But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (1 Peter 4:15–16 KJV)
Christ’s life and the scriptures teach us plainly that God uses human suffering to bring glory to His name, fulfill His purposes or mature our character. However, scripture also shows us that the are ways we suffer which God does not want. For sake of clarity, I will loosely classify Christian sufferings into six types and give them labels: persecutory, ministerial, permissive, universal, consequential, and infantile.
Peter describes persecutory suffering as “suffer as a Christian.” It is enduring hardship or difficulty because of our faith in Christ. We should expect persecution as Christians (2 Tim. 3:12). An example is a woman losing her job because she refused to have an affair with an ungodly boss because of her love and obedience to Jesus. Similar to persecutory suffering, ministerial sufferings are the distresses, griefs, or sorrows we endure because of the work we do for Christ. An example is ministers thrown in jail for preaching the Gospel. Permissive suffering is the kind that God allows( such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh) for special purposes: either to mature our character or for some special divine purpose. As you can imagine, caution is needed here as it is so easy to wrongfully classify our sufferings as such when God had no such intentions.
Universal sufferings are the problems we face, which are common to all human beings after the fall. For example, if you are married and have a family, there are some specific sufferings you will have to endure( 1 Cor. 7:28). Similarly, consequential sufferings are the things we suffer because of our wrongs, sins, or foolish behavior. God, speaking through Peter 1 Peter 4:15-16, clearly tells us He does not want us to suffer in this way. An example is a Christian brother who smokes, dies after suffering miserably from lung cancer, and leaves his wife and children in anguish; sadly, all too often, we often blame God, if we cannot find someone else to throw the blame on, including ourselves.
The last way we could suffer as Christians is infantile suffering. In this type of suffering, we endure sorrows and grief for things Christ’s work has already delivered us from, but we do not enjoy because we are simply not yet mature in faith and spirit. So we can suffer because we are spiritually immature and unable to enjoy what Christ Himself suffered to make available to us. Paul describes this beautifully in Galatians 4:3. For example, God has abundantly forgiven our many sins in Christ; but we could suffer needlessly from shame, guilt, and condemnation if we do not understand, believe or grasp this truth. Similarly, physical healing is clearly ours in Christ, but we all know how we continue to suffer today as Christians under the torturing hands of sicknesses.
In summary, believers can suffer in different ways; some of these ways glorify God (persecutory or ministerial) while others only cause us unnecessary pain and sorrow.
Can you think of one example of consequential or infantile suffering in your life as a Christian?
Apply the Word
Let this brief devotional open your eyes to this essential and sometimes confusing subject of Christian suffering. Do not suffer unnecessarily.
Ask the Lord to help you not waste your life suffering for the wrong cause.
- No questions about God’s Will
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