The purpose of suffering and tribulation unto death of the self-life is a mystery to most Christians today, the majority of them looking upon salvation as a means of being PRESERVED from the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the hour of evil’s power, but being regularly SUBJECTED to these things is largely the divine means for us being sanctified wholly and preserved blameless in spirit, soul and body.
The scriptures plainly show that there is a very painful process that one must ENDURE if they truly desire to walk on into the FULLNESS and perfection of their salvation. What this means is that our salvation involves NOT our preservation but rather OUR UNDOING and our progressive CHANGE into the likeness and image of the Christ.
We are therefore not called to hold fast to our present lives (what we are or what we were) but rather are called to be continually RENEWED by the transforming of our minds through fellowship with Christ in suffering and in tribulation. This, Beloved, requires that we BE FREELY WILLING to be changed and transformed according to GOD’S WAYS (whatever they may be) of making rough “lively stones” into perfectly shaped and polished stones made ready for the LIVING AND HOLY TEMPLE of the coming age and kingdom.
Beloved, to put it plainly; suffering (if triumphantly accepted) slays the self-life in that it delivers us from self-centeredness and it frees us to truly love God and others as we ought to. Suffering by itself does not contain the power to transform us, BUT FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST in trials, tribulations and sorrows contains within it sufficient power to bring about an “eternal weight of glory” in us which is nothing less than our TRANSFORMATION into a divine substance which shall forever remain as “glory” and shall never be shaken nor touched by fire.
This all said, let me say here that we have at least two basic ways available to us by which we may freely respond to any unavoidable or adverse circumstance in our lives. This, of course, is part of the limited free will which we have all been granted by our Father. Firstly, we can choose to respond in a daily death to the self-life and in the ACCEPTANCE OF SUFFERING, especially acceptance of that which is beyond any of our controllable circumstances. We are assured by the Word of God that these things can lead to a change from our present state of glory (and consciousness) unto an exceedingly high and eternal state of love and glory IF we learn to see and understand the purpose behind these things – the good that can come forth from them. We all need to complete our change of raiment by putting off that old vulnerable and corruptible nature and putting on the new armor of God so that we may enter into the coming and more glorious Kingdom unscathed as first-fruits unto the Father, and suffering WITH CHRIST is how we do this.
It seems to me that the apostle Paul was among the first to understand and WALK IN this truth that I am sharing with you here. We may not be called upon to suffer in the same manner as Paul, but nevertheless, we should be learning that God’s grace in our lives is sufficient for us in our trials and tribulation, and that our REAL STRENGTH is made perfect though OUR WEAKNESSES revealed in times of suffering. Nothing short of the acceptable newness of life brought about by this divine process will be accounted as worthy to attain that final conformity to the resurrection power of Christ.
As I have mentioned, there is also a basic ALTERNATIVE response to suffering, and this is that we can respond by RESISTING OR REJECTING any or all forms of it as being from “the devil” and apart from the will of God in our lives. This choice of action leads to an attitude of SELF-PRESERVATION though, wherein one can actually MISS OUT on God’s perfect will for their life now as well as MISS OUT on it for an unknown and undetermined time to come.
Frankly, I’ve experienced plenty of murmuring, complaining, resentment, frustration, self-pity and depression in the midst of my trials, and I realize now that this all only defaces the true purpose of them and it deters from getting at the true source of the problem. The resulting sorrows and sufferings can then become WASTED and in vain, only serving to prolong the final results that God intended by way of these things.
With all of this in mind, please also consider that we must be careful not to equate the physical state of people with their spiritual state, for this is a tactic often used by religious spirits to wrongly judge and condemn people who want nothing more than to give up all deceptive “love of the world.” Even many Christians today still think that prosperity, success and good health are indicative of a heart rightly related to God, but to be quite frank, I think that there is hardly a more deceptive doctrine today which hinders true transformation in God’s children. It’s not that these things are wrong for a child of God, but they are NOT to be our goal. Our goal is Christ in fullness, and the price for this is for us to willingly go through anything and everything necessary in order to bring us into the REALITY of this fullness.