As sojourners in this world, it is easy for the believer to become enamored by the things that the world offers us that increase our ease or comfort, position or prominence. We are in a material world and it is easy to be attracted by the material things in this world that appeal to our flesh and that delight our eyes. Against this allure of the delights of the eyes and the comforts of the flesh we must always vigorously wage war, for while these temptations appeal to our fallen flesh, there is no spiritual benefit to be had in these things.
Notice the complete absence of any commendation for these things in the New Testament. While the New Testament warns of the temptations of wealth and declares that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, there is not one single exhortation to acquire wealth and there is no encouragement to pursue ease or leisure or comfort. These experiences lead to self indulgence and to laziness and the experiencing of the world’s pleasures creates a dangerous desire for more of those pleasures. The New Testament warns the believer to avoid these things and to pursue righteousness instead. The world’s pleasures produce none of sanctification and none of the works demanded of the believer, but rather their pursuit wastes time and produces nothing of lasting value.
Suffering, on the other hand, is the context from which the gospel spreads. It is the suffering of the saints that proclaims to the world the infinite worth of Christ and is was the sufferings of Christ which provided the redemption needed by His followers. Suffering drives away pride and dispels indifference and replaces these things with humility and steadfastness. The temptations of the flesh are silenced and rendered impotent by suffering because the flesh itself hates the pain of suffering. But for the believer, God has provided His gift of suffering, when the believer can most closely identify with His glorious Savior and can experience what the Savior experienced. I can never know what it is like to speak to a hurricane and have the wind and the sea obey my command for a hush, for that will never happen. I cannot know the divine power of commanding a corpse dead four days and rotting to stride out of the tomb, for only God can do that. But I can know the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings. I cannot shoulder the Cross to die for mankind, but I can willingly take up my own cross and embrace the suffering that my King has graciously allowed me to know, so that I can fully know the inestimable worth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, suffering is necessary for the believer, for suffering is the furnace that hones our faith and that purifies us from our fleshly sins like hyssop. The believer, then, is not to shrink from difficulty and hardship and suffering, but is to embrace them as the cost and the reward for following Jesus Christ. Suffering makes me more Christ-like and gives me fellowship with the Lord. Embrace, then, your cross of suffering, knowing that it is a gift from the Lord that carries with it a great reward.