When I personally — John Piper — have worried that I may not have strength or power to suffer or be tortured or die for Christ, I have been helped by pondering 1 Peter 4:14. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Now in that text — even though it is only talking about an insult — the principle holds.
In extraordinary situations the reason you can be blessed in the moment of being assaulted, insulted, criticized, or threatened with death, the reason you can be blessed is because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. And I take that to mean that God shows up in a way, in that moment, which he doesn’t elsewhere. Which means my sense of ability to endure it at this moment, sitting peacefully here at my table, may not be all that I will have when I get there to that moment.
I don’t know how many of our listeners are familiar with Corrie ten Boom and her story. She was in a concentration camp, and before she was taken there, and knowing that she might someday have to pay with her life (which she didn’t, it turns out), she asked her father how could she have strength? And the story is that her father said to her: When I send you on the train to go somewhere, do I give you the ticket a month ahead of time, or do I give you the ticket as you get on the train? And the point she was making is God will give us what we need when the train of suffering and death arrives in the station. And that has been very helpful to me, because I think that is what 1 Peter 4:14 is saying.
We began to taste the implications of Jesus becoming human, of Him binding Himself to us and to our poverty. We experienced greater love for mankind than we had ever known, more compassion than we could ever muster up in the past. We let ourselves be ripped open, and we made the choice to sit still. We made room for mystery in our theology, and in doing so, we have found the world to be a much more beautiful place.
I once doubted a God who wouldn’t set a little boy free. Now I recognize that He used that suffering to transform the boy’s parents into the ones he needed: ones who, rather than will away his messy places, could sit down to link arms with him and say “me too.”
I have been considering the issue of suffering for Christ, and how sufferings affect us; affect the decisions we make… These are heavy thoughts, lingering within me for a few months now, and I’m thankful these articles have thrown in some light. They are not exactly related, and facing death for Christ is on a whole entire level of its own… But in the context of suffering for Christ… it is certainly helpful to know that He will be with us – that He will be there, and that the sufferings are not worthless, useless, purposeless, valueless…