Rejoicing In Suffering & Persecution
In the world we live in and especially in the perilous times we currently are in there is much suffering, persecution, and sometimes even martyrdom. People in general suffer from sickness, disease, poverty, hardships, disasters and death. Loss and suffering have been with mankind at some level since our first parents lost the original status in the garden of Eden after disobeying the commands of God. There was never supposed to be death, but that entered as a result of the ‘fall’ of man. So how can we speak of rejoicing in such evil times? How can we have joy when there is so much destruction, and evil and it only seems to grow worse?
Christians all around the world face persecution at various levels just for being Christian. Because they have chosen to follow and be disciples of Jesus they are faced with imprisonment, abandonment, loss of personal property, families being torn apart and ultimately death, sometimes violent. Most believers in The Western Church, particularly in the United States have no real understanding of persecution. We here have so many freedoms, and we tend to take so much for granted. Rarely, if ever do most Christians tell of the faith outside of the four walls of the church. Many don’t want to ‘rock the boat’, or upset someone, or get involved in matters that they feel should be avoided.
It is for this reason that we are faced with the current crisis here and in many western nations. A crisis where we are losing some freedom to speak or take a stand for our faith. Or when we do there is no real outcry from within the body of Christ. Many are left to stand alone to choose to take a stand against gay marriage or abortion, or just immorality or indecency. We don’t want to offend anyone, or hurt someone. While it is important to have good relationships with peers and co-workers, there comes a point where we must be recognized as true believers of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” (NASB)
1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange was coming upon you, 13- But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells His listeners, which includes anyone now who reads and hears His words, that when you are persecuted, or insulted and when people say all sorts of evil things because of Him. In other words, if you ‘truly follow Him’, and obey Him, at some point you will be insulted, and yes persecuted. You will suffer. Suffer for being human is one thing, but for serving Jesus is another. Peter speaks about sharing in Jesus’ suffering. We forget that because we have been redeemed and Jesus paid it all that we still suffer like Him, and must endure hardships from time to time.
Believers in many nations today face suffering just for naming the name of Jesus. They don’t have to speak out against current events or issues. They just confess, ‘Jesus is Lord’. We here in the US have no real knowledge of the level of persecution and suffering the rest of body has in the world. We seem to be isolated or feel we are insulated against it.
However, there is a level of persecution coming that we never thought we would face here. AS times grow more evil, the church or ekklesia will grow more glorious. There is glory in suffering for Jesus, and I’m not talking about some unkind word. I mean for instance like the Pastor who basically lost his job because he said ‘homosexuality was a sin.’ He never said anything about the people, just the act is indecent and sinful. Yet, his congregatio felt that that was not the right thing to put on there sign. Or what about the clerk in Kentucky who was fired for not granting a marriage license to a gay couple because it went against her beliefs.
When we take a stand we must count the cost and be ready to suffer whatever consequences here man may offer. Yet we must rejoice. Keep on rejoicing. The revelation of His glory is a daily thing, but the full revelation of that glory will come in the Millennial reign as we rule with Christ. In John 17:13-14 Jesus prayed for the joy that the Father put in Him would be in his disciples. He said ‘the world hates them.’ If the world hated the early followers how much more are we hated today. Yet we need His joy.
John wrote to various churches in 1 John 1:4 that his purpose in writing was that their joy might be complete. In John 15:11 Jesus said that He spoke about abiding in Hi so that His joy may be in them. Whatever comes our way in this age we are not to let it steal our joy. WE are to agree with God’s word that we have the abiding Word (Jesus) living in us, and that word brings us joy. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told to ’fix our eyes on Jesus’, for the joy set before Him endured the cross.
There is an age coming where we will rule and reign with Him. Many of us will have a lot of responsibility while some less. What we do now prepares us for that age and how we will serve. We should weep for those that persecute us especially the lost or those perishing without Jesus. God doesn’t desire that any should perish.
Count everything with joy, esteem others higher than yourself for there is coming a day when we will have Jesus and He will make all things right. Let us run the race set before us with ‘joy’. Of all of the disciples John was the one that fully understood what it meant to have Jesus and the joy that went with that. He often wrote about joy and rejoicing. Yet, John was persecuted, so much that they tried and failed to kill him. He was finally forced into exile on The island of Patmos, where he received the final Revelation Jesus.
None of no for sure what we may face but one thing is for sure we can face it with joy and rejoice that we will be with him forever. We are part of the plan to bring restoration to the earth.
Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!!!!!!! Phil. 4:4 my paraphrase
Don’t forget to pray for our brothers and sisters all around the world who are facing torment and imprisonment daily.
Visit opendoorsusa.org or voice of the martyrs on how you can pray effectively for the persecuted church