Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
2 Tim 3:12
As we began chapter 2 of our study guide last week, we were asked the following question: “Have you ever been disliked or laughed at for being a Christian?” This question is perhaps weightier than we realize in light of our verse above. If we answer, “No…not really,” what does that say about how righteously we live before others? Our text is clear. If you live godly, you will at times be mistreated, but cheer up, Christian! There are great blessings associated with suffering for Christ’s sake! Let’s consider a few key verses along these lines.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt 5:10-12)
Jesus said you are blessed if you suffer for doing right! This attack on the godly is nothing new. The Old Testament prophets experienced it, the New Testament apostles endured it, and the church in this present age will also be subjected to it. What should your response be in it? Christ says, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad!” There is great reward reserved for those that suffer for His sake!
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” (Php 1:29)
According to Strong’s Concordance, the phrase “it has been granted” actually means “to grant as a favor”. The point is that it is a great privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake. That’s why we read in Ac 5:41 that after being imprisoned and then beaten before being released, the disciples departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” After all that Christ has suffered for us–bearing ridicule, shame, torture, and ultimately death for our sakes–are we not happy to suffer in any and every way for Him? Remember, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Is 53:5) Yes, it is a great honor to suffer for Jesus’ name!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor 1:3-5)
Do you want to minister to others? Do you want to be able to sympathize with them in their trials and, instead of empty words, be able to offer them words of comfort and peace? It is through our sufferings for Christ’s sake and the resulting comfort that God gives us that we then learn to be able to comfort others in their sufferings. When my wife went through breast cancer treatment six years ago, she became uniquely able to support others that are more recently going through the same thing. Likewise, there is great blessing in suffering for by it we are equipped to offer consolation to fellow saints who are being persecuted for their faith.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “AND DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEIR THREATS, NOR BE TROUBLED.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Pet 3:14-16)
Finally, experiencing persecution and responding to it in meekness and love may have an eternally beneficial effect upon those that observe us. In the context of this text, it gives us an opportunity to share the gospel with those who marvel that we can patiently endure such mistreatment. It has the potential to convict those by whose hands we are afflicted. When the Roman centurion saw Christ dying upon the cross while praying to His Father to forgive those that had mocked and ridiculed Him, he knew Christ was a righteous man. (Lk 23:34, 47) It wasn’t simply how Jesus lived that convinced the soldier He was the Son of God, but it was how He suffered and died! When the Philippian jailer experienced the care that Paul and Silas had for his soul even though they had “laid many stripes on them”, he and his family were brought to faith in Christ. (Ac 16:22-34) Souls have often been saved when men suffer for Christ’s sake and yet deal with their persecutors in love. “…that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12) No wonder those that suffer for righteousness’ sake are called “blessed”!