Keith Evans on the Uniqueness of Christian Suffering

We often hear that Christians do not suffer any more than non-Christians—that suffering, humanly speaking, is the same whether one is a believer or an unbeliever. The notion, of course, is that hardships are a human experience and misery is no respecter of persons. But if we think about this notion a bit more critically, we can easily see that there are additional sufferings afforded to the believer that are not part of the experience of the unbeliever. Three immediately present themselves in the Scriptures:

  1. We are chastened by our heavenly Father for our sin (cf. James 5:14-15, to see an instance where particular sin of the believer results in particular suffering). The orphaned or illegitimate child is not disciplined by God, since the Father only disciplines those whom he loves and those who are his own (Hebrews 12:6, 8). Therefore, in this life, we have additional elements of suffering than the unbeliever, because our Father in heaven loves us and corrects us, as any good father does.
  2. Unbelievers do not suffer persecution, nor do they suffer for righteousness-sake, as the Lord says of the Blessed Ones in Matthew 5:10-12. This is an element of suffering that the unrighteous simply cannot experience, for this unique suffering is afforded only to the righteous in Christ. It is one thing to suffer as an evildoer, but it is altogether different (and blessed!) to suffer as one who bears the name of Christ, as Peter says to the disbursed and persecuted church of his day (1 Peter 4:14-16). After all, we servants should expect to experience additional sufferings since we are united to our Master (John 15:20).
  3. The believer is also uniquely “filling up the sufferings of Christ on earth” (Colossians 1:24). There is an apportioned amount of suffering for Christ’s Body prior to his return, in order that the looming final judgement will be adequately deserved. Much like God said to Abraham in Genesis 15:16, his descendants would have to wait to enter and purge the Promised Land, because the “sin of the Amorites is not yet complete.” So too, the suffering of Christ’s Body is not yet filled up, and the Judgement not yet warranted. If God is crushing Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20), it only follows that the Great Serpent is simultaneously striking the Body of Christ’s heel (Genesis 3:15), even as he is trodden under foot.

In all of the above, you can find phrases that suggest that these unique sufferings are “afforded to the believer” or even produce “blessings” in the life of the believer. While there is an additional costliness to the Christian life, God ensures that even these costs serve to bless and strengthen his people (Romans 5:3-4 and James 1:2-4).

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Source: Church Leaders