Saturday, May 23, 2009

Suffering and Persecution

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Matt. 5: 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Suffering is not something that we are generally gravitating toward. Especially in America, we like our lives to be easy and free from suffering at almost any cost. We don't mind working hard and we will work hard so that when we are not working we can have an easy, entertained lifestyle.

But what are Jesus and Paul saying here? Suffering and persecution are not high on our list, but it certainly looks like they are saying that if we don't suffer and are not persecuted, for righteousness, we are not going to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Does all suffering and persecution look the same? For sure it can have many different forms and have many different levels of intensity. In America, today, it would not look the same as it did in the early Church, but we can still have it. We must remember that Jesus did not say that we would just be persecuted and that would be enough to get us to Heaven. We will be persecuted for righteousness sake; not for a cause, or for our own foolish choices or because we are doing wrong, but because we are righteous.

Suffering and persecution for righteousness requires a serious level of righteousness. There are many very nice people who make being around them a joy. We should be like that. Jesus is not telling us to be self righteous and call out every person's sin around us the moment we see it. Though He does call us to judge our own fruit and the fruit of others.

A righteous life if difficult for the unrighteous to be around. Misery loves company and sinners love to hang out with sinners. Darkness and light can not dwell in the same place. When we are righteous there should be a kind of repelling effect of the unrighteous and that will cause them to persecute us. Jesus came to bring a dividing sword; to put a brother against his brother and families will be divided because of the Gospel being lived out and talked about; because of our righteous conduct.

Talk about your own struggle with sin, talk about freedom in Christ to be His slave, don't do the same things you used to do, because now you are trying to live a more righteous life. You don't need to throw that in anyone's face, but when we are different from the world they will start to talk, and it will not always be "good", but if we are being persecuted for righteousness, it will be good.

We must try to be winsome in our righteousness, but we must be righteous. We must not try to avoid suffering and persecution at all costs, but really we should relish it when it comes, as this is further proof of our righteous living and also brings assurance of salvation. God won't give us anything we can't handle, so we should be joyful in our suffering and persecution.

This has not been my normal thought process, but God can change a thick rock heart like mine and He can change yours as well.

2 comments:

Ryan Hall said...

Thanks for your post Chuck. It was good to talk with you tonight at the party.

You hit the nail right on the head about suffering and persecution and the weak-sauce thoughts that can go with it. It is crazy how many Christians think that "for a cause, or for our own foolish choices or because we are doing wrong" brings about real suffering and persecution, but like you said that is not what Jesus and Paul are talking about.

You got my mind rollin a little too, and I remembered a verse in Philippians about suffering....here it is....

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:27-29)

The content of this paragraph is awesome. It has been granted to us in Christ that we should suffer for His sake. People love darkness rather then light, and anytime a follower of Jesus Christ is walking worthy of His calling it will upset the mass because of their evil and wicked ways. We don't even have to say anything (and sometimes we need to speak the truth in love) if our lives are lived out in a worthy manner of the gospel.

And check out what the Word says in First John....
"Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:12-13)

When we are walking worthy of our calling in the gospel, the world is going to hate and persecute us for that kind of righteousness. The righteousness we got when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. (see 2 Cor. 5:21). But that is ok because that is how Christians roll down here on earth. We live for the King and that means no backing down when it comes to living righteously!

~Kim (and family) said...

Chuck,

Before I was saved, I felt this first hand as a nonbeliever. My little sister was in college and was a Christian. It was her birthday and she had a bunch of her Christian friends come over to my parent's house and they had a big party for her. I remember being there and feeling two very opposite things at the same time...they repelled me, but at the same time I was attracted to them. I was in awe of their fellowship and ability to have so much fun and laughter and joy without having alcohol there and all of the earthly pleasures I so loved at that time. But I also could not wait to get out of there either. I made fun of them in my thoughts and joked with my brother about some of them. After I was saved, I remember a few of my sisters girlfriends coming over again to my parents about a year later...and I was so excited to be sitting with them talking about the Lord and visiting. God is so good.