyred. First Stephen, then a huge wave of Jesus’ followers, and eventually James, the brother of John, is killed with a sword (Acts 12). It looks like Peter is next when he is thrown in prison one night. He was literally chained between two soldiers. Somehow in the middle of the suffering, he was able to sleep. Seems like watching Jesus sleep during storms had finally reduced his anxiety levels.
In the middle of the night, an Angel of the Lord came and struck Peter on the side and woke him. Peter was liberated; he walked out unchained.
This was not the last moment of suffering Peter would face. He had much more pain in store. It’s one thing to walk through pain that you choose like a Crossfit class, but it’s another level of pain when you keep trying to do the right thing, yet you suffer—not in spite of obedience, but because you are living for God.
My kids have been trying to scare me recently. They like to jump out at me from around the corner when I’m least expecting it and yell in my face. One of my kids is almost as big as I am now. When an overgrown 13-year-old screams in your face unexpectedly, it doesn’t usually go well. As a result, several of these moments have ended with tears and apologies, I’ll let you guess who was crying and who was apologizing.
Sometimes our trials catch us by surprise, too, don’t they?
Peter told us we shouldn’t be surprised. The suffering we face is not strange. Just look at the book of Acts, just look at church history, just fix your eyes on Jesus. Almost every person God uses greatly is wounded deeply. It feels so unjust. Here I am trying to live for you, God, and you can’t make it easy on me?
Nope. It won’t be easy. But there is a friendship waiting for you at the end of the rope of suffering. Jesus is the one who walked all the way up to Golgotha to display the love of God to the world. When you suffer for Him, you can be thankful and filled with joy because you get a new label—PARTNER with Jesus. You get an upgrade, and God gets another partner is this glorious mission of redeeming the world with the Good News.
I know that this journey of hope is hard. I have whined my way through my fair share of difficulties. Peter’s words have recently been a great source of hope. After more than 25 years of actively following Jesus, I still need a daily reminder: Don’t be surprised when it gets hard.
He meets us in the fire. The faithfulness of God will meet you in the fire. You might feel the heat, but you don’t have to get singed. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. Remind your soul that you will endure by the grace of God. Your redeemer is coming, and He has a reward in HIs hands. What a wonderful joy that will be when He is revealed for the whole world to see!
When I first started feeling the suffering for Jesus it felt strange until I read this passage one day. I didn’t feel so alone and everything started to make sense not to say it was easy to accept at least I wasn’t alone this passage made me reflect on the sufferings of our past brothers and sisters, and it was comforting. Another thing that was comforting, that I reflect on sometimes is a week or so ago you mentioned that you have been suffering or going through trials for decades (not sure if I’m quoting that to t he exact) hearing you share this really helped. Its been decades that I have not felt like myself and the trials are still here on a Dailey. I ask when will it end only God knows. I trust his plan I’m comforted knowing my Brothers and Sisters are going through this with me, I’m not alone.
Come Lord Jesus Come all power, glory and, honor are yours now and forever Amen!
Deeper friendship with Jesus… I really hope that’s what I can say I’ve gained on the other side of these trials. May it not be said of me that these trials made me bitter or jaded or pessimistic. May they draw me closer to Christ and make me more like Him.
Thank you Pastor Andy! How apt this message is, in this time of need for so many. May God Bless everyone in their times of suffering, the very definition of Hope we all need.
How I long for a resilient faith that can weather the storms and the daily grind. I know that we will always have some level of pain or discomfort on this earth, but I still long for heaven on earth, even though I know better. Lord until that glorious day comes, help me to walk through the fires with a fiery faith that endures, with hope.
Thank you Pastor Andy! ??
What a great reminder to walk through our valleys with bold and audacious faith that fuels off of Hope and God’s love. So we can come out of our valleys with a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father; and a softer, kinder, more empathetic heart for others.
AMEN! This is so good. Couldn’t help share it with some friends. Thank you Pastor Andy for the reminder and encouragement that our trials are not necessarily wrong or a sign of us doing wrong. But we should focus on God and his faithfulness and lean on him in all things, remembering our rewards are not here on earth but in heaven. Life is but a vapor… Lord, help me live for eternity!
Suffering for doing good has been a part of my journey, but I especially saw it among the persecuted Christians I journeyed alongside in Indonesia and Singapore. It is hard to see Christians get beaten by their families, kicked out of their homes, locked up as prisoners for weeks and months, and have their lives threatened. However, I saw how much love they had for Jesus, how intimate their experiences with Jesus were in some of these life-threatening moments, and the special grace God gave them to stand in these trials. Suffering for Jesus is an honor, and it has been for 2,000 years.
I do get being hated by relatives. Sabotage any relationship you have. You can’t say anything because no one believes you that someone can be that sick.
“When you suffer for Him, you can be thankful and filled with joy because you get a new label—PARTNER with Jesus. You get an upgrade, and God gets another partner is this glorious mission of redeeming the world with the Good News.”
– Jesus and I are the ultimate power couple. Pastor Andy, thanks for the reminder that my suffering to do good is not in vein but for God’s greater glory. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13
New label partner, love it! Let my eyes be fixed on Him, the author and perfecter of my faith. So thankful for the One who loves me and calls me chosen!
Amen & Thank you Pastor for your words. It is very comforting to know that Jesus is with all of us during this season of hardship. Let us not loose focus on him. May he over fill our hearts mind & soul with faith & hope as we all journey through this season of trials.
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