Recent reports of the suffering Christians in the Middle East have shocked many around the world. Though persecution is not new for the followers of Jesus Christ, we have not witnessed such brutal and heinous attack in these modern times. Some of us have only read or heard about such gruesome killing but today because of the social media we are able to see those dreadful scenes. The shootings and beheading of innocent people, even women and children make us wonder what is happening to this modern world.
The present state of affairs in many countries shows that very shortly many of us who live in relatively peaceful environment will also have to face similar situations. Therefore it is high time for God’s people to consider this issue seriously. Not only we should rise up to plead with the Lord to intervene, but also the Lord’s people should live a responsible life, making use of the freedom and resources God has graciously granted to us.
First of all we need to understand believer’s sufferings in the light of God’s word. Most of us know well that easy and comfortable life is not what the Lord Jesus Christ is offering to believers. He said, ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’ Jn 16: 33; ‘Because you are not of the world… the world hates you’. Jn 15:18. Christ does not promise a trouble free life in this world. (cf. Matt 10: 17, 22; 24:9)
Not just a sickness or financial loss but much severe trouble may erupt against us. Paul warned the new believers, “We must through many tribulations enter in to the kingdom of God.” Act 14: 22. Peter also states the reality of Christian suffering, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” 1Peter 4:12. Christian suffering is not something unusual, it is very much part of our life, that every believer should expect and be ready.
What a cruel and dreadful agony our Lord Jesus had to go through! The apostles and the early Christians too were persecuted in the most shocking manner. In fact the writer of Hebrews records the painful experiences of the OT saints and concludes, “of whom the world was not worthy”. Heb 11: 36 – 38. If Godly people always suffered like this, what more can we expect! If at all we find a free and comfortable circumstance today, we should never take it for granted. We ought to be on our knees to plead for the suffering saints and humbly yield to God’s will.
What is the reason for such hostility God’s people face? Why do Christians everywhere and in all ages face fierce tribulations? There are many reasons for Christian’s sufferings. Two things are note-worthy:-
a. World against us. Jn 15: 18, 19. Heb 11: 38
The Lord Himself spoke of it, ‘Word will hate you’. The system or spirit of the world is against Christian path. Cf. Jn 14: 17; 17: 25; 1Jn 3:1. World system can never understand or appreciate a Christian, because we are not of this world. Our faith, life-style and standard are entirely different. So it’s natural for the world to trouble us at every opportunity. Sad, some try to get the applause and acknowledgment of the world, by adopting the world style. They may hope to avoid persecution but true believer can not think so.
b. Divine plan. 1Cori 10: 13
God in His eternal plan and counsel using even such hostile experiences to try, mould and even teach us. Cf. 1Peter 4:12; 1: 6, 7; 2Cor 1:6, 9. Affliction is often the pathway to growth, sanctification and fruitfulness. Many times afflictions make us humble and grateful. It gives us new insight and even longing for the presence of God. Then prayer becomes more intimate and meaningful. That’s why Peter says it’s a blessing to suffer. 1Peter 4:14; Mat 5:10
What should prompt us to suffer? Is it because we are vulnerable, weak and helpless? One of the motivating factors is the prospect of a Christian. Bible reveals a wonderful future programme for God’s people. We wait for the glory, the appearance of our Lord, the reward, the reign etc. cf. Rom 8:17, 18; 2Cori 4: 16, 17; 1Pet 4:13; 2Tim 2:12 etc.
Considering this future glory, Paul says, the present affliction is light and for a moment. We do not look at things which are seen and temporal but eternal and invisible.
Thus let us be ready for anything that our Lord allows us in our life. He is in control and permits only that which we can endure. Let us uphold the suffering believers worldwide. Let us make use of our time, talent and other resources for His purposes, while waiting earnestly for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the hope of glory.
Thanks for the Fire
After William Carey was well established in his pioneer missionary work in India, his supporters in England sent a printer to assist him. Soon the two men were turning out portions of the Bible for distribution. Carey had spent many years learning the language so that he could produce the scriptures in the local dialect. He had also prepared dictionaries and grammars for the use of his successors.
One day while Carey was away, a fire broke out and completely destroyed the building, the presses, many Bibles, and the precious manuscripts, dictionaries, and grammars. When he returned and was told of the tragic loss, he showed no sign of despair or impatience. Instead, he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work over again. He started immediately, not wasting a moment in self-pity. Before his death, he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements.