In Matthew 5:12, Jesus tells His disciples to rejoice in suffering. This is obviously an unnatural response to suffering, but nevertheless it is what Jesus calls His followers to do when they suffer for Him. How (and why) can followers of Christ rejoice in suffering? Two reasons:
1. We Will Be Rewarded. Those who suffer will be rewarded. Jesus said, “Your reward is great in heaven.” The exact reward is not specified, but Jesus did say it would be great. Therefore, Jesus can call His followers to rejoice. Yes, suffering is painful now, but the future reward is great. It is worth it to follow Christ and suffer for Christ. Indeed, simply knowing Christ is a great reward and should enable us to rejoice in suffering.
2. We are Not Alone. You are not alone in your suffering. Historically, you are not alone. Others have suffered. Jesus said, “They persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The prophets suffered and were abused and rejected, and we should not be surprised when we suffer and are rejected. Jesus Himsef suffered and was rejected by men. So, when we suffer, we join a long list of godly men and identify with Christ in His suffering.
Christian, if you are following Christ and this leads to suffering, rejoice! Not because it is pleasant now but because it will be worth it in the future. Your reward will be great! Rejoice! Not because it is easy but because you know you are in good company. Other believers, and Christ Himself, have suffered, so rejoice in the fact that you can identify with Christ in His suffering, which means you will be able to identify with Him in glory!