When the Lord calls us to serve Him, our hearts are overjoyed. We are excited and eager to do our best. Eventually, our excitement can get worn away by the daily grind—irritations when things don’t go our way, disappointments with setbacks and problems, and conflicts with friends and coworkers.
If we are not careful, we can get to a point where we feel like we can’t take it anymore. Without a change within us, we either start fighting for our rights, or we quietly walk away hurt and disillusioned.
If we began with willing and sincere hearts, how do we arrive at a place where we are ready to walk away?
Could it be that we failed to arm ourselves correctly for the spiritual battle we entered, as Paul describes in Ephesians? If our answer is yes, what are we still missing?
I believe our answer is found in 1 Peter 4:1. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind” (1 Peter 4:1). He speaks of the same mind that Paul described in Philippians 2 where he says that Christ set aside His position and willingly became a humble slave—suffering even unto His death on the cross.
Christ did not suffer during just His three years of public ministry or the last few days of His life when He was crucified. He suffered throughout His life on earth. From birth to the cross, His life was full of pain, loneliness and constant misunderstanding. He was “despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
Does that mean we should seek out beatings and martyrdom? No. But, the Lord wants us to approach our service willing to suffer just as He did, so circumstances, possessions and other people can’t frustrate and discourage us. He wants us to arm ourselves with a mind to suffer.
Jesus’ life is our model in this area: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
His own family members said He was out of his mind (see Mark 3:21).
The religious community misunderstood Him, and said He was demon-possessed.
His disciples didn’t understand Him.
He chose to suffer in the flesh by saying “no” to Himself. He never fought for Himself to defend His rights. He had willingly given them up. He was able to say, “Not My will, but Thine,” embracing the cross to fulfill His Father’s will.
But what was the reason for Christ’s suffering and death? It was to redeem mankind. So, it should be with us. We can become agents of redemption only if we are willing to embrace suffering in the flesh—choosing to deny ourselves and our own desires.
My dear friend, if you want to finish strong in your service to the Lord, then you must make a deliberate decision to arm yourself with a mind to suffer as Jesus did. It is never easy for our flesh when we choose to spend time alone in prayer, fast for several days, give up certain material possessions or perhaps follow the Lord’s leading to a difficult mission field. But it’s a choice we make for others.
Throughout his days as a disciple, Peter battled for his rights and the number-one position on the team. But in his letter, he tells us, in essence: “Brothers and sisters, take Jesus as your example. The moment you remove yourselves from this reality, the devil will take advantage of you. And all of a sudden, relationships break down, and revenge, bitterness and unforgiveness will take hold of you. Don’t fight, don’t argue, don’t look for the first place for yourself. Don’t look for anything. Always follow Him who suffered for you. This is the secret of staying in the battle” (see 1 Peter).
And when we do this, nothing—no circumstances, disappointments, financial problems, misunderstandings or shortcomings of leaders and co-workers—will be able to take us out of the battle!
Paul suffered as well as he did not understand what he did. For what he wanted to do he did not do, but what he hated he did. This is real and constant suffering. And only through God’s abiding grace are we able to overcome.