REASONS FOR SUFFERING
There are two main reasons for a Christian’s suffering: suffering for righteousness’ sake and suffering for sin.
1. Suffering for sin
Peter warns us not to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a busybody in other people’s matters (1 Pet 4:15), since God is righteous and will not allow a sinner to go unpunished (Nah 1:3; Ex 34:7; Num 14:18).
If we sin, there are two possible prospects: punishment during our lifetime or everlasting condemnation.
No credit can be given for suffering patiently in punishment for our wrongdoings (1 Pet 2:20a). Instead, this kind of suffering simply serves to underline the fact that every single choice of ours has a consequence. This echoes Paul’s message: “he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8a; Prov 22:8). The result of this corruption is to suffer punishment. This is a divine principle that we cannot ignore. Consequently, if we persistently satisfy the desires of our flesh, we do not only commit grave sin, but also mock God and despise His grace.
Once we have sinned, repentance is the only way forward. If we cover or hide our sins, we will not prosper, but if we confess and forsake them, we will receive mercy (Prov 28:13). Therefore, we can only obtain God’s forgiveness if we truly confess with our actions. No matter how painful it may be, we must resolutely humble ourselves to suffer the shame of our transgression (Ps 38:18). If we do not, the weight of sin will become more and more unbearable (Ps 38:17) and eventually drain out every ounce of energy needed to live a normal life in the Lord.
In addition, we must stop repeating the same wrong. The more we indulge in the same sin, the heavier the punishment and the harder it will be for us to shake off sin. Subsequently, we may develop a rebellious resistance to change.
Thus, our acts of repentance must be genuine and from the heart. Any change of heart must reflect the teachings of the prophet Joel: “Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning” (Joel 2:12–13).
[To be continued...]