The only instances we see in scripture where suffering is ever “according to the will of God” is those situations where believers suffer persecution or death for preaching or living for the gospel. Standing up for and declaring the message of Jesus and His Kingdom with a demonstration of power is the only legitimate reason the bible gives for suffering.
2 Timothy 1:8 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God…”
2 Timothy 2:8-9 – “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains;”
However, enduring hostility and persecution for this message is rarely experienced by most American Christians, who by and large are still locked into a “safe and hidden-in-the-prayer closet” form of Christianity “waiting on the Lord” to do things they are called to do. This “lifestyle”, unknown to most Christians in the rest of the world, allows believers to redefine things like “suffering” to include things that have nothing to do with being a Christian but instead are due to a lack of character or lack of a complete surrender to follow Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:12-19 – “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, (preaching the gospel) as to a faithful Creator.”
Over the last generation in an attempt to be relevant the church has so watered down its message it has devalued what a Christian truly is. Consequentially, there is little to no standard we are called to live up to. Being among God’s people over the years I have seen people who call themselves Christians call all kinds of things “persecution for the gospel”. Some examples I have seen:
– Being arrested for drunk driving;
– Getting fired at work because they don’t show up on time or do a good job;
– Being harassed by bill collectors because their bad financial decisions got them in a lot of debt;
– Being upset because the friends who they talked into a get-rich-quick scheme are now their enemies;
– Being arrested for not paying parking tickets;
Being reproached for the name of Christ, being persecuted for the gospel or experiencing hardship because we are authentic Christian believers is the ONLY instance we see in scripture where this is allowed by God for His people. And nearly all the persecution we see in the NT referred to as “suffering” was brought by religious leaders upon those who had the boldness to proclaim this message! These religious leaders were incited by jealousy to attack preachers like Paul who proclaimed and demonstrated this gospel. In the book of Acts we only see two responses when the gospel of the Kingdom is declared-revival or riot! Let’s go start a revival. And if not, a riot will do.
2 Timothy 3:12 – “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”