by Rev. Joda Collins
In Philippians 3:10, the Apostle Paul makes a threefold statement about the his hopes and dreams for his life. First he states that he wants to "know Christ." This, I think, is the heartfelt desire of every sincere Christian. However, it is one thing to know "about" Christ and another thing, entirely, to "know the person" of Christ. While it may be every sincere Christians desire to "know Christ," the reality is that only through a surrender of our will to the will of Christ can we get to know him well. A close relationship with Christ is not the result of only a "desire" for such a relationship, but the result of a "commitment" to follow Christ. In addition to an action of the mind and more than a condition of the heart, entering into an ongoing sweet personal realtionship with Jesus Christ is a commitment of one's will. It is hard work every day. Are we willing to do the "work" to maintain a close relationship with Jesus?
Also, the Apostle Paul states the he wants to, "know the power of His resurrection." The power that brought Jesus from the tomb is the power of God. With such power we can live above habitual sin, enjoy vibrant ministries and experience spiritual victories. Yes, yes, yes, I want to "know" the power of God. Every sincere Christian wants that power.
However, Paul longed for something else. He wanted to experience the kind of suffering that Jesus experienced. Almost everyone of mature age knows that one of the fastest and most effective ways to "bond" with another person is to go through difficult times together. Paul knew this. He longed to "bond" with Jesus as his Lord and friend. He knew that suffering in the ministry for Christ would bond him to Jesus fast and sure.
I have a three questions for you. First, are you willing to do the difficult work it takes to know Christ? Second, do you want to live in the power of God? Third, do you welcome suffering for Christ as a friend welcomes another friend?
I have some good news for you. No one has to "seek suffering." Jesus suffering came as a result of serving God. All we have to do is serve God with a pure heart and suffering will come. "...all that...live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer...." 2 Timothy 3:12.
When suffering comes, as a result of living for God and doing His will, welcome it as a friend. If you cannot do that on an emoitional level, at least, do it on a conscious level. Suffering for Christ is God's shortcut to a wonderful relationship with Jesus and a powerful enabling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Suffering will not be forever. When God's purpose for suffering is fulfilled, the suffering will end. In addition, the difficulty will not exceed God's power to endure.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were thrown into the furnace as a result of their commitment to and service for God (Daniel 3). However, it was in the furnice where they walked and talked with Jesus in a way they never experienced before. When they came out of the fire, then, their efforts for God yielded great fruit. The King proclaimed, throughout the land, the greatness of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego! (http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/2703.htm).
Let us not be fearful of or concerned about suffering for Jesus. Let us be concerned if we do not suffer for Christ. May we proclaim with the great Apostle Paul, "I want to know (experience)...the sufferings of Christ." By the way, that is, largely, what made the Apostle Paul, "great."
Rev. Joda Collins