This past Sunday I felt guilty. After being up much of the night suffering from a severe case of the cold, I was starting to feel sorry for myself. My wife will tell you that I am not very good at being sick and she will also tell you that all weekend I was not much fun to be around. But before I was able to wallow for very long in self-pity, the Lord taught me a lesson.
After a mostly sleepless night, I arrived at church and prepared to teach our Sunday school class. For this particular class, we watched part of a video teaching on the life of William Tyndale (1492-1536). I do not intend to recount Tyndale’s life, but I will say that he was a remarkable man. Even though very few Christian’s know about him, his influence spreads far and wide, especially in the English-speaking world. I would encourage you to research his life on your own.
The reason I make mention of this is because Tyndale suffered greatly. He was ultimately martyred for his anti-Catholic views. The last year of his life was particularly difficult, beyond anything we can even begin to imagine. Some people even left our Sunday school room in tears after hearing his story.
About an hour later in my sermon, I quoted the apostle Paul as he describes his suffering:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was shipwreck at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
After reading this, I admitted to our congregation that I was feeling a little guilty at the time. Paul and Tyndale and countless others have suffer for the sake of the gospel. Yet all I was suffering from was a common cold – nothing major at all. I might also add that sickness is simply a natural result of the fall of man (Genesis 3), and not a result of suffering for the gospel. The pity party needed to stop and this was a good reality check for me.
Sometimes we are guilty of thinking that to be a “Christian” means we get a free pass from suffering. This is especially true of Christians in the Western world. But Paul didn’t think this way and neither should we. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaging in the same conflict that you saw I had and hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29) Paul knew that his Savior suffered and that he too would suffer. Why should we think any different?
But take comfort friend – suffering for the sake of the gospel is ultimately for our good. Paul writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) God will have His way in us and use our suffering for His good purposes (Romans 8:28). I hope and pray that we will come to the point where, like Peter and the apostles, we will be able to rejoice in being “counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).
And so may we have the courage to stand for the truth no matter what it costs us.