August 5 I Thursday
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” —Philippians 3:10-11
When we get to know a person, it is often under pleasant circumstances. But when Paul tells us he wants to know Christ, it is through “participation in His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). What in the world does he mean? The popular notion is to reverse this, where we want Jesus to share in our sufferings. In wonderful ways, Jesus does, but this is not what Paul is talking about here.
To know Christ, we ought to share in His sufferings. This has nothing to do with making any contribution to His atonement, Him suffering vicariously on behalf of us on the cross—we can add nothing to that. Rather, to know the power of Jesus’s resurrection life means we are not exempt from suffering, but are equipped for suffering. Paul declares, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Philippians 1:29). The phrase, “it has been granted to you,” does not mean that God is indifferent to our sufferings. He is never indifferent to our sufferings; on the contrary, He equips us for our suffering. If we are not suffering at this moment, enjoy it while it lasts, because inevitably, suffering is a part of life.
We often hear people talk about how to enjoy, cope and overcome our sufferings, but how often do we hear people talk about how to rejoice in our sufferings? Paul expresses, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We can go into suffering, with a confidence in God to work out His purposes, because suffering produces all kinds of qualities that we would never develop when things are going well.
I had a friend who suffered from Legionnaires’ disease, where all the muscles of his body became increasingly incapacitated until eventually, he was unable to swallow and breathe. He was going through a process where his body was becoming less and less able. Once, I emailed him to see how he was doing and he wrote back, “I have not found Christ to be my healer, but I have found Christ to be my sustainer.” There are times when Christ is our healer and we rejoice in those occasions, but our confidence in every occasion is that He is our sustainer.
In whatever situations we face, may they be a beautiful reminder for us that our suffering allows us to know Christ deeper. May we approach suffering with this spirit of humility and submission that enables us to go through the most grueling and horrendous of circumstances because Christ is our sustainer.
Prayer: Dear Jesus Christ, I will choose to rejoice when I am going through suffering, knowing that You are using it to produce in me perseverance, character and hope. No matter what I am going through in life, I know You are my sustainer. Thank You, Lord.