In relation to suffering…
If we are not to be suffering for the purpose of purchasing salvation, what can be said of it? Is it truly important? Are we all called to it?
We are all called to suffer. Jesus affirms this when He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38). Dietrich Bonhoeffer in His book The Cost of Discipleship tells us that suffering “is the badge of true discipleship”. But there must be a distinction between suffering out of love for Christ and suffering out of love for self, self pity, and religiosity.
What we as Christians need to get away from, so as to not mar our witness of Christ, is suffering that God has not called us to. If God has blessed us with something, then we should not feel guilt (which is a tool of Satan) because we have what others do not. Gifts motivated by guilt are not gifts, but burdens to those who have received.
Another thing to escape is thinking that we are being more spiritual than others by our self sacrifice. We are all called to sacrifice, but it is not for our good. I believe that many who are giving out of guilt and self love and pity (in other words giving “religiously”) will be among the people whom Christ rejects at the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). These will say that they served the poor, but Christ will tell them that their heart was focused on themselves and not Himself.
Again, religious sufferings mar the testimony of Christ. Those who suffer and give out of guilt do not reflect Christ, but their own desire to be holy.
Think about this- does your suffering reflect Christ as it should? Do you love Christ and go where He sends you and as a result of that leave worldly pleasures behind, or do you leave the world behind and go where you think you could be of service in suffering and hope that it is God’s will? Jesus places callings in our life and we, as willing servants fulfill the calling, not caring about ourselves or possessions. He never says “suffer first, then you will be a follower of me.” But instead “be a follower of Me and you will want to carry out My Will, and thus will suffer.”