The Fellowship of Suffering
The Fellowship of Suffering
When we are suffering and struggling with difficulties in our lives we should know that God is in control of nature, nations, rulers and all events in this world. We have discussed in the past how God loves us very deeply and how our union with Christ enables God’s love for each of us.
We remember the long delay of the birth of Isaac that Abraham and Sarah experienced. Then as Abraham was told to go up the mountain and offer Isaac as a sacrifice which brought Abraham into a much deeper relationship with God. The Psalms are filled with expressions of ever deepening knowledge of God as the psalmist seeks Him in times of adversity. In some of the Psalms especially the laments i.e. Psalm 23:3; Psalm 42:2; Psalm 61:1; Psalm 62:1, we note that the psalmist did not seek out adversity just as we do not seek out adversity. But as a result of the adversity we develop a deeper relationship with God. God through adversity seeks us out. God draws us more and more into a deeper relationship with him through these adversities that we experience.
John writing in Revelation to the persecuted Christians of the seven churches of Asia identified himself as “your brother and partner in the tribulation”. Revelation 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The word translated as partner means a “fellow sharer”. It is a form of the Greek word koinonia from which we get our word fellowship. John identified himself as one who shared together in the suffering they were enduring. John understood their suffering as he was a prisoner on the island of Patmos at the time that he wrote Revelations. He was in fact suffering for the cause of Jesus Christ just as they were. We identify with those that we have something in common with. This allowed John to effectively communicate his message to these churches; the seven churches of Asia. As they were suffering they would understand what John was saying.
In this passage we are introduced to another way in which we profit from adversity, the privilege of entering into a special fellowship with other Christians who are also going through similar adversities. Adversity that we experience has a leveling effect among the Christian community. Have you ever heard the adage “The ground is level at the foot of the cross”? Regardless of our wealth, power, station in life, we all need Jesus Christ. Stated in another way regardless of our wealth, or power, or station in life we are all alike in our own need for a Savior. In the same way we are all alike when it comes to adversity. It strikes the rich, the poor, the powerful, the weak, the superior, the subordinate, all without distinction. Adversity removes the vertical relationships in our society. We relate to one another on a horizontal level brother to brother or sister to sister and become fellow sufferers.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived privately in isolation from other believers. We are to live it as members of the body of Christ. God wants to use our times of adversity to deepen our relationship with other members of His Body. He does this to create a greater sense of sharing together the life we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When you realize that we are all in the same boat so to speak how does this affect your relationship with those that are suffering adversity?