Suffering: Should we expect it because we are believers?
In every generation there are all kinds of believers, and they all go through some form of suffering for one reason or another. But some will go through it only because they are believers who stand for the principles given to them in the Bible and particularly the revelation given in the writings of the apostle Paul. This is because most people in the world are opposed to those principles. This should tell you that if you’re not dealing with conflict because of the things you believe, you’re not growing spiritually. That’s how it is now and that’s how it has always been.
2 Timothy 3:12
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. [Emphasis added]
As you can see, this applies to every believer who lives a godly life! When any believer begins to apply the principles of truth that he learns from Scripture, he will soon find himself suffering because of it. And most of that suffering will come from the people who are in his life. Scripture even tells us that a lot of it will come from family members. Our Lord Himself couldn’t have made this any clearer.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Then we have an important warning.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, to compromise our beliefs to gain the favor and approval of these people, family or otherwise, is a path we must learn to avoid. We need to be willing to face whatever opposition comes because of the things from the Bible we’ve come to know and believe. It is God’s standards we’re to learn to live by, not those of the world.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. [Emphasis added]
Should we allow this opposition to hinder us? Not at all! Instead, we should see it as a compliment. It simply serves as proof that we must be doing something right. Didn’t our Lord and those who’ve worked to represent Him experience similar things? It just goes to show that if you’re not getting resistance from these people, you must be one of them. Is that really the crowd you want to identify yourself with? I hope not! We are clearly told to separate ourselves from these people. This would include a variety of types of people. Notice how the apostle Paul explains this.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world [in this case he’s speaking of unbelievers], or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother [a believer] be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer [LOIDOROS = a reviler, one who speaks abusively or contemptuously of others], or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. [Emphasis added]
In other places he tells us much the same.
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. [Emphasis added]
He’s especially speaking of people who have claimed to be one of God’s people. Every generation has many churchgoers who are like this. As I once heard it put, these hypocrites are people who are not quite themselves on Sunday. But we are not to be afraid of these people. But if they claim to be believers, we’re to avoid them. The apostle Peter talks about this and how we’re to address it.
1 Peter 3:12-14
12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous [speaking of believers], and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; [Emphasis added]
We have not only our Lord as an example as to how we’re to address this, but we have great men like the apostle Paul. Notice what our Lord said about Paul right about the time he was saved.
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. [Emphasis added]
Can you identify with this? Are you dealing with any opposition to the message you present by your words and by your manner of life? If you’re not, it speaks volumes to you. Many are what I call “secret service Christians.” If they are professed Christians, to avoid opposition they try to stay with “mainline” Christianity, which often isn’t truly Christian at all. Our Lord only had rebuke for the “religious” leaders of His day. I assure you that He feels the same way about many “religious” church-going people today.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [Emphasis added]
Don’t we have people just like this today? Instead of being a bridge to God’s blessing they have made themselves a roadblock to it.
The apostle Paul is a man who met opposition everywhere he went. He didn’t have to look for it, it always found him. All he had to do was open his mouth and speak the truth of God’s Word. And that’s all anyone has to do today. But all too often people try to play the middle of the road. Instead of just speaking to be politically correct, they work to be religiously correct. In the process, the words that need to be heard go unspoken. People are too afraid to do otherwise for fear it will cost them friends, money, or whatever. However, what they really need to be concerned about is pleasing their Lord and not just people. Again, the apostle Paul is a great example for us.
1 Corinthians 4:16
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. [Emphasis added]
I Corinthians 11:1
1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. [Emphasis added]
Yes, to follow Paul today is to follow Christ. It is in that way that we follow Christ in His heavenly ministry to us rather than His earthly one.
2 Corinthians 5:15-16
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: [speaking of His earthly message and ministry] yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. [Emphasis added]
Today we are charged with the responsibility of knowing Him through His heavenly ministry which He provides for us through the writings of the apostle Paul. As we just noted from 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1, it is in this manner that we follow Christ today. As people begin to do that, they inevitably will share in suffering much as our Lord and the apostle Paul did. How do we even begin to cite all the sufferings these people went through.? With Paul it began right after his salvation with his escape over the Damascus wall. That was just a taste of what was to follow for him in the years to come.
23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. [Emphasis added]
And bear in mind, it was “religious” people who were usually the ones leading in this. This opposition continued all the way to the end of his life. Here are some of his last written words.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
But notice what gave him hope to sustain him as it should us, too.
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. [Emphasis added]
By the time he had written two of his earliest epistles, those to the Corinthians, he had already surpassed others in his suffering. Note what he says about himself and his close associates.
1 Corinthians 4:9-13
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. [Emphasis added]
He says even more about all this in his next letter. If this wasn’t important for us to see, so much Scripture would not have been dedicated to it.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
Then notice his attitude about all this.
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. [Emphasis added]
Paul later mentions this as proof of the authenticity of his message and ministry. There were always those who did everything they could to undermine his work. But Paul stood “head and shoulders” above all his critics.
Again, 2 Corinthians 11:23
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. [Emphasis added]
There was no end to the stiff opposition and suffering he faced. It followed him all the way to his grave.
Bear in mind that this same man had once led the world’s rebellion against Christ.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. [Emphasis added]
He himself testifies of the days of his relentless pursuit of those who followed Christ.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation [ANASTROPHE = behavior] in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted [PORTHEO = ravaged] it: [Emphasis added]
Some might say his hands dripped with the blood of those he martyred. But despite all this, he, like us, was the beneficiary of God’s wonderful love and grace. As the famous song says, that is truly AMAZING. Like us, the author of that song was also the beneficiary of such grace. Many who read this will be familiar with its words.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
This grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home
When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright, shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
Like Paul, the author of this song—John Newton, was responsible for the death of many. If you’ve never read his story, I encourage you to do so. As with Paul, he was the beneficiary of God’s amazing grace. God’s Word on this applies to us all.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
Knowing these things should cause each of us to rejoice when dealing with any suffering that may come our way because of our representation of Christ our Savior. As His personal representatives, His ambassadors, we should all expect such. We should also rejoice in such. This explains Paul’s statement to the Colossians about this.
24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: [Emphasis added]
Our suffering for His sake is simply a current expression of His sufferings. It was Paul’s desire that we should all share in this.
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; [Emphasis added]
Are you facing opposition because of your stand for the Word of God? Are you in any way sharing in these sufferings of Christ? If you’re not, don’t you think it is time for you to reevaluate the principles you’re living by?