In Suffering and Persecution, We Are Reminded of Who We Are
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
This verse raises the question, ‘If I am not suffering persecution, am I living godly in Christ Jesus?’ Are we more concerned when we do suffer persecution as a Christ-follower or when we don’t. Perhaps the latter should be our greater concern.
We shouldn’t go looking for persecution, but we should recognize that persecution will be the result of godly living. It’s easy to think of dramatic examples of physical persecution, but persecution can come in different ways. Sometimes, the effects of persecution are emotional when believers are ostracized, ignored, insulted, bullied, slandered, or discredited because of their faith. First Peter 4:2 tells us, ‘Whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.’ Think this through. If our flesh wants to sin but we yield to the Holy Spirit, the flesh suffers. Part of us dies. This is real and painful. When we have a seemingly brilliant retort to a painful insult, but recognize it is not from the mind of Christ and we refuse to say it, our flesh suffers. When lust comes knocking and offers sensuality served up sweet, but we refuse to entertain the thoughts, our flesh suffers. When we have the opportunity to show off before others but choose to take the low position, our flesh suffers.
We can dramatize suffering and persecution, but the reality is this: if you are going to live a godly life, you will suffer persecution – whatever form it takes. We ought not to fit into this world that crucified our Savior. When we stand up for Christ, we will stand out from the world.
Through Suffering and Persecution, We See a Reformation of Our Character
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
Once while I was speaking at a summer camp in North Carolina, a college freshman chatted with me about some trying family situations and struggles she was facing with friends. She was receiving quite a bit of flak for her obedience to the Lord. Halfway through the conversation, it hit me. I asked her, ‘Have you been praying to know the Lord more?’ She gave me a strange look and affirmed that indeed, that was her prayer. Smiling, I pointed out that God had simply been answering her prayers by giving opportunity for her character to be reformed and refined that she might know Him more.
God allows difficult times in our lives that Christ may be seen in us. Remember that Jesus Christ ‘was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil‘ (Matthew 4:1). How could the Spirit lead Jesus Christ into temptation since God ‘tempts no one‘? (James 1:13). The same word tempt can also be translated test. God tests His children so that they might be proven, but the Enemy tempts us that we might fall.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 , we are told, ‘No temptation [or testing] has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted [or tested] beyond your ability, but with the temptation [or testing] He will also provide the way of escape, that you might be able to endure it.’ While God allows us to experience these difficult times, He always provides a way of escape.
But we need to keep in mind that often God’s way of escape is not through evacuation, but through endurance. Perhaps there is a situation in your life that you wish God would kindly relieve you of, or remove completely. Could it be that His love deems the situation too valuable for your formation to simply remove it?”
Bramsen, N. (2017). What if Jesus meant what He said? Emmaus International, Dubuque, IA