If you have signed up to live faithfully for God, pain is part of the subscription. In other words, your problems are a privilege.
I have shared with you many of the times in my life when I have suffered immensely, often, of my own doing. Self-inflicted. Yeah, how's that for smart?
Before I gave my life to Jesus, I wasn't surprised that I would face consequences for bad choices and behavior. I guess I thought that once I asked Jesus to live inside me, I would be exempt from pain and suffering. That couldn't be farther from the truth. By closely adhering to the teachings of the Bible, we set ourselves up for rejection, mockery, loneliness, or betrayal. Suffering in some form is always going to be a part of being a true follower of Christ. Trusting Christ does not mean the end of your battles, it means the beginning of new ones. Before you stop reading and become thoroughly depressed, stay with me. I am about to give you a ton of encouragement and perhaps, even the best coping mechanism for life.
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Phillipians 1:29 NLT
This verse contains a double gift: to believe in Christ AND to suffer for His sake. Gift? Yes.
Believing and suffering are not mutually exclusive. One has to exist along with the other. We cannot have the joy of believing without the anguish of pain. Again, our perfect example, Jesus, did both and so must we.
The growth area here is how you choose to use your belief and respond to the moments of pain. Our response to pain proves what type of branch we are.
In my last post I said we were going to dig into John 15:1-5 Let's take the first two verses.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
You are a branch. Branches are cut or pruned. The good news is, you get to completely decide which you are. But from either - there is pain.
"Bearing fruit" is a phrase used to describe the outward actions that result from the inward condition of a person's heart. In our sinful nature, we bear things such as idolatry, jealousy, dissensions, and fits of anger. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…" (Galatians 5:22) As Christians, we
want to bear fruit in keeping with our relationship with God. We seek to do things outwardly that demonstrate that we have been made new in Christ. Bearing fruit in the Christian life is not about doing works or attempting righteousness in our own strength. Rather, it is about intentionally growing in our walk with Christ. When you are a branch that is cut off, you will know it because you will no longer be connected to Christ. You feel cut off and it's pain, with no purpose.
Branches that are bearing fruit are pruned. Pruning involves being cut; it may be painful, but it is for a purpose. If we are experiencing discomfort in the spiritual growth process, if we sense God calling us to a new challenge, or if we are experiencing the ridicule of others for the sake of our faith, it is most likely a part of the pruning process. If you are pruned then your connection with Christ will eventually become even stronger as God cuts away the excess in your life that is hindering your connection to Jesus. The pain, is a privilege of knowing him more intimately.
The obvious fact, however, is that God is going to cut us. This cut will either separate us from God as our sinful responses choose, or his cut will sanctify us so our aim of pleasing God will be more effective. Pain doesn’t prove anything. But when you are pruned, this proves God is working in your life as you grow to glorify him more. And if you are going to go through pain - and you will - go through it knowing that on the other side is a glory that only our Heavenly Father can give.