The Way to the Kingdom: The Path of Suffering

Romans 8:17  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
"If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Rom. 8:1717And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17).
Our way to the kingdom lies through suffering, affliction, and tribulation; but, thank God, we can by faith say, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." And further, we know that "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Finally, "We glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." It is a high honor and a real privilege to be allowed to drink of our blessed Master's cup, and to be baptized with His baptism—to travel in blest companionship with Him along the road which leads directly to the glorious inheritance. The Heir and the joint-heirs reach that inheritance by the pathway of suffering.
But let it be remembered that the suffering of which the joint-heirs participate has no penal element in it. It is not suffering from the hand of infinite justice, because of sin; all that was fully met on the cross, when the divine Victim bowed His sacred head beneath the stroke. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins," and that "once" was on the tree, and nowhere else. He never suffered for sins before, and He never can suffer for sins again. "Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." "Christ was once offered."
There are two ways in which to view a suffering Christ—first, as bruised of Jehovah; second, as rejected of men. In the former He stood alone; in the latter, we have the honor of being associated with Him. In the former, I say, He stood alone; for who could have stood with Him? He bore the wrath of God alone; He traveled in solitude down into a "rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown," and there He settled forever the question of our sins. With this we had nothing to do, though to this we are eternally indebted for everything. He fought the fight and gained the victory alone, but He divides the spoils with us. He was in solitude in the "horrible pit" and "miry clay"; but directly He planted His foot on the everlasting "rock" of resurrection, He associates us with Him. He uttered the cry alone; He sings the "new song" in company. (P s a. 40:2, 3.)
Now the question is, Shall we refuse to suffer from the hand of man with Him who suffered from the hand of God for us? That it is, in a certain sense, a question, is evident from the Spirit's constant use of the word "if" in connection with it. "If so be that we suffer with Him." "If we suffer, we shall also reign." There is no such question as to sonship. We do not reach the high dignity of sons through suffering, but through the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, founded on the accomplished work of Christ, according to God's eternal counsel. This can never be touched. We do not reach the family through suffering. The Apostle does not say, That ye may be counted worthy of the family of God for which ye also suffer. They were in the family already; but they were bound for the kingdom, and their road to that kingdom lay through suffering; and not only so, but the measure of suffering for the kingdom would be according to their devotedness and conformity to the King. The more like we are to Him, the more we shall suffer with Him; and the deeper our fellowship with Him in the suffering, the deeper will be our fellowship in the glory. There is a difference between the house of the Father and the kingdom of the Son; in the former, it will be a question of capacity; in the latter, a question of assigned position. All my children may be around my table, but their enjoyment of my company and conversation will entirely depend on their capacity. One may be seated on my knee, in the full enjoyment of his relationship as a child, yet perfectly unable to comprehend a word I say; another may exhibit uncommon intelligence in conversation, yet not be a whit happier in his relationship than the infant on my knee. But when it becomes a question of service for me, or public identification with me it is evidently quite another thing. This is but a feeble illustration of the idea of capacity in the Father's house, and assigned position in the kingdom of the Son.
But let it be remembered that our suffering with Christ is not a yoke of bondage, but a matter of privilege; not an iron rule, but a gracious gift; not constrained servitude, but voluntary devotedness.
"Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." Phil. 1:2929For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (Philippians 1:29). Moreover, there can be little doubt but that the real secret of suffering for Christ is to have the heart's affections centered in Him. The more I love Jesus, the closer I shall walk with Him; and the closer I walk with Him, the more faithfully I shall imitate Him; and the more faithfully I imitate Him, the more I shall suffer with Him. Thus it all flows from love to Christ; and then it is a fundamental truth that "we love Him because He first loved us." In this, as in everything else, let us beware of a legal spirit; for it must not be imagined that a man with the yoke of legality around his neck is suffering for Christ; alas! it is much to be feared that such a one does not know Christ, does not know the blessedness of sonship, has not yet been established in grace, is rather seeking to reach the family by works of law than to reach the kingdom by the path of suffering.
On the other hand, let us see that we are not shrinking from our Master's cup and baptism. Let us not profess to enjoy the benefits which His cross secures, while we refuse the rejection which that cross involves. We may rest assured that the road to the kingdom is not enlightened by the sunshine of this world's favor, nor strewed with the roses of its prosperity. If a Christian is advancing in the world, he has much reason to apprehend that he is not walking in company with Christ. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be" (John 12:2626If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor. (John 12:26)). What was the goal of Christ's earthly career? Was it an elevated, influential position in this world? By no means. What then? He found His place on the cross, between two condemned malefactors. But, it will be said, God was in this. True; yet man was in it likewise; and this latter truth is what must inevitably secure our rejection by the world, if only we keep in company with Christ. The companionship of Christ, which lets me into heaven, casts me out of earth; and to talk of the former, while I am ignorant of the latter, proves there is something wrong. If Christ were on earth now, what would His path be? Whither would it end? where would it terminate? Would we like to walk with Him? Let us answer those inquiries under the edge of the Word, and under the eye of the Almighty; and may the Holy Ghost make us faithful to an absent, a rejected, a crucified Master. The man who walks in the Spirit will be filled with Christ; and, being filled with Him, he will not be occupied with suffering, but with Him for whom he suffers. If the eye is fixed on Christ, the suffering will be as nothing in comparison with the present joy and future glory.