Whatever happened to ‘suffering for the sake of the Gospel’? Did not the Apostle Paul state in his letter to the Philippians, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for Him.” (Phil 1:29)
‘Suffer for Him?’ …you mean, like ‘not be comfy and cozy’ in your faith? …you mean, like ‘being uncomfortable for the sake of my faith?’ ‘Not being liked by people?’ ‘Being persecuted because I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ?’
YEP! That’s exactly what I mean. Let’s take it a step further if you will. How about losing material possessions due to my faith? Or, being hated and slandered and ridiculed by family and friends because of my faith? Being physically attacked based on my faith? …Possibly dying and giving up my life because of the name of Jesus.
If we truly are living for Jesus, walking with conviction and sharing the Gospel, we will be persecuted and disliked often. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Jesus said…
‘When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.’ (Matt 10:23/NIV)
Not ‘if’ you are persecuted but ‘WHEN’ you are persecuted. (If you are not being persecuted in some fashion I would question if you really are a disciple of Jesus.)
We need to shake off this comfy Christianity (which is really not Christianity at all), and begin living as true disciples of Christ.
Unfortunately, suffering is definitely not a subject high on too many pastors’ sermon lists these days. Preaching on suffering is definitely not one of the Top Ten ways to grow a mega church. Nor is it the way to draw big crowds or be your city’s favorite pastor and invited to city-wide prayer meetings. In fact you may lose a few people if you do. More realistically you may lose a lot of people from your church. In all reality though, it’s simply separating some of the wheat from the tares. There are entirely too many comfy, spoon fed ‘believers’ occupying the pews today.
‘A servant is not above his teacher nor is a servant greater than his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher to be like his master.’ (Matt 10:24/NIV)
These are the very words of Jesus to His disciples. Jesus lived it. Jesus preached it. We should do it.
Hey…I will be the first one to admit I dislike suffering as much as the next guy. I mean who really likes to suffer? (Ok, I know there are some masochistic types out there but let’s keep this to the general populace!) Suffering hurts. It’s painful, uncomfortable and can be difficult. Wow…that sounds a lot different than much of what is preached from shore to shore these days doesn’t it? Typically we are more accustomed to hearing something along the lines of ‘God wants you happy, healthy, jolly and wealthy.’ Even in many of the altar calls these days at the end of a service, there is simply no discomfort at all in accepting Jesus. The lights drop down to pitch black, everyone’s eyes are closed (WITH NO ONE LOOKING), and all you have to do is maybe raise your hand, if you want to accept Jesus. Or maybe, just a slight head nod or maybe just your pinky finger. Or even better yet-text a message to some staff member (IN SECRET OF COURSE) if you possibly interested in becoming a Christian. (Just anything besides standing out before people for the sake of the Son of God-the one who gave His life for yours.)
WHAT?!?! Are you kidding me? God forbid we be singled out or be noticed for actually wanting to confess Christ and become a disciple of Christ. (That’s right-a disciple, not just a Christian. Of course being a disciple is another blog for another time.) Again, let’s go back to what Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.’ (Luke 12:8/NLT)
Or even better, look at The Message translation:
“Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels?” (Luke 12:8/MSG)
This seems like a pretty big deal. Yet why is this so shied away from? Why can’t we even acknowledge our faith before fellow believers? Gosh…if we can’t do that, how on Earth do we expect to acknowledge our faith before UNBELIEVERS???
Suffering…persecution can be hard but, when we get our eyes focused on Jesus instead of just the prosperity Gospel or the social country club preaching of today and the comfy lifestyle with a little Jesus sprinkled over the top, we can do it. Not only can we do it but we will find joy in doing so because we know we have an eternal reward in store. We are longing for a better country-a heavenly one and, many times, our suffering or loss can mean opportunity and doorways for the Gospel to go forward to the unsaved and/or unreached. The book of Hebrews talks quite a bit about this. In fact, so does the ENTIRE New Testament! Funny though how it’s not preached today. Why? It’s not popular. It doesn’t fill seats. It doesn’t build spiritual kingdoms on the backs of single pastors. It doesn’t bring in big tithe checks.
Whoops. Sorry…didn’t mean to step on too many toes. (Ok, well maybe a few toes).
I said it previously in this blog and I will say it again. If you are not being persecuted in some fashion I would question if you really are a disciple of Jesus. I know that may sting but it’s the truth.
If you call on the name of Jesus as your Lord, then take up your cross, deny yourself, crucify your flesh and follow after Him! Do the things Jesus did. Go to those who Jesus went to. If they hated Him, they will hate you also. But if they listened to Him, they will listen to you also. Jesus told us in John 14:12, ‘Whoever believes in me will do what I’ve been doing. In fact, he will do even greater things because I go to the Father.’ We can do what He did. We are Jesus on this Earth to the lost. Get uncomfortable. Get your cross and let’s go.
“Anyone who desires to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6