Read: 1 Peter 4:1 – 5:14
Focus: If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name! In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. All power to Him forever! Amen. 1 Peter 4: 14 – 16, 5: 10 – 11.
If we are to follow Christ, we WILL face trials, tribulations, and suffering for His name. It doesn’t sound fun, and it’s certainly not something I look forward to (as a matter of fact, thinking of my wife or daughter suffering and being persecuted scares me). However, Jesus and several of his Apostles tell us that we will. For example we are told:
Jesus :“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. John 15:18-20
Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Paul: …”we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
Paul: “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12.
I could go on, but I think we all get the point, and we all know from our own lives that even though we are followers of Christ, we aren’t immune to trials, tragedy, and suffering. Most of us have probably even experienced at least very mild persecution based on our Christian beliefs when we are open about our beliefs. I’m not talking about anything even remotely approaching the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ face in places like the Middle East, China, North Korea, etc; however, we still face persecution even here in America. Maybe we weren’t called back for a second job interview because our Facebook page is filled with Bible quotes. Maybe we’re seen as the odd one in the office who is mildly ostracized socially because we refuse to engage in gossip. Or maybe we encounter a situation like my 12 year old daughter recently faced – when she refused to say a curse word to be part of a group of “cool kids” at a dance event, the girls made a circle with their backs to her and refused to talk to her because they said they can’t trust anyone who says she won’t curse because she’s a Christian. I also don’t think it takes a genius to look at the kinds of things happening in our country right now and know that we will be increasingly more likely going forward to face persecution for our Christian beliefs.
So why must we face suffering and persecution for our belief in Jesus? I think the Bible provides answers to that question. First, we are “in the world”, but not “of the world”. We live in the world, but the Bible clearly tells us that the world is controlled by Satan. Jesus tells us in John 12:31: “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.” The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.
We are to be in the world spreading the Gospel which means interacting culturally, but we are also to separate ourselves from the culture. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:2: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. I like this quote from gotquestions.org:
We must also understand that being in the world, but not of it, is necessary if we are to be a light to those who are in spiritual darkness. We are to live in such a way that those outside the faith see our good deeds and our manner and know that there is something “different” about us. Christians who make every effort to live, think and act like those who do not know Christ do Him a great disservice. Even the unbeliever knows that “by their fruits you shall know them,” and as Christians, we should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit within us.
Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/in-but-not-of-world.html#ixzz3eaAz80Ej
Secondly, the Bible very clearly tells us that we will face persecution, trials, and sufferings because it completes God’s work in us. For instance, go back and re-read 1 Peter 4: 1 -6 from today’s reading. The Apostle Peter is telling us why we suffer. In James 1:2-3, the Apostle James tells us: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. Paul also wrote something similar in Romans 5:3 – 5: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
So how do we as Christians deal with the suffering and persecutions that we will face? Again Peter provides the answer in today’s reading in 1Peter 4:12 – 19 . We are also told in several other places in the Bible that we need to remain thankful to God even in the midst of suffering for the graces that He makes available to all who seek Him (see Matthew 5:11 – 12, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, Galatians 6:9)
Prayer: Lord, I don’t want to face persecution and suffering nor do I want my loved ones to face them. But even greater than my fear is my thankfulness to You for saving me, my love for You, and desire to faithfully serve you. Please give me strength to overcome my fears, strengthen my faith so I stand firm for you against persecution, and help me to faithfully spread Your Gospel no matter what. I ask that I not become judgmental or try to convict others of their sin (I acknowledge that’s your job through the Holy Spirit), but as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16, that you help me to share my hope in You as a believer in a gentle, loving and respectful way to glorify You. In Jesus name… Amen.