"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." - 2 Tim. 2:12
IT IS EVIDENT in all the experiences of the children of God as recorded in the Bible, that they all suffered in many ways. It is also evident in the experiences related by God's children in this age that suffering is yet common. They are all experimentally acquainted with grief, temptations, persecutions, tribulations and all manner of suffering. Job was afflicted in body and had all earthly possessions taken from him. All the Israelites suffered under Egyptian bondage. David was sorely oppressed and conscious of his great sins. Paul was beaten with many stripes and was made to exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Yes, this suffering is necessary, but why?
We do not suffer in order to merit a home in heaven, because Jesus fulfilled the law to a jot and tittle for us. Therefore, it is solely upon His merits that we shall inhabit that place prepared for His saints in after life. He has merited our salvation in heaven by His obedience.
We do not suffer in order to merit blessings in time for these were included in the "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" that was given to us by the Father through the merits of Jesus. These blessings that we enjoy in time are not merited by us as Paul says, "By grace are ye saved [in time] through faith; and that [faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.
We do not suffer to satisfy justice; nor to merit any blessing in time; nor to gain a home in heaven. We suffer because it was appointed unto us to suffer; God appointed to us this suffering just as He appointed Paul to suffer as an apostle, a preacher and teacher of the Gentiles (1 Tim. 1:11,12). In 1st Thessalonians 3:3 we read, "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." So then, this suffering comes by the appointment of God. It was also appointed unto Jesus to suffer and as it was necessary for Him to have suffered so it is necessary that we suffer. Paul reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered (Acts 17:3). It was not only necessary that Jesus suffer because of our sins, but it was also necessary in order to learn obedience. Paul wrote to the Hebrews concerning Jesus, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). So Jesus was taught obedience through suffering. We learn obedience by the things we suffer.
Paul told the Phillippian brethren, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil. 2:29). Even the suffering of God's children is a gift. It is a valuable gift for it teaches obedience. We are made obedient through suffering. Paul did not preach the gospel for filthy lucre's sake nor for any glory for He said, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16.) The sufferings that Paul experienced drove him to obedience. God is a perfect Teacher and will make His children obedient as it is said in Psalms 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."
How could we have believed that Jesus was the Christ had we never suffered? It took the sufferings of trials, heartaches, disappointments, vexation of our natural spirits, and failures in all our undertakings to teach us that we were not capable of saving ourselves and to make us to cry to some power other than ourselves to save us. Thus, by this suffering God taught us faith. How could we believe in an all-wise sovereign God had we not suffered so many disappointments to teach us that we are at best but vanity and foolish, and to teach us that "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"? By these experiences God teaches that there is a power that is sovereign and worketh all things after the counsel of His own will and no power is able to withstand Him.
It takes the sufferings that we experience to teach us daily that we are nothing – yea, less than nothing and vanity. This suffering is necessary to keep us humble and dependent upon the grace of God. This suffering makes us to be constant in prayer to the God of Israel for His mercies. We cry unto Him daily for His continued mercies, realizing that we do not merit anything but His hot wrath. If justice were meted out to us according to that we deserve, hell would be our doom.
Now we are comforted with this thought, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." Oh, blessed thought! Paul reckoned in his letter to the Roman brethren, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). Now we experience sufferings; then, we shall experience glory. Now we experience death; then, we shall experience life. Now we experience sin; then, we shall experience holiness. Now we experience foolishness; then, we shall experience wisdom. Now we experience hope; then, we shall experience reality.
No other people suffer as the children of God suffer. No other people has experienced that pure heart that teaches that the best of man's righteousness is but filthy rags in God's sight. No other people are convinced that without Him we can do nothing. Other people conclude that they have some power vested in them upon the volition of their own free will. They think that they can, at least, accept or reject. We would be of the same opinion were it not for the sufferings that we experience that teaches us otherwise. This lesson is learned through suffering. May God be praised for blessing us with suffering to keep us humble and submissive to His will and at each other's feet.
Elder E. J. Lambert
"Tried in the Furnace" Pgs 76 – 79