The Purpose of Suffering is to Remind Us Not to Have Confidence in the Flesh
I get this from Philippians 3:3-11. In this passage, Paul says he puts no confidence in the flesh. He says from verse 7:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Confidence in the flesh amounts to rubbish. All that matters to Paul in his Christian life is knowing Christ. Everything else, he counts as loss in comparison to knowing Christ and being found in Christ. Paul speaks about both gain and loss. It’s a temptation to treasure things we gain (like a greater prestige) and things we lose (like a job). All of it, if it is not Christ, is expendable to Paul. Today, I want to focus on the things we lose.
So I ask: Is knowing Christ the most important thing in your life? Would you be depressed if you were denied something? What if God took something good away from you?
In Mark 10, Jesus asked a rich man to give something up:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (v. 21-22)
Apparently, his money and possessions were more important to this man than following and knowing Christ. That man will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Neither will you if you treasure anything but Christ. God will never take away your ability to know Christ, but he will take other things away. Sometimes he takes away good things: the ability to have children, a spouse to love intimately, a steady career, or in the case of my father, the ability to walk normally (among other things). He will take away anything you treasure. He may even test you to see if Christ is your greatest treasure because sometimes you don’t realize what you love and trust until it’s gone.
It’s easy to be angry with God when he takes away good things. It’s easy to question God. “How can you take away my chance to have children? or, You’re saying I can’t have sex? or, You’re saying I’m never going to walk again? You are preventing me from having a full life! God, you are denying my humanity! “
But according to Paul, that’s not true. Having no confidence in the flesh, Paul is complete by knowing Christ. To put confidence in the flesh is to put confidence in anything that is outside of Christ. But having confidence in the all-satisfying Christ is what life is all about. Knowing and trusting Christ is why we were created. With Christ, you may be missing both your legs, yet be more complete than someone who does not know Jesus Christ.
My father’s disabilities are a reminder to him that he has not lost anything as a man of God because though he cannot walk, he can continue to know Christ.