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Consider the following scriptures:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I could add more to the list, but the point is probably clear enough in these. In many cases, the Bible seems to expect that not only will Christians suffer, but that we need to be suffering.

During the NT period Christians were "stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated." We know it was a time of persecution - but was that merely descriptive and written for them, or is it perspective, meaning that if one is living an authentic Christian life, we should be expecting these things? Is it accurate to suggest that a wealthy Christian living a life of ease is circumventing the prescribed ordered?

In other words, looking at the whole of Scripture* is it accurate to say that a Christian who is not or has not been experiencing trials, persecution, and other sorts of things that can be called "Suffering," is not actually experiencing the Christian life? Specifically, are there other portions of Scripture I am not properly taking into account, or doctrinal perspectives that would be highly resitant to this claim?


*A good answer to this question would reference other Scripture to either support this as a standard "across the Bible" kind of thing, or present Scripture that would seem to be in opposition. Specifically, I am looking to see if this statement is fairly consistent across Scripture, or if, perhaps, I have qutoed these out of context. I also would like to know what doctrinal perspectives would be resistant to this.

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-1 because I tried to answer this and realized that there wasn't really a way to do it without turning it into a truth claim question where answers are going to fight over what doctrine is right rather than answering how Christianity handles this. It's too big a topic to do a fair overview of multiple views at the detailed level of analysis you are calling for. –  Caleb Sep 28 '12 at 21:22
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Affable and I started a conversation about this question and question frameworks in general here in chat. We didn't solve the world's problems but we invite you to follow along and pitch in your thoughts! –  Caleb Sep 28 '12 at 21:55
    
Don't know if you've heard of salvifici doloris before, but I think the answer is salvific suffering –  Peter Turner Sep 29 '12 at 3:19
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i think it's pretty clear. what other interpretation is there to "Take up your cross and follow me."? it should be noticed what happened to the Church after it transitioned from being the victims of oppression by the Roman Empire to being the "establishment", eventually becoming the oppressor and very, very corrupt. this state of power and corruption lasted for a millennium until the Reformation. and some of that corrupt state-church collaboration exists to this day, even in the US. not all Christians think that the consequences of Constantine adopting the Church was a good thing. –  robert bristow-johnson Jan 6 at 18:13
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The ancient tradition is clear on this matter:

"…if we are ashamed to imitate our Lord’s sufferings, which He endured for us, and to suffer as He suffered, it is obvious that we shall not become partakers with Him in His glory. If that is true of us we shall be believers in word only, not in deed. When deeds are absent, our faith is dead."

  • St. Symeon the New Theologian (c 950)

Related, St. John Chrysostom:

"Some think that to enjoy good health is a source of pleasure. But it is not so. For many who have good health have a thousand times wished themselves dead, not being able to bear the insults inflicted upon them….For although we were to become kings and live royally, we should find ourselves compassed about with many troubles and sadnesses….By necessity kings have as many sadnesses as there are waves on the ocean. So, if monarchy is unable to make a life free from grief, then what else could possibly achieve this? Nothing, indeed, in this life"

(Homily I8, On the Statues).

This discussion here is characteristic, but make sure to read more than the first exchange: http://www.monachos.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-1451.html

A good quote:

The lives of the saints are the best! And they not only do not complain about trials and sufferings, but welcome them in joy and gratitude, and when persecuted, are found praying fervently for their persecutors...

Suffering is itself a means of self-transcendence, and while being dangerous and difficult, is accepted as being 'the cross' that Christ admonishes us to bear.

This is not a New Testament thing, but starts with Job, the oldest known book, wherein Job's suffering is a gateway to comprehension of the mystery of providence and restoration to life.

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This answer doesn't reference any scriptures, which the question specifically asked for... –  curiousdannii Feb 28 at 7:14
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The answer to this question is always "Yes" in the Bible. If Jesus suffered we ought to suffer as well as we must partake in everything Jesus took. We suffer with him. We die with him. We'll live with him.

2 Timothy 2:12

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us

When Jesus was being led to Golgotha

Luke 23: 27,28,31

27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.

28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

We are meant to face persecution

Luke 12:51-53

51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Now, it depends on what you termed "suffering" but it still comes down to "not being able to do what you want or express yourself the way you like"

It is true most of the persecutions have been faced by the apostles and they've really done a good job to keep the gospel for us but there is still persecution of the christ-like people.

The magnitude of the persecution seems reduced and insignificant but that's not true.

  • This is so because in the days of the apostles, they were the only ones and were outnumbered. But these days, it's like we have more professed christians than unbelievers.

  • Christians have blended with unbelievers. There seems to be little difference between us so there is little to persecute us for.

  • Every time the spirit presses it upon me that we have not been living to expectations in our generation. Like we have failed God in some ways. If we live like we should then our lights would shine before men, they'll notice the difference and they would persecute us. Christians have not been role-model to the world. The world is become our role-model.

Imagine how churches have blended with governments and support governments in carrying out bad policies. Imagine how many times the pulpit has been used as propaganda stage for politicians.

Our sufferings/persecution might not always be physical, they could be emotional. For example, churches that praise bad governments and people would get fat tithes and donations while those who criticize them get little or none.

In some part of the world you need to give bribes to get employment or contract, if you are a lady, give your body as sexual pleasure to get favours, otherwise, nothing for you - that is persecution. They are simply telling us to deny our faith (2 Timothy 3:12).

Your friends go to party, get drunk, merry, sleep around with ladies. These you cannot do and they mock you - that's suffering and persecution

In my first bullet, it's like we have more professed christians than unbelievers, most of us were born in christian homes though they may not go to church. That makes christianity easy. In some home which are dominated by muslims and there comes a convert, he would surely be persecuted and he won't enjoy those things he used to enjoy - that's suffering. Some parents have disowned their children because they claimed to be converted - every school fees, feeding etc. withdrawn.

In my third bullet, that impression used to come whenever I read NARROW/Strait is the way/gate that leads to heaven but only few are walking it Those few suffer, that's why it's narrow.

To cut the story short, in the real sense, Jesus said you'll hate your father, mother, families, wife etc if you really want to follow me.

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Some Christians suffer more than others, but all Christians are guaranteed to suffer a little bit due to 2 Tim 3:12. You won't have to look for ways to suffer, you will suffer primarily because of Gal 4:29. The one born after the flesh (the unsaved world or the carnal nature in a believing Christian) is guaranteed to persecute those who walk in his Holy Spirit. If you aren't suffering then you aren't walking in his Holy Spirit. But remember that his yoke is easy and his burden light Mat. 11:30. So persecution is more than tolerable, if you are filled with the joy unspeakable 1 Pet 1:7-8, which comes from his holy spirit.

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Hi! it would go along way if you took a moment to actually quote the relevant scriptures you use, I appreciate your linking them, but it's probably more helpful if you actually quote them. It will make your answers more complete. It's awful hard to read them as currently constructed. Assume an audience that might be familiar with generally what the passage says, but may not have it memorized. –  wax eagle Oct 2 '12 at 2:30
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Yes...

A majority of Christian traditions recognize on some level that we will and even must suffer. The author and perfecter of our faith was hung on a tree. As his followers, we can expect pretty much more of the same.

1 Peter 4:12-14 (ESV)
12  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

In fact if you comb through the rest of Scripture you will find a huge amount of material covering not only how to deal with suffering, but more warning to expect it and even detailed analysis of how it helps us.

The view that current suffering is a necessary part of our Christian walk in so far as it is aspect of how we are united with our Savior is particularly emphasized in the Reformed tradition. More generic Evangelicals also tend to hold generally to the idea that suffering is not without purpose but see it as so much of a requirement so much as probability.

There's a wrong way to do it...

For every truth, there is a perversion. The obvious perversion of a "yes" answer here is the idea of needing to go out and find trouble. Some flog themselves, others stick their necks out on issues that do not further the cause of the Gospel just because they know it will garner a reaction and bring on the suffering. Although I am caricaturizing, these fallacies often require nuanced rebuttals to show how they are bringing trouble on themselves in a way that isn't what Scripture would direct us to even if it promises that trouble will come and is even for our good.

We aren't told to seek suffering for suffering's sake, we're told to seek the Kingdom and how to respond to suffering when it does come.

There are those who say "No"...

A relatively modern movement, but one that has actually popped it's head up a few times before, is the idea of what is sometimes labeled "health and wealth" gospel. They build a case on excerpted passages that God doesn't want his children to suffer and the only reason we do is our own weakness/lack of faith/etc. You generally won't find espousers of this view even acknowledge verses such as the ones in your question at all.

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Note to the OP. I feel like this is a bad answer because you framed the question poorly. You tied our hands and, without making a wreck of the question, no Christian view can actually be represented properly. –  Caleb Sep 28 '12 at 21:20
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