A popular trend in a lot of churches has been the claim that when you become a Christian you will never have anymore problems in life. You'll prosper financially. You'll get the best job, the prettiest/handsomest spouse and your children will all be gifted/perfect. Should some trouble loom on the horizon, you'll just ask God to remove that mountain and "poof" it will magically disappear before you even reach it. I know that some of you who are reading this right now may be thinking "Wow. That's not what happened to me!"
Let me assure you, there's nothing wrong with you. You didn't miss out on something. In actuality, this "doctrine" is actually contrary to the Word of God. In the letter Paul wrote to Timothy is says: Wait a minute! Did that say will suffer persecution? Yes, it does say will. It does not say sometimes. It does not say maybe. It says will. That's means without a doubt, you can guarantee this is going to happen...if you are truly following Christ.
Before I continue, I'd like to point out that although we usually think of persecution in the sense of physical attack, there are other forms of persecution. Many of them are subtle.
In looking at the "heroes of faith" I'll take a look at some examples from Hebrews 11 which is also known as the Faith Chapter.
Abel: Followed God's commandments and was killed by his own brother in a jealous rage because Abel's sacrifice was found to be acceptable by God.
Noah: Was the laughing stock of the world...until the flood came. Some of us would have slunk off in same if everyone made fun of us and thought we were crazy. No one listened to him except his immediate family.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: While God prospered them financially, they certainly had "dysfunctional family issues". Abraham had to send one son away and the descendents of those sons have been fighting ever since...talk about a family feud! Isaac's twin boys hated each other and the younger son (Jacob) had to run for his life. The descendents of these twin brothers have also been fighting for thousands of years. This is one family that did not get along! Jacob's sons actually sell their brother Joseph into slavery. Perhaps you thought about doing that to one of your siblings but hopefully you never carried out the idea! There's more family issues but I think you get the idea. These were pretty messed up families. Their households certainly weren't fine examples of a "peaceful Christian home."
Joseph: Sold into slavery by his own brothers. Accused of rape (which he did not commit) and thrown into prison.
Moses: Flees Egypt for his life because he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a fellow Israelite. However, the Israelites turn on him asking if he intends to kill them. Pharoah tries to kill him and after letting him go, sends an army after Moses. God delivers them from Pharoah but Moses just can't get away from people hating him and wanting to kill him. He ends up out on the desert with possibly as many as 2 million people (his relatives actually) who like to talk about killing him. There's that dysfunctional family piece again.
David: His brothers make fun of him. He finds himself facing a giant. His father-in-law (King Saul) sends assassins out looking David so David spends a good part of his time on the run. More family problems. Actually, David spends some time living in caves. The Psalms are filled with David's comments about his enemies. He had a lot of them yet he is referred to as a man after God's own heart!
I'll add a few more who come to mind:
Elijah: Spent most of his time on the run because King Ahab (and his lovely bride Jezebel) didn't like what he said. I came across a verse the other day in which Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat join forces with him against the King of Aram. Jehoshaphat wanted him to ask the counsel of the Lord first. Ahab brings in false prophets but Jehoshaphat was on to him. Ahab finally admists there is one prophet of the Lord he could inquire of but he says "I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad." 1 Kings 22:8 (NIV). This is a good example of why we can expect persecution in this world...we remind people that all is not well with their souls.
Daniel: Sure, he got a great job. He also was thrown into a lions den for praying. Yes, God delivered him but still, do you really want to get thrown into a den of lions.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego--thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship anyone or anything other than God.
Stephen: Stoned to death for preaching the Gospel.
James the brother of John: Speared with a sword under the orders of Herod because he preached the Gospel.
The Apostles: imprisoned and killed/exiled (John)
Paul: Former friends try to kill him, stoned and left for dead, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, slandered by fellow "christians", executed
The list could go on and on. The point is Christianity is not a walk in the park. Yes, God is with us through everything but that doesn't mean it is easy. If you watch a Christian who is truly trusting in God as they go through storms, it may appear to be easy. You're not seeing the times they are falling on their faces before the Lord, asking questions and shedding tears.
Those who are truly Christ-Followers will face persecution. It might not be beatings or imprisonment althought that certainly can happen. It might be rejection by your family, financial attacks, work problems, trouble with other people, suddenly being let go from your job for a reason that sounds pretty flimsy, etc. It might come in the form of health issues, marriage problems, etc.
The good news is: you don't have to endure this alone. You have a savior who is with you every step of the way...and you have a family that will embrace you with their love and prayers.
In actuality, it doesn't get any better than this.
Great blog, K!
And even Jesus Himself said:
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
He said we WILL have trouble. The peace we have is the peace of knowing that God is in control, that this trouble afflicting us has been first filtered through the fingers of our loving Father, that he uses all things for good, and that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Thanks for speaking the truth in love on a point most Christians don't want to hear. If this whole Christian thing was so easy why did Jesus say the road is narrow and gait is straight? Yes, God made the criteria fro receiving the gift of salvation very simple (Romans 10:9), but once saved, as you point out, there are no rose gardens promised. It take great strength and courage to walk as a Christian for any length of time. It takes remarkable conviction to continue walking as a Christian when you find yourself on a lonely highway doing God's will.
Great post and thank you.
Wonderful post sister! Veing a Christian is not an easy thing. We are going to struggle, but we have Christ comfort right there!
[b] 2 Corinthians 1:3-5,9-10[/b]
[quote][i]Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. [/quote]
[quote][i]indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us[/i][/quote]
Good post sister. We are aliens in a world not yet our own. We are in this world but not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven, in the kingdom age to come, and in New Jerusalem. We are different therefore we will be persecuted. However, we will always have all we need. Our heavenly father will make sure we are provided for. We are His children and He is, through all our struggles and persecutions, preparing us for His kingdom.
Thanks for a wonderful post.
Amen! Sister, you are right. No one has an explanation for suffering; Saints go through it, we go through it. I like to think that perhaps, in God's unfathomable scheme of things, He looks upon our sufferings as we would look upon an ache after a workout. It hurts now but it will pass and it will end up as good...
When we read Hebrews 11 we find accounts of suffering Saints who never received the promise but only had hope of the heavenly city God had prepared for them. And as you point out, they suffered and their weaknesses were turned to strength and some who were tortured for their faith, mocked and whipped, oppressed, mistreated and many dying horrible deaths.
All that suffering is written about people of faith and I agree it hasn't changed today. We suffer weaknesses, some battle disease and others lack. In some countries we suffer persecution and even torture. But all of us do indeed have God with us and a wonderful promise for eternity. We also (should) have the love and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ who run the race with us. There is much comfort to be drawn from fellowship :)
Thank you for this heartfelt entry ...I am praying along with you...
I agree.. Persecution, whatever its' forms is unavoidable as a Christian, but it's how WE AS Christians BEHAVE in this persecution that is what matters. We are not to run around saying "woe is me! I'm being Persecuted!" and wear sack cloth and ashes. Why? Because when you do that, you're not focusing on trusting God, you're foucing on the problmem and what YOU can or can't do about it!
This is why we have to pray and trust God THROUGH persecution! The point is, as one of my pastors used to say "to never let the DEVIL see you sweat!"
Sometimes that requires dancing when you don't want to dance to prove your trust in Him, or singing, "putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness"
getting on your knees and praying for someone else as your life falls apart. Just because someone LOOKS happy doesn't mean they're not going through something. We, as human beings tend to, and even like to, at times, rejoice at the problems others are having... look at the sales of the tabloids, and all the news on the misfortunes of those in the spotlight.
So, don't wear your problems like a badge of honor... God gets no glory.
Rejoice in the Lord Always, and again I say...REJOICE!
Well said! While I do think there are times others need to be aware of what is going on in our lives...so that they may truly understand that God is bigger than....(insert your own word here) and be encouraged, they should not see us living as a victim. That does not glorify God!
Some favorite verses I'd like to share for those tough "moments" and I call them moments are:
[bible]Romans 8:31[/bible][bible]Romans 8:35-39[/bible][bible]2 Corinthians 4:8-18[/bible][bible]Romans 15:13[/bible][bible]Philippians 4:4[/bible][bible]Nehemiah 8:10[/bible][bible]Psalms 23:4[/bible][bible]philippians 4:13[/bible] This is just to name a few.
Wow. So true. Goes right along with the solo I sang at church on Sunday...Trading My Sorrows. I gave a speech beforehand (put a mic in my hand and you're in for it) about how we can allow ourselves to get bogged down by our problems, our needs, our issues, the drama. We take our focus off the King of Kings and we suddenly see the dark evil world with all of its problems. All of the pain and suffering it throws at us. But when we focus on Christ, everything else just disappears into the background. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. David said it well.
The writer who penned It Is Well With My Soul lost his family at sea when he wrote that song. Imagine his agony. I've been learning (since I am silver being refined by the fire) recently that through our tears, through our surrender of our entire life, our entire being, through our brokenness, God sustains us; He carries us; He comforts us; He is our rock and salvation, an ever-present help in times of trouble. I've discovered time and time again that when life knocks me to my knees and I feel like I'm down for the count, and once again, everyone I know and love on this earth is incommunicado, my Heavenly Father is ready willing and able to listen and carry my burden for me. He wants to be our everything, our best friend, our closest confidante, and enduring trials and persecution is what draws us closer to Him.
I know that when I am broken and helpless, when I lay myself on HIS holy altar in sacrifice because I cannot handle the trials, the suffering, the tests any longer, I receive comfort and strength to go on another day. Knowing that my Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me...what more could I ask for?
Grateful for a Father who loves me more than I'll ever know on this earth.
If you think about persecution, and it worries you remember what a wise friend once said to me, "If you're a firm believer and follower, this life is the closest to Hell we're ever going to see."
Very nice post :)
Thank God for suffering that we can share in His suffering, the suffering that we endure are not comparable with the Glory that we shall recieve. Sometimes it easy to forget that when life gets tough that it is a form of sharing in the suffering of Christ. Let me never forget the pain Lord for the pain has caused me to cry out to you.