– James H. Aughey
Many Are the Afflictions of the Righteous
Everyone, either saved or lost, has afflictions in this life, but the righteous person, or the one who has repented and trusted in Christ, may have many more than others. Here is why I say that. Psalm 34:19 gives both the good news and the bad news about this, saying, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” First of all, there are many, not a few, afflictions. The good news is that the Lord delivers them out of all of them, but He doesn’t say how long it will take. The psalmist saw even the good in the afflictions, writing, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Why were the afflictions good? They brought him or her to learn of God’s statutes, and this leads to immortal or eternal life and glory because God’s Word points us to Christ. He goes on to say why it was good to be afflicted: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67), so the afflictions point us to God and make us desire to both know them and to obey them.
Suffering and Glory
Paul actually wrote that “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1:24a). But why? It is for “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24b). When we suffer with other Christians, we “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3). Many of the faithful departed and mentioned in the so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 suffered for God’s glory. Paul seemed to see the connection between suffering or affliction and glory, as he wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). The suffering will pale in comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us someday. Peter agrees and wrote, “Inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13) for “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17). In fact, “if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14).
Christ’s Suffering Glorified God
If we share in Christ’s suffering, we can rejoice and be glad “insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13) “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19). When we suffer for Christ’s sake, it is according to God’s will. If we share in Christ’s sufferings, we can rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed to us in the kingdom. We should never be surprised by suffering, “for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21).
We suffer according to God’s will. It is our calling to suffer, and every one of us will suffer to some extent if we are following Christ because “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). We may likely suffer in persecution, but we live with a hope that is certain and that all our sufferings and afflictions are simply conductors to immortal life and to the glory that is to be revealed someday.