Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, a pioneer surgeon and humanitarian who was one of the first to discover that Hansen’s disease (leprosy) didn’t cause the loss or disfigurement of limbs, once said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.” He co-wrote a book with Philip Yancey titled The Gift of Pain. In this and some of his more autobiographical books, he talks about the valuable properties of pain.

But we don’t often see pain that way, do we? We dread pain, we pray for pain to be gone, and we see people with chronic pain as being worthy of our pity.

And then we come to a text like this one in Philippians, where Paul says, For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29). The word translated as “you’ve been given” is the word Charis in the Greek. It means “gift.” Literally: “you’ve been gifted.” “You’ve been gifted with His salvation and you’ve been gifted with His suffering.”

So, not surprisingly, Peter gives us this “petard”:  “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12). What is he saying? Suffering for the sake of Christ shouldn’t be thought of as out of the ordinary. Hold off the cameras; don’t go live with the “Breaking News;”  stop donning your “deer in the headlights” face. People who follow Christ will experience suffering for Him. Period.

Which takes me back to the idea of pain. The New Testament pages are littered with people whose pain practically jumps off the pages while you are reading them. Physical pain, primarily, but also emotional, spiritual and alienation type of pain that never seems to go away. But that was pain for being born in a messed up world, not pain for being re-born in the world of Messiah. The former is inherited, the latter is chosen. The former is dreaded, the latter is to be embraced.

My message this Sunday will be about the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus on the border  between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-17). These men were outside the reach of any other human being. They were banished from the rest of society. But strangely, their pain was only psychological and emotional. They experienced little or no physical pain. But Jesus understood their plight and felt compassion for them. He restored them to perfect health.

But strangely, only one, a foreigner, and a despised Samaritan at that, returned to give thanks. When he fell at the feet of Jesus, he was now restored body and soul. But strangely again, now that he was whole again, he also had the choice of embracing the possibility of pain in the life of a Messiah-follower. And from all indications, he seemed to have been willing to do just that. He was now free to embrace a suffering of a different kind.

I sometimes wonder what may have happened to that man who returned thanks. Did he become a disciple? Maybe a missionary to those who were outcast? Did he feed the hungry? All those questions I hope to have answered when I see this man in heaven because I believe that Jesus’ words to him, “You have been made well,” mean that I will see this man in heaven one day.

May we all be humble to accept whatever comes our way because we are willingly following this wonderful Messiah we love so much.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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