Blog 5: I am Content with Suffering
Our dear readers, if you are reading this post, Happy New Year! We are grateful that God, in His mercy, has brought you thus far. It is bittersweet that this series is coming to an end today. Our hope is that God has worked in you a change of heart and like Paul “you are content with your suffering for the sake of Christ.” Please read, comment, and share with loved ones. Be blessed!
“I am Content…”
Now we come to our final verse:
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The word Paul uses for “content” in this verse is the exact same word that is used in the three gospels when Jesus comes up out of the waters at His baptism and the voice of the Father is heard from heaven saying:
“This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased [=content].”
In fact, verse 10 of 2 Corinthians is the only place in the New Testament where this word is translated as “content.” More than half of the 21 instances where the word is used are translated as being “pleased.” Paul doesn’t just accept his sufferings, he’s pleased with them. He takes pleasure in them.
Paul is ending this section here in verse 10 really just repeating what he already said in verse 9, only with different words, which are just as strong if not stronger. What he’s said in verse 9 is so radical that Paul repeats himself with different words to make sure we understand that he really means what he says. He repeats himself so that we can’t so easily just explain verse 9 away by saying Paul really couldn’t have meant what he said when we realize our heart doesn’t respond to suffering the way that Paul does.
It is all for the sake of Christ
In verse 9, he says: “I will boast with pleasure in my thorns, so that the power of Christ will dwell in me.” In verse 10, he says: “For the sake of Christ, I am well pleased with my thorns.”
In the same way that the Father is well pleased with His beloved Son, Paul is well pleased with his thorns. Not because he loves pain. But because he loves Christ and is well pleased with Christ, like the Father loves Christ and is well pleased with Christ. It’s all for the sake of Christ, Paul tells us in verse 10.
Don’t miss the importance of that phrase “for the sake of Christ” in verse 10.
A home does not reflect its guests but its residents
Jesus wants to make His home within you, brothers and sisters. He doesn’t want to be a temporary or even a frequent guest. He wants to be the only permanent resident. Because a home doesn’t reflect the characteristics of its guests. A home reflects the characteristics of its residents. Jesus wants to take up residence in every corner of your life and who you are so that every aspect of your person reflects who HE is. He wants everything in your life to be for HIS sake because that’s your greatest joy and His greatest glory.
Do you really want more than anything else for the fullness of Jesus to dwell within you? Your answer to that question isn’t revealed so much in you saying “yes” but in how you pray when God brings suffering into your life. Do you boast in and rejoice in the thorns? Or do you pray for God to take them away?
If what we primarily pray is for God to take away the thorns when we suffer, that’s the same thing as if we were praying for God to get rid of the only construction materials that Jesus uses to build His dwelling place in our lives. It’s like telling Him to decorate our lives with what WE choose rather than what HE chooses as a reflection of Himself. Can we really say that we’re praying that for the sake of Christ?
That’s the same thing as praying for God to let things like worldly comfort and ease be co-residents with Jesus in our lives rather than Jesus being the only permanent resident in our lives.
Is your life for the sake of Christ?
Can we really say that we’re praying that for the sake of Christ? If I’m honest, far too often I’m content with Jesus being a frequent guest or even a co-resident with other things like worldly comfort and ease in my life rather than him being the only permanent resident in my life. I’ll be the first to say that this passage challenges me deep in my soul. It convicts me because it reveals to me that there’s still too much in my life that’s for the sake of ME rather than for the sake of CHRIST.
And I so desperately want the Holy Spirit to transform my heart so that I boast in my thorns because I see them mainly giving me more of Christ rather than complaining about them and praying for God to take them away because I see them mainly taking away my worldly comfort and ease.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Know Christ by any means possible
This is what it means for us to be Christians, brothers, and sisters. It’s to know Christ by any means possible. Through weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Because it’s only when through our weaknesses we become like Jesus in His death that we experience the power of His resurrection at work in us.
I think that’s exactly what Paul means when he ends verse 10 by saying: “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” He’s pointing us to the wisdom of the cross. Our thorns make us weak by bringing us into the death of Christ so that we would experience the power of His resurrection. When we are weak through sharing in Christ’s death, then we are strong through sharing in Christ’s resurrection and its power.
The wisdom of the world says strength comes by avoiding weakness and death. This is what the false apostles were characterized by. But it’s a false strength. It looks like strength but it’s really weakness. The wisdom of the cross says strength comes only through embracing weakness and death. This is what the apostle Paul was characterized by. And it’s the only true strength. It looks like weakness but it’s really strength.
Isn’t that exactly what the cross is about? When Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, it looked like weakness and defeat but it was really strength as Christ triumphed over Satan, sin, and death by bearing the wrath of God that we all deserve as sinners. There’s no Christianity without the cross, brothers and sisters.
Is your life moving away from the cross?
To live a life that’s always moving away from weakness and death is to live a life that’s always moving away from the cross. Which is to say, it’s to live a life that’s always moving away from Christ even if you may attend church every Sunday. If that’s what your life is consistently and comprehensively characterized by, then you’re not a Christian, no matter what you think or say. You can fool others and you can even fool yourself, but you can’t fool God. So my call to you is to repent and to embrace Jesus Christ and Him crucified because there is no other Christ.
For many of us, we truly are born again and though our lives may not be consistently and comprehensively characterized by moving away from weakness and death, we feel the pull daily to move away from the cross as God brings thorns into our lives. And at times we even give in. We give in to grumbling, complaining, resentment, bitterness, and self-pity or other forms of protecting ourselves from the suffering rather than embracing it. But in so doing we push Jesus away and throw away true joy rather than drawing near to Jesus and experiencing the fullness of joy that’s found in His presence alone (Psalm 16:11). My call to you this morning is to repent and to embrace Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Are you feeling the weight of weakness and death in your experience?
For some of you brothers and sisters, you feel the weight of weakness and death in your experience of some thorn or many thorns this morning. And you’re fighting against unbelief and seeking to hold fast to Christ and the promises of God but it just feels hard. My call to you this morning is to hold on to Christ crucified. Death comes before the resurrection. And if we have been united with Christ in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5). Don’t trust your feelings. Trust the truth of God’s Word and pray for God to bring your feelings into alignment with the truth of His Word such as He does for Paul in this very passage.
So, one more time. God gives suffering to His people in order to break us of our pride (v.7) because Jesus only makes His dwelling in broken people (v.8-10). And God wants to give us not a little bit of Jesus, but the fullness of Jesus. So may God help us all to see and experience His goodness in our sufferings because it’s through these very sufferings that He desires to give us the greatest good that there is: Himself.
Pray. Far be it for me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which I have been crucified to the world and the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14). For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3).”