There is such a difference between the life of the Christian and the life of the man of the world that conflict between the two is certain. Jesus Christ, our Savior, suffered. We are no better than He was! If we follow Him, we will suffer. Indeed, Jesus told us about this and promised blessings for following Him, even though suffering comes. In Matthew 5:10-12, He said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
It is possible for people to suffer for reasons other than Christianity. Some who follow false ways of religion suffer—but this is not a suffering that Jesus pronounces blessed. Just because one suffers, then, does not mean that he is a Christian and is following Jesus’ Way.
The apostle Peter, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in welldoing, as unto a faithful Creator” (I Pet. 4:12-19).
When the early disciples (apostles) suffered for the cause of Christ they rejoiced! “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name”(Acts 5:41). The Lord told Ananias that He would show Saul how he must “suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Later Paul stated that suffering with Him would result in our being glorified together (Rom. 8:17).
When Paul wrote the Philippians he instructed them that their duty was not only to believe on Christ (implying obedience to His will) but that they also must suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29). The apostle Peter learned well His Lord’s instructions (Matt. 5) because he wrote these words: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye:” (I Pet. 3:14).
Paul told Timothy that suffering for the cause of Christ was an expected thing. Paul expressed complete confidence in Jesus’ power to keep His promises. He said, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (II Tim. 1:12).
There appears to be the desire on the part of some to try to escape persecutions and sufferings for the cause of Christ. Many (if not most) church members will try to avoid any kind of conflict that would result from their Christian conduct. When suffering comes they will whine and cry like small children, instead of rejoicing as men and women of God should!
Truly, one does not go around hunting for persecution and suffering! As we have stated, just because one suffers or is persecuted does not mean that he is a faithful Christian. He might deserve the persecution or suffering. But, on the other hand, when a Christian suffers because he is a Christian, he rejoices. This puts him in the company of saints of old and in the company of the Lord Himself.
-Glenn B. Ramsey