He was on the island called Patmos. Not on vacation but in exile. Not because he purchased an all-inclusive package at some resort but because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Not because he had bought a ticket but because he had been banished as a criminal. But though his circumstance as he was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ was very different than mine, I hear him, through the inspired word of God, call me his partner.
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
(Revelation 1:9-10a ESV)
The way I read this, John identifies three realities he is experiencing “in Christ” as he does life on Patmos . . . the tribulation . . . the kingdom . . . and the patient endurance. And in these, he acknowledges he is not alone . . . but that he is a companion of others who know the same realities “in Christ.” And that’s the hook for me.
I know John wrote TO a specific audience at that time, but I also know that he wrote FOR those who would also be “in Christ” for all time. So while John’s words might not be specifically to TO me they are FOR me . . . and to that degree, we’re partners. Partners in Christ.
Now I’m all in when it comes to being blessed in Christ . . . and seated together with Him in heavenly places, in Christ . . . and shown the immeasurable riches of His grace, in Christ (check out Ephesians 1). But being a co-participant in the tribulation that is in Christ? Yeah . . . that too . . . we’re partners.
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. — Jesus (John 16:33 ESV)
While I am in Christ . . . I am in also in the world . . . and in the world, stuff happens. Not just the “natural” stuff . . . the trials of health gone bad, or tragedy come by surprise . . . but also the spiritual stuff . . . a world system at odds with our calling . . . a world ruler at war with our Master. And so we are partners with those who know the tribulation that is in Jesus. To be sure, the price I pay is not to be compared with what others suffer for the name of Christ. But I shouldn’t be surprised if I don’t quite fit in . . . if I’m not quite understood . . . if I’m not really accepted . . . if I feel like I’m living a bit on an island because of the world’s hostility towards Christ. Partners.
Partners in tribulation because I am also a partner in the possession and pursuit of another kingdom. Living as though in a foreign land . . . living as though in a temporary dwelling . . . looking forward to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). Seeking first the kingdom of God . . . desiring more the prize of a future reality than the supposed success of this reality. In Christ, I’m part of the kingdom of heaven . . . experiencing it by faith today . . . looking forward to entering into fully on that day.
And,in that we pursue the kingdom that is ours in Christ, . . . and in that we experience the associated tribulations that are ours in Christ, . . . we also realize the patient endurance that becomes ours in Christ. It is an endurance enabled by minds set on things above . . . a steadfastness fueled by the power of the Spirit within. It is a hopeful constancy built upon the promises of God . . . a persistent perseverance known because of the abiding presence of God. And so, we’re partners.
Partners in Christ . . . by His grace . . . for His glory.