July 31, 2016
How we face suffering and persecution is one of the defining characteristics of the Christian faith that sets us apart from the world. Let’s be honest, it is not hard to face the good times, when things are going your way, and when the people around you support your words and actions as they relate to living for Christ. Christians look at the source of those blessings differently than the rest of the world does, but how they react to them is very similar to everyone else.
Being persecuted for your faith comes in many forms, from simple disrespect on the part of someone you meet or the government that rules over us, to being excluded from something or somewhere, to serious physical harm to your body by torture, death, and imprisonment. All because we stand and identify ourselves as Christians and live our lives accordingly. The world reacts to these kinds of persecutions by saying “That’s not fair, I want justice!” They get angry, they march in violent protest, or they take the baker or the florist to court and have the government shut them down. We are going to learn in our lesson today that God wants His children to face this kind of suffering with joy in our hearts.
Now, my first reaction to suffering is often the same as the world’s, shouting “That’s not fair,” and wanting someone to do something about setting that injustice right. My thoughts run immediately to the fact that this nation was founded on Judaeo/Christian beliefs and the constitutional guarantee we have of freedom of religion. So where is my government that is to support me and defend me? Well, as we all know, that government has long gone and now believes that we are to be free from religion, instead having freedom of religion. They now willingly persecute Christians for saying what they believe. In many other countries, the government violently attacks and kills Christians for living a life for Christ.
The secular world turns to those around them, or to their own brand of religion, or the government for help. As a Christian we are to turn to God and say “Lord, what am I to learn from this,” or, “Lord, who am I to be witnessing to? Who do you have watching me to learn how a Christian faces persecution?” The truth is that not all suffering is a lesson for the believer, sometimes it is a lesson for the persecutor, and sometimes it is just the face of evil doing everything it can to destroy Christianity. Satan hates mankind, but he has a special hatred for Christians, and there are times that he uses evil people to do great harm to the people of God.
The difference between how a Christian faces persecution and all others comes from their personal relationship with, and their knowledge of, Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master. They know from personal experience that God is in control of all things. His hand of protection is around His children, and His Spirit is in the believer’s heart providing the strength, courage, faith, and hope, to deal with whatever Satan and the world can dish out. It is not easy, but the focus of the Christian is not to be on the short term of our lives on this earth, but on the eternity that we are going to have with Jesus Christ in heaven. That is our promise from our Lord, and that is the reason we can face persecution and suffering with a God-given joy in our heart. That is the defining difference in how a Christian faces persecution. This is what sets us apart from the world. This is what identifies us with our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. We have the promises of the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, in our hearts.
Listen to today’s podcast to learn how a Christian is to face persecution.