“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.
No one enjoys suffering. No one. No one likes to be persecuted either. The Bible regards suffering as normal. The Bible very definitely tells the growing Christian to expect persecution. 1 Peter 4:12 emphatically states that we should not be “don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through,” or think that “something strange” is happening to us when we are persecuted as Christians. Acts 14:22 says, “where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Philippians 1:29 adds, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” And finally 2 Timothy 3:12: “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
In the book of 1 Peter, God tells us a lot about persecution. In fact, this book of the Bible could be called a handbook on suffering persecution. It was written just before the outbreak of the Roman persecutions under Nero in 64 A.D. But of course, 1 Peter 4:12 is applicable to Christians of all time. Christians of the 20th century should expect to be persecuted for their faith as were the Christians of the 1st century.
Although persecution of the believer is to be expected and is “according to God’s will” (1 Peter 4:19 NIV), let us remember that this is a family matter. We are the children of a “faithful Creator” (v19) who always has our best interests in view. We should rejoice because God is being glorified. Peter says, “But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (Vs 16) In the book of Job, Job’s friends insisted that he was suffering because he had done evil, because he deserved it. Job was suffering because God had determined it and because Satan was bent on it. As Job was shown to be blameless, and as Job refused to curse God, God was glorified. Throughout history, we have seen God glorified in times of persecution. As they suffer they tell others about him. As they suffer they sing his praises. As they suffer they prove themselves blameless. God is glorified in persecution.
The bottom line is this: the Christian who understands God’s reasons for allowing persecution not only expects to be persecuted, but is willing to suffer persecution.
- Persecution can make you more like Jesus. Persecution can deepen your faith. Agree or disagree and why?
- The first thing we need to do when facing opposition for our faith is to not be surprised. Read 1 Peter 4:12 Why do you think opposition to our faith often catches us off guard?
- The second thing we need to do when facing opposition for our faith is to NOT be afraid. Where/who does fear come from? Read 1 Peter 3:13-16. Circle the word “worry” and “worship”. Scripture makes it clear that we have a choice. Which is your natural tendency?