No one seeks to experience suffering, yet many of us could testify that it was necessary for our personal sanctification. As we struggle through life, we see that the trials we experience drive us to need spiritual growth.
The Apostle Paul suffered for the Colossian church he loved. He also said that it was a part of how God was growing him and using such struggles to help grow the church’s faith.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church. 25 I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.Colossians 1:24-29
As we grow in Christ, suffering is unavoidable. We will struggle with our sinful tendencies, cultural backlash, and spiritual warfare. But as we suffer, we follow Christ’s example (1:24).
Christian suffering means receiving the attacks that the world would give to Jesus if He were still on earth. While no one enjoys suffering, it is an honor to be identified with Christ by receiving the attacks directed toward Him.
If not careful, suffering will slow us down from growing in Christ. That should never happen. Our mission is to present everyone as mature in Christ (1:28). When we suffer, we draw closer to Jesus and find the growth as necessary to endure.
As I look at my life and other believers, we have much work undone if thorough maturity is the goal. While it is a lofty goal, it is Christ’s commission. Jesus called us to make disciples – not converts (Matt. 28:19).
The purpose of any church should be to present every disciple as complete in Christ.
How do we do that? We proclaim Jesus as the hope of glory (1:27-28). We warn one another about the sinful dangers that could drag us away (1:28). We teach the complete wisdom of God contained within the Scriptures (1:28). As we work diligently with the power God gives generously (1:29), we gradually mature in Christ.
Suffering leads to sanctification. It drives us to Jesus, who grows us through such times. While you may not seek suffering, don’t overlook what you can learn through it.