Nobody likes suffering. Even Jesus hated the prospect of being the sin-bearer, separated from Father God (Luke 22:39-46). Yet, suffering for the sake of God, is inevitable for true Christians because we are in a spiritual battle: it is a part of our calling (1 Peter 2:21). A Christian teenager once asked a Christian army general, "Is it difficult to be a Christian in the Army, Sir?" He replied, "It is difficult to be a Christian anywhere - if you do it properly!" Paul said to Timothy that suffering was a normal part of being a disciple of Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). It was certainly part of Paul's personal testimony (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
The Bible records many hardships that came to God's people (Acts 14:22): it did not mean that He had stopped loving them, but that they were a part of the spiritual battle against unseen spiritually wicked forces. That is the story of Job. The Lord allowed him to suffer the loss of his home, family and health but in the end God gave him more than he lost – as he acknowledged God's sovereignty, and as He prayed for his friends who became self-appointed critics (Job 42:10).
Of course, those who do not care much for the Lord or His Word, will opt for the easy life and keep out of harm's way. They will mingle with the crowd and avoid being identified as a born-again Christian. But those who have gratefully received the mercy and grace of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, know that they must stand firm with Him. They know that they are ambassadors of heaven and children of the King. So when the persecution comes, they follow the example of the Old Testament prophets, and keep on persevering whatever it costs (Luke 11:51).
Although we now live in a globally-communicating basket of nations, there is more persecution of Christians today than at any other time in history. Even once-Christian countries like the UK are rejecting expressions of Christian faith, and forsaking the Bible by which its laws were framed. But we should not be surprised. Those who have no love for Jesus will find ways to despise those who do. The recipe for endurance is not just 'duty and guts', but a total confidence in the compassion and mercy of God. Perseverance is one of the themes of James' letter (James 1:3,4,12,25; James 5:7,8,11). And Hebrews 10:36 says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." If you face persecution, do not try worldly methods to wriggle out, but humbly stand with Your Lord. If the Lord allows other causes of personal suffering, trust that His power will be revealed in compassion and mercy for you - because He loves You and has died for you. Don’t forget that the Lord's character is always greater than your circumstances.
© Dr Paul Adams