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How to rejoice in suffering

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POSTED: September 13, 2010 10:04 a.m.
One of the least-popular requirements of Christianity is the act of suffering. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Ch.1:29, the Apostle Paul puts it very plainly, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, this verse took on new significance for those of us who profess Jesus Christ to be our personal savior. I believe the way we handle these last and evil days that we are living in is crucial to our growth. There are many who are on the fence of uncertainty. They’re just waiting to see if what we have been professing can sustain us in troubling times.
Friends, suffering comes in many forms. It basically is something that causes distress. Suffering can range from minor annoyances that we go through every day to major disasters that descend on us out of the blue and leave us devastated and broken.
According to Romans Ch. 5, the Christian response to suffering is to rejoice: “Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings.”
This is where many people take issue with God’s word. They say, “I can’t buy into that! Do you mean to say God is requiring me, when I am hurting and in pain, going through mental and physical torment, to be glad about it? What kind of man is Paul anyway?”
We should note that Paul isn’t the only one telling us to rejoice in tribulation. It happens to be the unanimous opinion of every writer of the New Testament.
Peter 4:12 says, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is coming upon you to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”
James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various tribulation.”
Even the Lord Jesus told us during his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are you when man revile you and persecute, and utter all manner of evil against you falsely for my name sake,” (Matthew 5:11-12).
In conclusion, here’s a story of a man: This man was going through great physical trouble. Even though one of his legs had been amputated, it did not thwart the course of his disease. He ultimately died because of it. Just a few days before his death, the man’s pastor visited him in the hospital and he said something to him that he never forgot.
The pastor said, “I never would have chosen one of the trials that I’ve gone through, but I would not have missed any of them for the world.”
That’s the definition of Christian suffering. Through our suffering, we gain something of supreme value, something — in retrospect — that we wouldn’t want to miss. But you wouldn’t have chosen it either.
That, my friends, is rejoicing in suffering.
God bless you.
 
Williams is the senior pastor at Bethel AME Church in Hinesville.
 

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