Paul: A Preacher of Suffering

David Norczyk
9 min readMay 1, 2021

If someone were to ask, “Where is the best teaching on suffering in the Bible?” I would direct them to 1 Peter. If a pastor wishes to understand the suffering in his calling, I will direct him to the life and ministry of the apostle Paul.

Paul encouraged others to follow him as he followed Christ. In following Christ, as a steward of the mysteries of the Gospel, Paul desired for others to know the glories of Christ. False teachers flaunt their fancy cars, mansions, and Lear jets. They claim the same thing as Paul, but their message and lifestyle is distorted. Paul was a suffering servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most people are suffering in some way, and they need a word from somebody about the meaning and significance of suffering. The philosopher and the psychologist will prescribe something karmic or remedial to try and avoid or alleviate the pain of suffering. The Christian preacher is one who suffers affliction in order to preach suffering to the people of God.

God ordains our suffering. It is designed for the discipline of His children (Heb 12:4–11). We are privy to Paul’s missionary works in the Acts of the Apostles. We are equally privy to his interpretations of his enduring hardship in diverse ways and places. These interpretations come through the epistles written by the great apostle. He explained, in part, his suffering to the church at Corinth.

Paul explained the purpose of affliction, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:3–4).” So, just as God ordains our suffering, He ordains our comfort. This paradox would baffle us if God did not reveal His purpose for it.

Sinful people are idolaters. We love the world and the things in the world. People who are more given over to certain vices become addicts. Too much food to ease the pain, itself, becomes a cause of pain through obesity and diabetes. As a child, I had a poster of O.J. Simpson hanging on my bedroom wall. I was not even a Buffalo Bills fan, but I was trying to avoid being a Detroit Lions fan, and the accompanying suffering attached to that identity. O.J. was a player who rose above others at the time. I wanted to be like O.J. Simpson. He was my hero, my idol. The rest of his story is why we must never place our trust in man (Ps 118:8).

God, our good Father, desires the best for His children. Idolatry is the perversion of placing our affections on anyone or anything other than God. God the Father sent God the Son into the world so we might see the Father. In seeing the Father, in His express representation via the Son, we are instructed to look to the Son. We are to honor the Son, paying homage to Him alone. He alone is worthy of our worship. He is the antidote to our demon worship through physical idols.

It was prophesied by Isaiah that Messiah would be a suffering servant (Is 53). Jesus Christ was despised and rejected by men. He preached, and He suffered for it. What was so offensive about Jesus and His message? Why did God subject His Son to filthy, depraved human beings?

God is holy (1 Pet 1:16). Humanity is fallen in sin (Rom 3:23; 5:12). If there was to be reconciliation between God and man, then God would have to provide it. Man simply does not comprehend the attributes of God. Sinful man conceived the notion of God being like man, but God was entirely other. When Jesus preached the holiness of God, the total depravity of man, and Himself, as the only way of salvation (Jn 14:6), He offended His hearers (Jn 6). They would not listen to Him, and some plotted to kill Him.

God incarnate was sent to preach to the people. His message was one of reconciliation on God’s terms. The terms were gracious and immensely easy for people to comply. God promised salvation to all who would come to Jesus (Jn 6:37, 44). It was the work of God to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21), through faith in Christ (Jn 6:29). All that was required of people was to hear the message from God and believe it. Could it be more simple? Yet, man struggles with God’s way of salvation.

When Paul followed Jesus in his preaching ministry, he was also following his Lord in suffering unto death. Christ came to set the captives free, and Paul was sent to herald the good news of salvation through Christ. Christ suffered to accomplish the work of forgiving people of their sins against Almighty God, and Paul suffered in announcing the terms of forgiveness.

The covenant of grace is established by God. People simply place their trust in Jesus, who promises to save them from sin, death, judgment, hell, and the eternal lake of fire. “Come to Jesus” is the appeal of the preacher to the sinner. The appeal is preceded by the proclamation of the person and work of Christ. Jesus was the perfect God/man. People do not like a perfect person because our pride is hurt by his success. There is only one perfect man, which is why everything hinges on Him and His achievement on our behalf.

When Paul preached Christ, the perfect successful man, he suffered the wrath of men for it. They hated Jesus (Jn 7:7; 15:18–19), and they hated Paul for preaching the excellencies of Christ Jesus. The worse life and ministry became for Paul, the more power was added to his ministry. Suffering, endured by a preacher of the Gospel, demonstrates how far the man of God will go to make Christ known to the nations.

Christ is valued in the message of the preacher, but when the preacher suffers for the sake of the Gospel, the value is enhanced. It was one thing for Paul to say he counted all things as loss for the Gospel, but it was another thing for him to actually lose everything and keep his testimony. Enduring suffering and the loss of things in this world speaks the truth of the value of Christ like nothing else.

The preacher presses on through his suffering. He then preaches suffering to the people, who must consider the preacher’s own testimony and experience. Paul stated that he suffered for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10). If God is reconciling sinners to Himself, and Christ suffered and died to save these chosen people, then the preacher must suffer for them, too. If the preacher is unwilling to suffer for the salvation of the elect, he will demonstrate his lack of love through what he preaches and his deviant lifestyle.

True preachers of the Gospel preach the truth of God’s Word. They boldly proclaim the Gospel truth. There is nothing more offensive to sinners than the truth. This is why we marvel at the incessant lies and boasting of elected officials. Sinful people love politicians because they are the exact representation of the wickedness of those who elect them. The politician couches his or her message with appeasing and appealing statements to cater to constituents. The preacher, in contrast, risks his position and sometimes his life to tell the truth, which is the only way his love can be validated.

The preacher loves the people so much, he is willing to suffer and even die in an endless string of pastorates. He suffers ridicule, complaints, protests, objections, slander, gossip, and the politics of removal by church growth leaders. Why? Why not just dilute the message and save his job? Why not gain some comfort by golfing or fishing? Why expose himself to persecutions of varying degree and kind? Answer: he loves Christ, and he wants people to know the truth, at any cost to himself.

Paul warned Timothy that a time was coming when men would not endure Gospel truth. Itchy ears would prompt them to seek out preachers who would gladly accommodate them, by scratching them with what they wanted to hear. The true preacher needs help in this regard. When Paul asked the faithful to pray for boldness for him, this is what he was asking for from them. He knew the temptation of being a man-pleaser.

It is so much easier to accommodate sinners. “You’re a Gay Christian? Well, God loves you just the way He made you!” is the pastoral spirit of our age. “You are marrying a divorced man? Well, God wants you to be happy, so let me bless you.” The scenarios of sinful behavior, by Christians looking for approval from the preacher, are endless. “You were just ordained as an elder in your denomination, Mary? Well, God does not see gender as an issue for your identity or your role in the church.” The judgment of preachers, who advocate sin and disobedience toward God, will be severe.

What sets the true Gospel preacher apart from the slippery soothsayer is the Bible. By expository preaching through books of the Bible, the preacher is forced to speak on the hard doctrines people despise. “Come let us reason together,” is the Spirit of God, and with the same Spirit, Paul insisted his intention was to persuade men to believe and obey biblical truth.

Jesus Christ is glorified the more the preacher suffers in his ministry of the truth, for the sake of the elect. The preacher shows his faith and his devotion to the invaluable Christ. He demonstrates his willingness to suffer the loss of all things, in order to show the unfathomable riches of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Woe to the congregation who is unwilling to join in the parade of triumph through the swamp of suffering. Jesus leads the procession. Paul followed. Timothy followed. Others have followed. No one escaped suffering on the narrow way. We are called to suffer. We are made to suffer.

Christian, you were born again to suffer. The preacher must live it in front of you, so that you will understand him when he preaches this message to you. The pundits and prophets of the world will help you get your best life now, but the Gospel preacher will help you suffer well. When you are weak, Christ is strong. When you are humbled, you join in His sufferings, which are the very agents of your humility.

God is sovereign in suffering. In His predetermined plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23), He saw fit to remove idols from your life. Each one is severed from you with pain to you. Until everything is loss to you, save for Jesus Christ, you will continue to lose. You will lose so much in this world, in order to value Christ in a manner worthy of your calling, that you will finally say, “For me, to die is gain (Phil 1:21).” Suffer well, but never lose sight of the promise, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18).”

Christian, it is your task to learn suffering from your preacher. He has been given visibility for people to see Christ by example. Christ suffered, and He has ordered suffering for His servants, who truly follow Him. Follow in His steps, by following the life and teaching of the one sent to your congregation, in order to reveal these things to you from the Scriptures.

The preacher is for you when he hurts you, but remember, he is just the instrument in God’s hand. If God the Father was willing to hurt His perfectly obedient Son, He certainly has designs to hurt you. Trust Him. It is for your good. The messenger is not the problem. It is the problem you have with God, a problem only He can reconcile. Listen to the preacher, God’s solution is in the message. Receive, rather than resist the message brought forth from the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, through the man of God.

Finally, support your preacher in every possible way. God is guiding him, and how you treat the man of God says more about you and your congregation than about the preacher’s sanctification; for if you have a genuine Gospel preacher, he is like the apostle Paul, a preacher of suffering.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

May 1, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher