In Acts 4 and 5 we read about how the religious authorities persecuted and abused the apostles for their obedience to Jesus. This begs the question: How do they find joy in suffering? After all, joy isn’t a normal response when things are difficult. So what is it that makes these people able to thrive even under persecution?
In order to understand how this works, we can look for examples from the life of the Apostle Paul. Because Paul suffered so greatly, he thought a lot about the meaning of Christian suffering. He concluded that his suffering wasn’t a sign that God had abandoned him. On the contrary, his suffering was a reenactment of Jesus’ suffering. If he suffered for doing right as Jesus did, God would raise him in glory like he had raised Jesus.
Paul learns to endure suffering because he has learned to love the broken people in his churches like a parent. Paul gladly pays great costs for them to receive the spiritual benefits. In a similar way, Christian discipleship is learning to love others, unconditionally, that we love our own children. Then we will gladly pay the costs of sacrifice in order to see them reap the benefits. In that way, we can learn to experience joy in suffering because our suffering benefits someone we love.
Questions for Reflection
- For whom am I willing and unwilling to sacrifice?
- Can I think of a time when I’ve sacrificed and someone I loved benefited? How did that make me feel?
- What can I do to help me learn to love others? Do I have gifts and talents I can use to help them?
Other sermons in this series