Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
People of faith all over the world suffer today because of their love for Jesus Christ. They risk their own lives for the promotion of the gospel. We rarely hear of anyone dying in America because of persecution. You may be familiar with the young woman who got a bullet in her brain for refusing to renounce Christ at Columbine, but she is really the only recent American martyr we have on our soil.
However, there is suffering for Christ going on in the homes of believers every day – husbands who ridicule their wives for believing in Christ or children who are God-haters, giving their godly parents all sorts of grief. If you don’t think the kids persecute the parents, you are wrong. I see them in my office. Consider the parents who have raised their son or daughter to believe in Christ from infancy. The child decides at some point in their teenage years that they are going to reject all of the teaching their parents poured into them and begin to live and flaunt a worldly lifestyle. This creates constant tension, anger and dissention in the home every time the family is together.
I have heard children calling their parents stupid fools for believing in God and Christ. They tell their parents they hate them because they are not allowed to run around in immodest clothing like their friends, or go places other kids can go, or see movies or television that their friends are seeing. These kids can be vicious, cruel, hurtful and hateful to mom and dad.
People in these positions are suffering, and Scripture is very helpful to us in understanding suffering for righteousness’ sake. A careful student of the Word will not be surprised because of how much the Bible says about it. (1 Peter 5:6-10; 1 Peter 4:15-16; Luke 6:22)
The hardest part seems to be the response that Scripture calls us to in regard to the persecution we endure. Many know about suffering, but many struggle mightily with the response to it.
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.
1 Peter 3:14
This can be great comfort to a wife whose husband is unsaved, who is mocking her and threatening her because of her new found faith.
…keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
1 Peter 3:16-17
I tell people in these kind of situations that it is always, always better to be suffering on the side of righteousness. If someone is going to try and inflict suffering upon you, you want it to be because you are acting righteously before God. It is following the example of our Lord Christ who said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44), and the Apostle Paul who said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
These commands mean to pray for them, bless them with kindness, forgiveness, and forbearance. Refrain from taking vengeance and responding from the flesh.
This is not possible for us to do without the direct intervening power of the Holy Spirit. You must first be completely dependent upon Him for the strength to carry out an obedient response. The next thing that is required for success is that you change your focus from self to God.
When my heart is not focused on “me,” and I am instead thinking about “how can I glorify God in this circumstance?,” I will begin to accept and understand certain things that God wants me to learn through the suffering. Then I must put into action the things that I know are right to do. I must be respectful, humble, demonstrate faith and trust in God.
As much as we dislike suffering, it is the perfect place for God to do some of His best work in the hearts and lives of His people because it shows us the attitude of the heart. Lean into what He has for you today.