Suffering for Christ is Part of God’s Plan
Compared to the believers in the early church and other periods of history we Christians in America are spoiled. The advancing of the economy of our nation until recently has had us believing that as a blessed nation we can have just about anything we want whenever we want it. Because of our spoiled condition we don’t know how to deal with suffering or hard times. Up until now we have enjoyed freedom of speech and religion and the right to assemble when and where we want. With many of our rights being threatened by an increasingly authoritarian government, we find ourselves taking a different attitude about suffering. In fact, we are beginning to see that the Bible reveals that suffering for our faith is not an option but may well be part of God’s plan for our lives.
We begin with these passages from God’s word:
“And indeed, everyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12)
“Then they departed from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8).
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1).
“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15, 16).
“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:9, 10).
As you read these passages it might occur to you that we in America have been shielded from the truth about suffering. From these passages it would seem that suffering and persecution were a normal part of the life of these early believers and that they fully accepted that fact. Paul just assumes in his letter to Timothy that everyone who desired to live godly in Christ would be persecuted. I have experienced some very minor persecution for my desire to live a godly life but only until recently have I seen that there are forces out there that will persecute you for your stand on issues like abortion, gender foolishness, racism, or simply for voting for a conservative candidate.
That accentuates the fact that these issues have a satanic origin because Satan wants to take as many lives as he can, wants to totally discredit God’s clear statements about marriage and gender, and wants to totally foment racism in his attempts to attack the body of Christ.
So, if you desire to live a godly life where unborn life is appreciated, marriage is between a man and a woman, and all races are created by God and equal in His eyes, at some point you will be persecuted by Satan’s haters. Suffering for your faith is about to become normal in America so we must brace ourselves for the spiritual war that has already begun. That war demands that spoiled citizens become warriors of God .
It is possible we have avoided suffering for our faith because in many cases we have not desired to live a truly godly life. We have compromised and turned a blind eye toward the evil we see around us and we have been swayed into hiding our faith and trying to be user friendly instead of Gospel friendly. The enemy has looked on and laughed at us for our neutral position on the spiritual battlefield of war.
Paul wrote to Timothy with a warning on this subject: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). Even in those days there was a tendency to become “ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” in order to resist suffering. Paul told Timothy “join with me in suffering for the gospel.” If we are not ashamed of the testimony and stand forth in boldness we should expect suffering because that attitude upsets the enemy who hates us and our Lord.
Suffering is not optional if we truly desire to live a godly life led and empowered by the Holy Spirit while not being ashamed of our Lord. This passage is preceded by Paul’s account of being persecuted when Jews from Antioch came to Iconium to harass the apostle and stone him. They left when they thought He was dead but he got up and returned into the city (Acts 14:19f). Later he described this time of “persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!” (2 Tim. 3:10, 11).
When the Lord sent Nicodemus to restore Paul’s eyes and commission him to ministry, the Lord concluded saying “. . . for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). The Lord knew that Paul’s ministry would take him into the den of the enemy and would result in suffering and persecution. He tells us the same thing: “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5, 9).
Resisting the enemy and suffering go hand in hand and living a godly life assures that persecution will come your way. Peter, who knew something about suffering, wrote “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). Christ suffered and we who carry His message must realize that suffering will come our way. We are to arm ourselves in this spiritual battle with the same way of thinking because victory does not come to the warrior who refuses to suffer. At first it seems out of place for Peter to say that suffering helps us to cease from sin but it follows that suffering deepens our devotion to the Lord and deeply changes our attitude about sin and pursuing things of the flesh.
So, there you have it. Suffering is part of the experience of the godly. This may scare some of you off but it may be time to realize that we have truly been spoiled but that the time approaches when we will have to grow up and mature from our spoiled ways and embrace the attitude of the warrior of God.