The Lord is always working out His purposes, and those purposes include our salvation, our sanctification, our being His alone. Our suffering is part of His purposes, and it doesn’t necessarily mean there was sin. Jesus suffered and was sinless. He suffered for the sake of righteousness and we can join Him in His suffering.
When we suffer for the sake of righteousness, it can be because of hardships that come from obeying, such as living in a poor area to be a missionary. Suffering for the sake of righteousness can also be persecution. Persecution is being wrongly treated because of your faith. It is to be expected in the life of a believer.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Read what Paul has to say about suffering.
Philippians 3:10 (BSB) I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
What do you think of Paul saying he wanted to know the fellowship of Christ’s suffering? Can you pray that? Read the next verse and see how suffering is considered essential for the believer.
Romans 8:17 (BSB) And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Suffering is the condition in the verse above. If we want to be heirs with Christ and receive our glorified bodies and be raised with Him, we must suffer with Him.
Peter speaks a lot about suffering. He takes it as a matter of course, not something to be sought after, for sure, but something we can be grateful for nonetheless.
1 Peter 3:14-17 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Peter mentions rejoicing. Jesus calls us blessed when we are persecuted.
Matthew 5:10-11 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
We are blessed. Here is the next verse from Matthew 5 and one other about our response to persecution, suffering for the sake of righteousness.
Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets which were before you.
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Lesson Point: We join Christ in His suffering for the sake of righteousness. We can rejoice in suffering!
Challenge Question: We don’t seek after suffering. People can even make an idol out of suffering. However, we can be thankful for our trials. God is working out His good in us and bringing Himself glory. Can you recognize any time you were persecuted? If you haven’t rejoiced about it, seek God’s help to see how you can rejoice and be glad for it. If you can’t recognize any time when your suffering was a result of righteousness, ask God if you are missing something of living righteously. The righteous will suffer persecution. One note on this: it doesn’t have to look like it was directly about your faith. Jesus was accused of not paying His taxes. That doesn’t sound like religious persecution, but they were coming against Him because of who He was and the truth He was teaching.