Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and avoid suffering? There was a time when Peter thought it was incomprehensible that the Lord Jesus Christ would have to suffer and die. He was so sure of himself that he actually rebuked the Lord. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter with the words “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Peter learned a very valuable lesson regarding the Christian life. Suffering goes hand in hand with being a disciple.
Jesus is clear that His followers would be treated in the same way He was treated.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!”
When Jesus spoke concerning discipleship, He would often use the terms “deny yourself” and “take up your cross” (Luke 9:23; 14:27). Before Calvary, the disciples must have struggled to understand the full impact of what Jesus meant. Can you imagine how seeing Christ on the cross impacted their perspective?
At the time of his conversion, Jesus told Ananias how much Saul (Paul) would suffer for His name’s sake (Acts 9:16). Paul encouraged Timothy to “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3). Paul told the Philippians that they would suffer for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29). Peter explains to his suffering fellow believers that it is an honor to suffer for the name of Christ (1 Peter 2:19; 3:14). Peter also reminds us to trust God to do what is right when we suffer “according to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:19), and to be encouraged that after we have suffered for “a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
A proper theology of suffering is not a desire to experience every form of suffering imaginable. Rather it is a confidence that God will use suffering in our lives for our personal benefit (1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 8:28-29) and for the benefit of others (1 Peter 2:12). Peter reminds us that when we suffer unjustly and maintain a clear conscience before God, He is pleased (1 Peter 2:20-24)
The apostle Paul had a remarkable perspective on suffering.
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:10
As disciples of Christ, we ought to be willing to suffer whatever God deems best, in order to share the gospel with those who have yet to believe.