If you were on a boat at sea, and there was a storm just over the horizon, would you want to know about the existence of the storm – or just about pretending everything is fine?
In speaking of sanctification – the process of growing in personal holiness as a believer in Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit informs us of the storm clouds gathering beyond our view.
Paul had left a little hint of this when we were last together, at the end of verse 17 in Chapter 8 of the Book of Romans. We are informed we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ, which is the most spectacular news anyone could ever possibly imagine – but along with it a conditional tag line, “if indeed we suffer with Him.”
The final, and it would seem the most important stage of sanctification is suffering with Christ.
We know Jesus was destined to suffer, and it should not surprise us the world will treat the Christ in us no better than it treated Christ in the world.
There are many out there who teach a sunshine gospel which denies the truth of all the Bible declares about what it means to be a follower of Christ. They talk of “Your Best Self Now,” and they smile in front of thousands of adoring blind sheep while exclaiming how God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and wise – and if you are not it is simply a matter of proclaiming it to make it so.
But nothing could be further from the truth, and all those who proclaim this kind of garbage do great harm to the sheep who follow their words, because every Christian is made to suffer. To pretend otherwise is to be caught off-guard by the trials every Christian will face in this world. The Christian may indeed suffer MORE GREATLY than the non-Christian, since the condition of the world is of little concern to those who are not weeping with God’s Holy Spirit over the condition of it.
And what of the world itself? The Holy Spirit here informs us nature itself fell when man fell and has endured untold suffering due to the sin of man. Nature itself longs for the same day of redemption we all long for – when Christ will rule in righteousness over the earth.
But in the meantime, as Christians we shall all endure the birth pangs present in the world prior to Christ’s return, while eagerly awaiting the end of the pain and suffering. While waiting, we are to persevere RIGHTLY, which will cause us to grow in our dependence upon God. This will be the final stage of our sanctification, as we – as Christ did – will learn obedience through the things we suffer, and not by avoiding it.