Glorifying God: Suffering for Him
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
– Westminster Shorter Catechism
The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people.
– Thomas Watson, from A Body of Divinity
I have from my earliest days as a Christian gone through imaginary stories in my mind of what I would do if confronted with the choice of confessing Christ and being killed or rejecting Him and ‘saving my skin’. Maybe you have played that game before – or maybe not. I know what I would want to do and I would pray that if I were ever in that situation I would be found faithful. But I have never been in that situation. You probably haven’t either. Few people have.
Far more likely is that I will have to learn what it means to live for Him in a suburban American culture, in a place of plenty. That of course has its own challenges. We talk about these each week. The good news is that the LORD has our training in mind – we are His children after all. One of the ways He trains His people is through suffering. This is what the writer to the Hebrews says: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Suffering always bears fruit. Notice that the fruit here is a peaceful one, righteousness. In other words, suffering will, when we allow ourselves to be trained by it, make us more like Christ, not angry and bitter, but humble, kind, even cheerful. Suffering will turn our hearts towards God, who suffered for us, and towards others, as we share the burdens they bear through our prayers, words of encouragement and actions of love.
This is, to Watson’s point in the quote above, entirely different than the glory of the kingdoms of this world. The kingdoms of this world are all about power and pomp, grandeur and pride. But not the kingdom of Christ. The glory of His kingdom is seen “in the cheerful sufferings of His people”. There is much concern right now about the church in Ukraine. But I am sure in the midst of their sufferings, the Christians in Ukraine see the opportunity to glorify God in the suffering, to trust Him, to know He is training them, to be even cheerful as they love their neighbors and one another in their seemingly grave circumstances. What are you like when you experience difficulty? Our chief end is to glorify God and one of the ways He gives us to do that is to walk through our sufferings, entrusting ourselves to the Father, knowing that He has our lives in His gracious hand, and so we can be of good cheer. There is hope, there is salvation, there is forgiveness, there is comfort in Christ.
We will likely not be asked the question of my imaginary stories of my mind, but we will be asked, in a way that is best for each of us, to suffer difficulty in this world, that we might glorify God as we become more like Christ. Watson suggests that “many pray, ‘Let this cup of suffering pass away!’ Few pray, ‘May your will be done!’” May we be those who pray that the LORD’s will in our lives would be done, suffering included, that He might be glorified.