Not Only To Believe

Joni Eareckson Tada at Park Street ChurchImage by Rachel Ford James via Flickr
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him...
Philippians 1:29

On Sunday at SPH, the sermon was entitled Joy in a Hostile Culture and the reading was taken from Philippians 1. Paul is rejoicing in this chapter as he reflects on his partnership with the Philippians and how the gospel is advancing. As I was thinking how good it was to hear a whole chapter being read, the final few verses were cut, verses about the destruction of  those who oppose the gospel and how it is granted to us to suffer for Christ. I'm sure the effect of cutting those verses out made everyone pay careful attention to what had been missed, at least it did in my case!

I am pleased to say that the sermon didn't fail to address the issue of suffering, and the sermon is well worth listening to.  But it got me thinking about how we often avoid difficult questions like this, especially when we want to emphasise God's healing and victory. But the truth is that suffering and and joy go hand in hand when we are following a Christ who was a man of sorrows and calls us to be like Him.

I've recently been reading Joni Eareckson's last book A Place of Healing. Here is a woman who understands the theology of suffering, not because she has endlessly studied it, but because she lives it every day from her wheelchair, and currently from her bed of chronic pain. And in that place, her testimony is of joy and closeness to God. It is a challenge to me to bring my suffering to God and let Him use it for His glory and my benefit. In Joni's own words:

Pain is a bruising of a blessing, but it is a blessing nonetheless. It's a strange dark companion but, a companion if only because it has passed God's inspecting hand. It's an unwelcome guest, but still a guest. I know that it drives me towards a nearer more intimate place of fellowship with Jesus and so I take pain as if I were taking the left hand of God. Better that left hand than no hand at all. Perhaps the realisation of something so redemptive is healing enough.

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Pietro said…
Very good meditation. Jesus said, "whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27)
ChrisJ said…
Suffering should be a part of life for a Christian. It's not easy to take, but it is part of entering into His suffering. How else would we have any conception of what He suffered for us, just to give us LIFE!
Steve said…
I found this entry both challenging and inspiring. Thank you very much!
Barbara said…
Jesus did not come into the world to take us out of suffering but to fill it and us with His presence.
I know I have leart more through suffering that when things go great.
photowannabe said…
Selfishly I don't want to suffer but I know that god's Grace will see me through.
I hadn't heard anything about Joni for a long time. I didn't know she was suffering so.
I need to read that book.