Suffering Enables Us to Experience the Life of Grace
I had been experiencing the life of grace for several months when my Bible reading brought me again to the “thorn-in-the-flesh” passage of 2 Corinthians 12:1–10. [ “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” v.9]. I was familiar with the passage but had never seen its ties with the new life God had given me. When I read again that it was necessary for Paul to have a thorn in the flesh that he might live by grace, I was so shocked that I spoke to Paul. I said, “Paul, you are the man who taught us that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Now you are telling me I must suffer in order to live by grace.”
The life of victory I had been experiencing by reckoning and choosing seemed all I needed. Yet I could not argue with Paul. If Paul needed circumstances to keep him in the life of faith, so do the rest of us. In time, I discovered a companion statement of Paul that relates suffering to faith. As you read Paul’s statement, keep in mind that our sin problem is faith in ourselves–our know-it-all attitude. Here is the passage:
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9).
The statement is so clear, no explanation seems necessary. It constitutes another testimony by Paul that even he had to suffer in order to have victory over faith in himself that he might have faith in God.
The Christ Who Lives Through Us Is Hated by Our Generation
A third reason that we need to understand suffering if we are to continue in our newfound walk was explained by our Lord to His disciples just hours before His cruel death at Calvary. To prepare His followers for the sufferings they would endure at the hands of sinful men throughout their lives, Jesus says: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
People of the 21st century would respond to Jesus the same way those of the first century did if He were to come again in the flesh. With the exception of being in a different culture, His life would be the same–and the hearts of men have not changed.
Jesus does live in our 21st century culture. He lives “in” and “through” those who understand and live out their union with Him. Paul did not say “I am no longer living, but Christ is living in me” because he was a super saint. He said it because the Lord had revealed to him his union with Christ, and he was living out that union. When we live out that union, we can say, “I am no longer living, but Christ is living in me.”
When the world confronts Christ in us, it is responding to Him–not us. And their response to Him is often a response of hate. Consequently, we become the victims of theworld’s hatred. The depth of the world’s hatred of us has far deeper dimensions than even the world understands. The hatred of our Lord both during His earthly sojourn and in us is inspired by Satan.
We must understand that we ourselves cannot do Satan and his kingdom harm. Jesus can! When Satan knows that Christ is living through us, he, with much animation and agility, sets out to stop us. In his counterattack, he enlists every supporter available. Satan captivates the idle minds of those around us and fires all available ammunition. Because he is not only a liar but also a murderer, he always has “death” as an objective. He intends to destroy our Christian testimony and our impact for the cause of Christ.
Satan’s attack on believers is well-illustrated by the following experience of a pastor who had been living out his union with Christ for a few years. “A lot of things are going wrong in our church, and it looks like it’s all your fault,” said a deacon to his pastor. But because he somehow knew the facts, the deacon added, “But those of us who understand know it’s not your fault.” Fortunately, the pastor had been living by grace long enough to understand that God was using the tough times to increase the life of grace in him.
For a peace-loving person, it is hard to be the brunt of an increasing number of false accusations, words and looks of anger and hate and unexplained rejection. However, when we comprehend that it is the Christ within us who is the object of the hatred, we both understand and endure the pain and rejection. Furthermore, because it is for “Jesus’ sake,” we delight to be identified with Him in being “despised and rejected of men” [Isaiah 53:3; See Col. 1:24].
Part 2 of 3
David Kuykendall, Our Oneness With Christ: A Study in Living by Grace Through Faith, Revided edition, ch. 16, David Kuykendall Ministries, Dallas, Texas Copyright 2006. Used with permission. Available as en e-book at http://livingbygrace.org/