A friend of mine invited me for a program in his church – a megachurch in Nigeria. I heard the Gospel and stepped out and surrendered my life to Christ. I was told that I have been saved by Jesus and would from that day forward enjoy the dividend of salvation – blessings, good health, good money, good car, connections, and a trouble- and bondage-free life. I rejoiced as I walked home and experienced spontaneous sanctification and I craved to serve God with everything within me.
I was surprised that all the rosy promises did not work for me. I sold out my life for the Gospel and have preached Christ in 13 communities where no one has ever mentioned His name. Instead of a trouble-free life, my life was filled with sorrow, persecution, frustration, disappointments, deprivation, reproach, rejection and pain; but I had a conviction that I was on the right path. I have escaped assassination attempts and have stayed in the bushes without water and food for days. I have been arrested for preaching Christ where it is forbidden to mention His name. Many times, I returned sick after embarking on missionary journeys. I wondered why God allowed me to go through all these troubles even when I was zealously working for Him. I contemplated many times to quit the calling but something stronger than me kept me going. I prayed and fasted but there was no result until one day I decided to search the Scripture on the topic of the suffering Christian.
The Mystery Revealed
My eyes of understanding was illuminated as I began to search the Scripture on the doctrine of suffering. I would like to share my discoveries with Christians who are going through one suffering or the other and are wondering, why? I came to know that this is another side of Christianity that pastors are afraid to discuss with their members, and on this side lays the epicenter (cross) of Christianity. The doctrine of suffering has been completely ignored in our teachings and Bible study classes. I came to the knowledge that when we give our lives to Christ, we receive two gifts from Christ: (1) gift of salvation (2) gift of suffering (Philippians 1:29). The second is a gift because it is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ (Acts 5:41). Many Christians are not aware of this second gift because no one told them about it. We usually pick the first and leave the second. When we see Christians going through hardships and suffering, we usually attribute it to lack of God's love and favor. It is pertinent to note that no genuine believer is exempt from suffering because it is part of our calling (1 Peter 2:21).
I discovered that Christians are not only saved to experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, but also to have realistic and empirical knowledge of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). The church preaches the former but the latter is thrown to the waste basket. No one told me that there is a fellowship called suffering that I am supposed to partake in by virtue of my Christian belief. Most Christians are not aware of this and when they are enlisted into this fellowship, they grumble, cry, hate, quarrel and blame God – just like I did. In the course of my research, the Holy Spirit gave me insight that the power of His resurrection is what gives us access to signs and wonders, healing, deliverance, prosperity, while the fellowship of His suffering is what prepares us to enter the Kingdom of God.
Paul in Acts 14:22 exhorted new believers to be ready to suffer because that is the only way to get access to the Kingdom of God. How I wish someone had told me this before I embarked on my Christian journey. If they had, I would have gone very far by now. There was a day that I was coming back from a missionary trip from one of our remote mission fields. I looked back at the terrain that I passed through and thought of the water that I drank, the pain all over my body, the mosquito bites that I received, the risk that I took, and the dust that covered my body from head to toes. I could not say a single word but I picked up my pen and wrote in my diary the call to Christianity is the call to suffering; any contrary concept is an ideology from the pit of hell.
In Acts 9:16, Jesus called Paul and hinted to him that he was going to suffer greatly for the sake of the Gospel. If I had known earlier, I would not have wasted my precious time asking God questions and comparing myself with those who have decided to escape the Calvary road by propagating the doctrine of "name it, claim it and have it". This concept is the doctrine of Shamanism and it is from the pit of hell. According to John Piper, "Any Christian who runs away from suffering is on his way to hell fire". It is important for us to embrace suffering with joy (James 1:2). If we suffer for Christ, then we will be qualified to reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).
Now that I know that suffering is an essential part of my Christian life, I no longer avoid it. Rather I rejoice in it so that I can enjoy the strength of God when suffering has weakened me (2 Corinthians 12:9). I am also waiting for the revelation of His glory that will come as a result of the present time of suffering (Romans 8:18). I also have realized that I am unconsciously becoming obedient through what I have suffered (Hebrew 5:8). I have also observed that there are certain things that I used to do before but I do not do them anymore because suffering has humbled me and set me free from the power of sin (1 Peter 4:1). I am also waiting for the crown of life that Christ promised those who endured suffering for His sake (Rev 2:10). I now know that through my suffering, Jesus who is the captain of my salvation will be perfected on the day that He will bring many sons to glory (Hebrew 2:10). This knowledge has encouraged me to count suffering for Christ as a great honor and privilege.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be like the Berean Christians who searched the Scripture. Our lack of knowledge of the Word of God is responsible for the manipulation experienced in our churches. Jesus did not promise us comfort and a problem-free life on earth. He categorically told us that anyone who wants to follow Him must be ready to carry his/her cross (Mathew 16:24). Apostle Paul specifically said that anyone who lives godly in Christ must suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). The negligence of this suffering portion of Christianity has produced weak, selfish, arrogant, deceptive, irresponsible, disobedient and bread-and-butter Christians who are only seeking for Jesus because of what they will receive from Him. The Great Commission has been neglected and abandoned because no one wants to suffer to take the Gospel to the unreached. The heathen are raging because we have Gospel-starved them (Psalm 2:1), even when God has promised to give them and their lands to us as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8). Insurgency and terrorism have ravaged our country (Nigeria) because of our inability to endure suffering and take risks to evangelize the North.
Adapted from book "The Mystery Of The Cross Revealed" by Oscar Amaechina.
Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.