In a recent article in Christianity Today entitled “To Serve is To Suffer,” Ajith Fernando writes of the danger of comforts and the call to suffer that every Christian has on their life. The last section of the article, “The Glory of the Gospel” was very convicting and a great challenge to the church today:
In a world where physical health, appearance, and convenience have gained almost idolatrous prominence, God may be calling Christians to demonstrate the glory of the gospel by being joyful and content while enduring pain and hardship. People who are unfulfilled after pursuing things that do not satisfy may be astonished to see Christians who are joyful and content after depriving themselves for the gospel. This may be a new way to demonstrate the glory of the gospel to this hedonistic culture.
I have a great fear for the church. The West is fast becoming an unreached region. The Bible and history show that suffering is an essential ingredient in reaching unreached people. Will the loss of a theology of suffering lead the Western church to become ineffective in evangelism? The church in the East is growing, and because of that God’s servants are suffering. Significant funding and education come to the East from the West. With funding and education comes influence. Could Westerners influence Eastern Christians to abandon the Cross by communicating that they must be doing something wrong if they suffer in this way? Christians in both the East and the West need to have a firm theology of suffering if they are to be healthy and bear fruit.