Jesus promises suffering to Christians?

James Krieg | Feb 26th, 2013

'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.'

(Revelation 1:9)

  • Tribulation
  • Kingdom
  • Patient endurance

If someone asked you ‘What does it mean to be a Christian?’ are these the three things that immediately come to mind? Does it mean ‘God makes you experience pain, tells you how to live your life, but you just have to grit your teeth and endure it because it’s fate and you can’t change it.’?

Are we afraid that that is the message these three words convey? If so, we may be tempted to say Christianity is about ‘your best life now’ - being free from suffering, having God give you whatever you ask for, and controlling and shaping your own destiny. Ironically, this was the kind of hope offered by the pagan religions, and it was an empty hope.

Instead we should understand these words in light of what we see in Jesus Christ - which is why John says they are ‘in Jesus’, a phrase which makes all the difference between true Christianity and ‘religion’.

Firstly, because of his obedient life, death and resurrection, we can say that any suffering we face is that which God understands, and participates in. The answer to ‘where is God when I hurt?’ is found in the cross, where God himself humbly enters into the pain of this world, bearing not only the guilt of our sin, but also the consequences.

Secondly, the one who established and rules over God’s kingdom is this same Jesus, who is appointed King by virtue of his humble death (Philippians 2). What better ruler and master than one who is also your brother, redeemer and friend?

Thirdly, Our endurance in through life and in this world is patient - we are enabled to be patient only when the outcome of our waiting is sure. Patient endurance is essentially confidence, based on a hope that is sure and does not disappoint, because the Holy Spirit brings home to us the reality of all that Jesus is, has done, and has promised to do (Romans 5).