Rom. 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
What a great section. This section is talking about a few things, not limited to how we live, who we follow, being free from sin, our adoption into Christ's family, security of the saints and proof of life. There is both encouragement and admonition in these few verses. Freedom, no longer slaves, to walk according to the Spirit and to no longer be slaves, giving us life here and now and also for eternity.
But it is interesting that to the Spirit gives us our family security but there is one large caveat; we must suffer with Him. In America today we think we suffering for Christ when people give us a strange look when we are dressed up on Sunday. I guess that is a form of suffering, but not when compared to Christ's sufferings. Is suffering really good for us? Why do we only have one thing that is listed here?
Suffering can take on many forms. I often think of suffering as a missionary family suffering as they go to a third world country and leave the comforts of home to minister to people who have so little. In the process they loose a child or parent from sickness or violence while doing what God has called them to do. For sure that is suffering for Christ's sake and there will be rewards in Heaven for suffering this kind of lost on earth. But what about the rest of us who are not missionaries; can we be joint heirs with Christ in His suffering?
The pastor who comes home to graffiti on his house is suffering for the sake of Christ. The SS worker who has parents who are ungrateful and complaining about the care their child is given, when the worker is doing all they can, is suffering. The elder who gets sick while visiting someone in the hospital, is suffering.
Some notes from J. Piper on suffering; "Finally, suffering from persecution and sickness are often indistinguishable. Suppose that the apostle Paul got pneumonia from all this work and exposure. Would that pneumonia have been “persecution”? Paul did not make a distinction between being beaten by rods or having a boating accident or being cold while traveling between towns. For him any suffering that befell him while serving Christ was part of the “cost” of discipleship. When a missionary’s child gets diarrhea, we think of this as part of the price of faithfulness. But if any parent is walking in the path of obedience to God’s calling, it is the same price. What turns sufferings into sufferings “with” and “for” Christ is not how intentional our enemies are, but how faithful we are. If we are Christ’s, then what befalls us is for his glory and for our good whether it is caused by enzymes or by enemies."
We should not try to minimize our sufferings or others sufferings, but we should be ready to suffer and realize that if we are His children we WILL suffer. In fact, if we are not suffering we should examine our lives to see if we are of the faith.
Suffering has so many benefits, not the least of which is proof of life in the Son as we follow His lead in suffering for the Kingdom. Those who do not suffering with Him will not be glorified with Him.