For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
– 1 Peter 2:19-21
How would Jesus approach this day if the only way He could live it was in your shoes?
That is, imagine that you had died last night and that Jesus was going to continue your life standing in for you – how would He live it?
In other words, what would your life be like today if you were to live it as Jesus would live it instead of how you’d live it as your old self?
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
– Galatians 2:20
Are you working on your reputation with God?
We all have a reputation with Him as sinners, but He’s giving us time to redeem that reputation.
Jesus died with a reputation on earth as being worthy of execution as a criminal. He was beaten, stripped, and mocked for the life He had led. His reputation in heaven, however, was a dramatically different one.
Are you willing to have your reputation with men suffer so that your reputation with God might improve? If so, you are thinking like Jesus.
“…be strong in the Lord…”
– Ephesians 6:10
The Lord does not want us to be spiritually weak. For this reason He gives us His word as manna for our souls. That is, He speaks…and we are strengthened.
He who said of Himself,
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
– John 8:12
also said of His followers,
“You are the light of the world.”
– Matthew 5:14
How can these things be? He is the source light and we are reflective light. That is, He is like headlights on a car; we are like the reflectors embedded in the road and on the roadside signs that only light up when headlights shine on them.
How does His source light come to shine on you? By looking to Him in faith – living each day in His presence. This is why the Scriptures say,
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
– Psalm 34:5
You reflect – and radiate – His light when you “see” Him with the eyes of your heart. Whenever you stop seeing Him this way, you stop radiating His light.
A definition of “radiate” is to “emit (energy, especially light or heat) in the form of rays or waves.” Our Lord Jesus intends that you should be “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3, emphasis added).
Therefore, look to Him and live before Him. Imitate Him. This is being strong in the Lord.
This is the way of the kingdom of God. It is a way we must practice each and every day to ever become good at it.
When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He means that we should mimic the pattern of His life – which is to humble ourselves in this life that we might be exalted in the life to come.
Jesus always avoided opportunities to be exalted in this earthly life. When the people wanted to make Him their king, He hid Himself. The time for His kingship would come later. This life was for service to others. And He tells us to imitate the way He lived.
As the apostle Paul wrote:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
– Philippians 2:3-8
We truly follow the Son of God as we adopt this pattern of living.
Suffering with Christ is suffering for the name of Christ. That is, it is suffering that comes to us because of our association with, and obedience to, Jesus Christ. We should not shrink from this kind of suffering, but rather we should embrace it.
We should welcome this kind of suffering because 1) it brings honor to the Lord’s name, and 2) because He promises to reward us for enduring it. The reward is great. The down payment on it is the comfort that comes almost immediately to our hearts in the form of peace and joy as we do His will.
Let us therefore meditate on this truth through the following scriptures. I have put “suffer,” its synonyms, and correlative terms (e.g. “complaint” implies some sort of “mistreatment”) in bold and trimmed some of the verses to help focus concentration on the theme of this meditation. Note that the verses come from both the Old and New Testaments. In Old Testament times, the value of suffering for God was not as fully appreciated as it came to be in the time of Christ. He Himself demonstrated in a dramatic way just how much benefit can come from “bearing up under sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19).
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…
– 1 Peter 2:21-23
If His suffering for us was an example, shouldn’t we follow it?
…bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
– Colossians 3:12
Paul is here making the same point that Peter did in 1 Peter 2:21-23 above, which is that Jesus is our example for how to deal with slights and offenses.
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
– 1 Peter 4:9
As He is hospitable to us in His creation without complaint (i.e. “not taking into account a wrong suffered” – 1 Corinthians 13:5), so we should be hospitable to each other in our respective parts of His domain without complaint.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
– Luke 6:27
This was what Jesus preached…and we see that He practiced what He preached. Therefore, whether we follow His instructions or His example, we will be adopting the same attitude and taking the same action.
..choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin…
– Hebrews 11:24-26
As Jesus followed this example of Moses, so we should follow the example of Jesus.
…the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.
– Isaiah 49:13
This comfort – righteousness and peace – comes to our souls through the Holy Spirit – “the Comforter.” This is the down payment on our reward for enduring this kind of suffering about which I spoke above.
Blessed be the God…who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
We needn’t fret about an increase in our sufferings, because if our suffering becomes abundant, then His comfort becomes abundant as well.
For the Lord…will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
– Psalm 149:4
Salvation is the process of healing in our souls – that soothing balm of peace and joy in our hearts.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
– Romans 8:16-17
Note that the inheritance – that is, the “reward” or “credit” or “glory” – comes only as we are willing to suffer for His sake. No suffering, no reward. Much suffering, much reward.
…I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
– 2 Timothy 2:10
See that the salvation – that is, the peace and joy – come in the moment, and then throughout eternity the glory shines. Thus our suffering for Him has benefits both in this life and in the one to come.
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
– 1 Peter 2:20
Note that it is suffering for Christ that has been our focus – not suffering that we have brought on ourselves by sin.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
– Acts 5:41
The apostles rejoiced not because what they were suffering was fun, but because they had some to see through Christ’s life that there were indeed rewards from God for such suffering.
that I may know…the fellowship of His sufferings…
– Philippians 3:10
The greatest reward is knowing that He is with us in our suffering for Him.
…”Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
– Acts 9:4
Jesus is here communicating that the persecution of His people is persecution of Him. Thus He and His people have “fellowship” those sufferings.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
– 2 Timothy 1:8
We join with Paul – and with all the saints, all the people of God from all generations – when we suffering for the good news of God in Christ.
…those…who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
– 1 Peter 4:19
Enduring this kind of suffering is an act of faith by a creature in his Creator. Thus we demonstrate to the rest of creation – that is, men on earth and angels in heaven – that our Creator is not only powerful, but that He is also righteous.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
– 2 Timothy 3:12
Let us always remember that the kind of suffering we have been thinking about in this post comes only to those who “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.” Therefore, let us never let this kind of suffering, or the fear of it, diminish our “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.” After all, that is the purpose for which Satan – the god of this world – inspires the suffering that comes our way. Let us therefore deny him his purpose, and remember always that Jesus said to us:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
– Psalm 45:7
The One who gave Himself for us loves righteousness and hates lawlessness; let us therefore imitate Him. For how can we say we love Him if we do not love what He loves?
The Bible teaches us that God’s desire has always been for people to do right – not necessarily that they act “religious.”
Jesus did not make a name for Himself by performing the animal sacrifices that were expected in his day, but rather by doing good – even when doing good required him to suffer.
Rituals are the province of false religions. Our Creator wants righteousness from us. Let us give it to Him.
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
– 1 Peter 4:19
The life of Jesus gives us two profoundly important takeways:
- His life reveals what God is like.
- It reveals what our lives should be like.
Therefore, let us imitate Jesus, knowing that the God to whom we are relating thinks and acts as He did.
These two simple truths are profound and powerful. You could spend your whole life practicing them…and well we should.