So, you committed your life to Christ. Did you expect a bed of roses? If you did, think again. While there is no greater joy than salvation in the Lord, the road that fallows Christ is marked with suffering.
Look at Jesus. Not only was he God in flesh, he was the shining example of perfect humanity. He came to earth and walked the same guilty sod that we walk. Yet, he was reviled, harassed, and persecuted, then beaten, crucified, and left for dead. If Jesus suffered for living the ultimate human life, we ought not be surprised when we suffer for Christ. Peter goes so far as to say we should rejoice. What reason do we have to rejoice?
First, suffering for Christ reveals our union with Christ. “The student is not above the teacher,” Jesus said, “nor a servant above his master (Matthew 10:24).” If the head of the house has been called Beezebul, should not the members of the household expect the same (Luke 13:24). Suffering for Christ both purifies our faith and proves we belong to him. It will show you to be the seed planted in good soil that produces a crop of 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown. On the other hand, it might show you to be the seed planted in rocky ground, which though joyfully sprouting up is quickly scorched by the persecution and trouble of the burning noon day sun. Furthermore, our suffering hardly resembles a straight line of progress. The precious metal in the crucible must first be made limp before it is galvanized. We can rejoice because our suffering for Christ both proves we are Christ’s and purifies our faith.
Second, we can rejoice when we suffer for Christ, because our victory is for sure. When Peter said rejoice when you suffer, he went on to say that we will be overjoyed when Christ appears in his glory. When the Apostles were jailed, flogged, and ordered not to speak in Jesus’ name – barely escaping death – they left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for Christ’s name (Acts 5:40-41). If such rejoicing can take place under those fiery circumstances, how overjoyed will we be when Jesus comes again in glory?
Third, we can rejoice when we suffer for Christ, because we can be sure the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. The Bible tells us that before the martyr Stephen was stoned to death for testifying to Christ, his face shown like an angel. And when they were pelting him with rocks, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sins against them (Acts 6:15; 7:60).” When the priest Maximillian Kolbe was sentenced to death in a starvation bunker in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, he led those with him in song. How else could those who suffered soo greatly appear so saintly, unless the Holy Spirit rested upon them in their suffering?
There are many reasons to rejoice when you suffer for Christ. Do not be surprised, but rejoice.
- I will not unnecessarily provoke suffering, but will be willing to suffer for Christ in order to bear witness to him.
- If I am to suffer for Christ today, I will count my union with Christ as joy and allow such suffering to strengthen my faith.
- If I am to suffer for Christ today, I will know that my end-time victory is for sure.
- If I am to suffer for Christ today, I will rely on the Spirit that rests upon me to guide me and give me joy-filled hope.