Apostle Paul writes; "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will
suffer tribulation." - (2 Timothy 3:12).
This same Apostle describes himself
in (1 Timothy 1:15) as, "the chief of sinners". From my biblical
studies, it would appear, that with the exception of Christ Himself, that
this Apostle was also the "chief of those who, suffer tribulation".
According to our text, it shouldn't surprise us that Paul would suffer
so much. After all, when we examine his life as a believer, we see
a man of true Godliness. Consider his humility; his zeal, his love
for Christ; his love for the church; and his love for the lost, both of
the Jews and the Gentiles, as laid forth in the Acts of the Apostles and
the Pauline epistles.
This is a man who, experiencially
understood the words of Jesus, when Christ said; "A disciple is not above
his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple
that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have
called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call
those of his household!" (Matthew 10:24-25).
Paul rejoiced in his participation
in the sufferings of Christ. Because he knew that the more he could
identify with the sufferings of Christ, the more he would experience the
glorious splendor that comes through fellowship with Christ. He didn't
expect better treatment from God's hand of providence than that of his
Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, and neither should we.
As Christians, we are tired of being
defeated by personal sins, the pressures of this world and the enticing
allurements of the evil one. We are always crying to one another
how we want to be more like Christ. We want to think pure thoughts and
have right affections; we want to resist temptation and mortify our personal
sins; we want the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding.
The same peace that Christ Himself demonstrated while sleeping in the hull
of a boat in the middle of a great storm. (Matthew 8:23-27).
We want all this and more!
It's right that we, as Christians
should desire these things. We are exhorted in the Scriptures to
pursue such things. Yet, so often we experience such little success
in our pursuit of Godliness. Why is this so? Perhaps it's because,
while we want Godliness, we shun tribulation!
Dear reader, we need to embrace our
sufferings and by faith, see them as a God-given vehicle to bring us into
a state of Godliness. By saying that we must embrace our trials and
tribulations, I'm not suggesting that it's wrong to pray for the removal
of trials, nor is it wrong to seek medical and other legitimate remedies
to alleviate our sufferings. Yet, when a trial comes upon us, we
must embrace it as God's all wise purpose for our lives at that moment,
and for as long as He sees fit for it to remain with us. For we can
rest assure, that any affliction given to a child of God, will accomplish
God's goodwill for our lives and that, it is designed to bring Him glory,
as His strength is demonstrated and made perfect through our weaknesses.
Surely we have a great cloud of witnesses
throughout biblical history to confirm this argument. (Hebrews 11:1-40,12:1).
Consider the lives of Job, Jacob, Joseph, Jeremiah, David, Peter, James,
Paul and many others. These men learned how to thank God for their
trials, because they experienced the fruit of Godliness which accompanies
patient endurance through trials. Not only did these men experience
the blessed fruit of Godliness in their mature years as believers, but
they also received the promise of the coming resurrection, which has been
granted to all believers on that great and final day.
Jesus saw the trevail of His soul
and was satisfied! (Isaiah 53:11). We must, like Jesus, look
beyond the present trials and sufferings we encounter and see the great
satisfaction that will come by obtaining a good conscience through a life
of faith and obedience unto our Saviour.
Paul writes in the 11th chapter of
First Corinthians: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." If
trials are the avenue to a life of Godliness, then let us strive to imitate
such men and women, as they display the character of Christ before us,
that we might also one day, say to our friends, "imitate me, just as I
also imitate Christ". Better still, let us consume every jot and
tittle of the gospel accounts of our Saviour's life. Let us study
Him, and by the help of the Holy Spirit become intimately and experiencially
acquainted with Him, that we might hear our Saviour say to us, "well done
My good and faithful servant"!