One of the reasons Christians suffer is to show whether their faith is genuine.
Many people claim to be Christian. But not everyone who professes faith in Christ is saved. Jesus gives a stern warning: ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
So how can you know whether you are saved? Jesus says we need to look at the fruit of our lives. I should ask myself, ’Am I obedient to the will of God?’
But we must also note that it is easier to do the will of God under certain circumstances. For example, it is easier to be faithful in church attendance when there is freedom of religion. Whereas, if your country has outlawed Christianity, it’s much harder to fulfil the command to gather together – fear of personal safety encourages you to stay away.
But if you persist in following Jesus despite difficult conditions, your faith is shown to be even more genuine.
The apostle Peter says: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:3-7).
Peter clearly says that suffering is a trial that proves our faith is genuine. Just as gold is proven genuine when it passes through fire, so a Christian who keeps his faith as he passes through pain shows he really is a Christian.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you will have seen the way suffering has revealed false and true faith in people. You will know of people who have denied the Saviour once pain came into their life. They showed themselves to be the shallow soil Jesus spoke about in the parable of the sower: ‘Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away’ (Mark 4:16-17).
Yet we also know people who have gone through sharp affliction and instead of walking away from God have run towards God. Such people have demonstrated they have genuine faith and have gained assurance through their pain. They even learn to rejoice in their pain as Peter described.
So when you suffer, do you see it as a test of your faith? Are you anxious to make sure you’re not a ‘fair-weather’ Christian: you’re only friends with God when life is sunny? Joel Radford