For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…
Christians believe the gospel is good news and Jesus came that we might have the abundant life. I want to emphasize that important reality before dealing with an unpleasant aspect of the Christian life.
I’ll use a common experience to which most of us can relate to demonstrate how the message of Christ is sometimes misrepresented.
When you are looking to purchase a new automobile the salesman will pitch the wonders of his product. What he will not tell you is the negatives or downside to the vehicle in question. No matter what question you ask, he will always give you a positive spin. Or, do you think that when you ask a store clerk if a dress makes you look fat you will hear a response other than, “No ma’am. I think it looks great on you!” It is unlikely that the clerk would risk the loss of a sale by telling you the unpleasant truth.
Let’s face it. There is not always “truth in advertising” nor “truth in selling.” We are told that which is necessary for persuading us to buy. Vital information is withheld and the truth is stretched to avoid losing the sale.
Unfortunately, those of us who proclaim the gospel may at times withhold some of the truth for the sake of making the sale. We must be very careful that we are not watering down, sugar coating, or even stretching God’s truth to advance our personal agenda.
Again, I want to emphasize that our message is the greatest news that man has ever known or will know. The gospel produces hope for all who embrace it. God’s message to His children is filled with encouragement, provision, protection, and everything we need for living. But with all the wonderful and good things there are also some difficulties that come as a result of following Christ.
The Christian life is not all good. There are going to be some bad things that happen because you belong to Jesus. In today’s focus scripture the Apostle Paul writes, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” That is to say that suffering “on behalf of Christ” may be a part of your Christian experience. When you love Jesus and faithfully serve Him you may encounter opposition and difficulty that produces suffering. Paul instructed Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Tim 3:12)
Jesus told His disciples that “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) In Luke 21:12 Jesus reminded them that those who oppose you “will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons.” His first followers knew what to expect from the enemy, but they also knew what the Lord expected of them. More importantly, they knew that no matter what they faced they would always have the help of God.
Hopefully, you will never have to experience suffering for the sake of Christ as many have experienced and still endure even to this day. There are many who have been tortured and martyred for the faith. A more common experience to you and me is in the realm of spiritual warfare and resistance to our attempts at sharing our hope in Christ. There is no doubt that demonic attacks can produce great difficulty and suffering.
You should not be surprised when you make a decision or change a behavior in obedience to the Lord, and then encounter opposition or difficulty. Just as God wants you to change — Satan does not. That’s why sometimes doing the right thing is met with opposition. You may actually be treated as if you have done something wrong when, in fact, you have done something godly and right. Taking a giant step spiritually can land you in a demonic hornet’s nest. Just don’t give up or change course. Stay in the way that is right. God will bless your faithfulness.
When you encounter suffering as a result of your devotion to Christ then there will ultimately be cause for rejoicing. Peter said that we are to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”(1 Peter 4:13)
I can only imagine what it must have been like for Jesus’ earliest followers who learned from Him and beheld His ministry while on this earth. They were eyewitnesses to His goodness and His sufferings. They saw the One they loved who was without sin tortured and murdered for proclaiming God’s truth and they understood the meaning of His sacrifice. Later as they encountered similar resistance they were willing to “partake” in “Christ’s sufferings” and they could do so “rejoicing.” It is amazing what you are willing to endure and sacrifice for those that you love deeply. So it is when we truly love our Lord.
Yes, there may be suffering as the result of your relationship to Christ. However, your suffering will ultimately end in glorious victory. If today you are going through some painful difficulty as a result of your relationship to Jesus, I want to join with Peter in offering this prayer to God for you. “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
For more on this topic, check out this article: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.