I have a friend who says God wants us to suffer for His name’s sake. The scriptures he uses to back up what God means by suffering are Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 3:17 and 1 Peter 4:19. Can you explain the context of suffering that this gentleman is speaking of?
People who try to assert that God’s wants us to suffer for His name’s sake always puzzle me because I’ve never heard anyone give even one good reason why He would want this. The most common answer is “to make us better Christians”, but Hebrews 10:12-14 says from God’s perspective we’re already perfect, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), as righteous as He is (2 Cor. 5:21). Is there any amount of suffering that could make us better prepared to spend eternity with Him than what He’s already done?
In Philippians 1:29 Paul was referring to the Christians in Philippi being deprived of their jobs because all the trade unions were dedicated to pagan gods. This has been a constant in various parts of the world throughout the Church Age, but it’s not because God has ordained it, it’s because the evil one has always opposed Christians and during this age, he is in control here (1 John 5:19).
In 1 Peter 3:17, the context is being criticized for good behavior. Peter said if you’re going to be criticized for your behavior, it’s better that it happens because of good behavior than bad behavior. And 1 Peter 4:19 continues the same train of thought; being insulted because of the name of Christ. Just about every Christian has endured some of this at one time or another, but none of it is because God wants it. It’s because the world is an evil place.
By using these passages, people are blaming God for the evil in this world, when it all came about due to our disobedience.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world (John 16:33). He could have said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because you will have the last laugh.” And Paul said, “Our present suffering is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). These verses help us keep things in perspective.