Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! … He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
I heard a Jewish woman say that she was an atheist because of the holocaust. Her reasoning went like this: “If God is real He would not let those He loves suffer.” Many in the church today echo this sentiment: “Serve Jesus, speak positively and you will always prosper, always be well, never suffer.”
We see this same line of reasoning in those who mocked Jesus: “If He is the Son of God surely God will rescue Him.” And God did rescue Him and Jesus did triumph but not in the way they expected. God had a higher purpose at work that those with only an earthly perspective could not fathom.
Notice that no one in Scripture avoided trials, hardship and suffering. It is the way of Christ. It is the way of the cross. Why should we think we will be exempt? A first century Christian explained the heavenly perspective of this problem when he wrote to a pagan critic:
“You think we are being punished when we suffer but it is not punishment – it’s warfare. Fortitude is strengthened by infirmities [James 1:12]. Virtue and suffering usually go hand in hand. Think of all the heroes you admire. Wasn’t it their afflictions that made them great?
“God is able to deliver us but through trials He tests us and searches us. He tests the quality of all of us through adversity, often to the point of death itself. He can test us to the point of death because nothing can perish with Him. No one receives a reward before the trial. God’s people are neither forsaken in suffering nor brought to an end in their death. In fact, in our death we win the prize for which we were battling.”
In the New Testament, the Greek word “witness” is the same word as “martyr”. A “witness” is a martyr and a martyr is a witness. The one who lays down his life, either literally or through embracing suffering, is being a true “witness” to his faith.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.