By Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), from The Imitation of Christ
To suffer, then, is your lot, even if you mean to love Jesus and serve him forever. For Jesus said even of Paul: “I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). All men recommend patience, though there are few who wish to practice it. With good reason, then, ought you to be willing to suffer a little for Christ, since there are many who willingly suffer far more grievous things for mere worldly gain. The progress of our spiritual state comes not by many pleasures and comforts, but rather by enduring great afflictions and tribulations. If, indeed, there were anything better or more profitable for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it. But Jesus clearly exhorts all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23); and Acts 14:22 says that it is “through much suffering we must enter into the kingdom of God.”
Beware of curious and vain questionings, if you do not wish to be plunged into the depths of doubt. God can do more than man can understand. Blest is the simplicity that leaves the difficult way of questionings and disputes, and goes forward on the level and firm path of God’s commandments. Many have lost faith because they wished to search into things too high for them. Faith is required of you, and a sincere life; not a lofty intellect nor a delving into the mysteries of God. If you neither know nor understand things beneath you, how can you comprehend what is above you? Submit yourself to God, and submit humble reason to faith, and the light of understanding will be given you so far as it is good and necessary for you. Some are grievously tempted concerning faith. But be not disturbed, dispute not in your mind, answer not the doubts sent by the devil; but trust the words of God and the evil enemy will flee from you. It is often very profitable for the servant of God to endure such things. For Satan does not tempt unbelievers and sinners whom he already holds securely, but in many ways he does tempt and trouble the faithful servant.
Christ says, “I speak to all men, but many are deaf, hardened to my voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness. I promise great and eternal things, and the hearts of men grow dull. Who is there that serves and obeys me in all things with as great care as that with which the world and its masters are served? For a small income, a long journey is made; but for eternal life, many will scarcely lift a foot from the ground. They seek a petty reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue. Be ashamed, then, lazy and complaining servant, that they should be found more eager for destruction than you are for life, that they rejoice more in vanity than you in truth. Their hopes will indeed fail them, but my promise never deceives, nor does it send away empty-handed him who trusts in Me. What I have promised I will give. What I have said I will fulfill, if only you remain faithful to the end.”
Acts 9:15-16 — But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Acts 5:41 — The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
Acts 14:21-22 — They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.