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It's really hard for the flesh to accept, but as I go through my trials and sufferings, I realize more fully and understand God a little bit more.  While unbelievers go through suffering as a result of punishment and because of curses caused by sins, believers in Jesus Christ go through suffering as a means of perfecting them.  The natural eye cannot see and understand this because to the flesh, suffering is suffering and to be avoided at all cost. 

I notice, however, that as we go through suffering, we think of God more and more and we repent more and more.  The harder the suffering, the more we seek God.  We even become obsessed with God.  We become more aware of our sinful nature and shortcomings.  As a result, we grow spiritually day by day.  There is no other thing that can catch your attention the way sufferings through fiery trials can.  Think of it - even Jesus, who was already perfect, went through forty days and nights without eating, stayed among the wild beasts, and was tempted of the Devil in preparation for His ministry.  Mt. 4:2; Mk. 1:13.  He endured the cross for the glory that was ahead of Him.  Heb. 12:2.

The apostle Paul also suffered many things for the glory that would be his when he finished his course.  Philippians 3:12, he says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect. . . ."  Paul had already gone through many trials and sufferings.  2 Co. 4-10; 11:23-30.   In Philippians 3:14, he says, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."   He knew that there was a crown of righteousness laid up for him in heaven.  At the end of his course, Paul knew that he had made it through.  "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."  2 Ti. 6-8. 

"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Phil. 1:21.  It didn't matter if Paul lived or died.  He had given his life to Christ.  He obeyed God and went through many sufferings - including much physical pain.  It is believed by many scholars that the "thorn in Paul's side" was a painful eye disease that constantly "weeped" and he was in much pain because of it.  Besides that, it made him look grotesque.  "And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?  for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me."  Gal. 4:14-15.

Some Christians are suffering and have been for a long time, and don't know why.  Imagine a believer in Jesus being sick for five years and things are getting worse and worse.  The apostle Peter said, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you..  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."  1 Pet. 4:13.  Why?  because God's glory is being shared with you.  "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."  Ro. 8:18. 

We are perfected through sufferings.  If the believer who suffered for five years had, instead, died five years ago, his place in heaven would be assured, but at a much lower level.  As a Christian suffers and is perfected, the glory that is Christ's is being poured into him.  At the end of the five years or so, when the Christian gets to heaven, he will rejoice because of the greater glory that shall be revealed in him.  "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."  Ro. 8:17.  Do you see it?  As Christians, we do not suffer without reason or as punishment.  Jesus already took our sufferings and paid the price for us.  It is for our own glory and for the glory of God!  We suffer because God loves us and wants to share His glory with us, and the only way to get our attention is through chastening, scourging, trials and sufferings.  The flesh hates it, but the spirit yearns to see His glory, not only in Him, but in us too.  A Christian that goes through much suffering, will find much more glory in heaven, if only we trust God.  The sufferings are of short duration, compared to our coming glory in eternity.

Imagine that you are in a crowd worshipping Jesus on the throne and He says, "Who are there among you who would be willing to suffer in the flesh for a short time on earth (who knows what "short" means?) in exchange for a crown of glory, seated on my throne throughout eternity?"  How many hands would be raised? 

I pray that God will open up our eyes of understanding that we might rejoice in our sufferings.  "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."  1 Pet. 1:4-7.



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