Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard these words from a doctor or dentist before they perform some devilish procedure on our bodies. I remember facing something called an endoscopy, which was the most uncomfortable experience of my life! In truth, we’re not that surprised that getting better involves some discomfort. We are actually ready to bear the pain for the glorious release!
Sometimes I am surprised how many of us are affronted when things do not go exactly as we wanted. Some people don’t like us, accuse us unjustly and totally misrepresent our motives. It all seems so unfair and we pray for deliverance and an immediate victory over the circumstances. If you are anything like me, victory means God doing what I ask him to and hopefully some swift divine retribution on those working against me.
The problem is that a trouble free life of popularity, fulfilling relationships and comfortable wealth is far from what the Bible reveals, especially for those whose heart’s desire is to live for God.
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
1 Timothy 3:12-13
Paul faced persecution at every turn and he clearly expects this to be the normal Christian life. The promise here is not for a few unfortunate ones, instead, “everyone” who even wants to live for Christ will face persecution. This comes in many forms from the terrible and disgusting violence being faced by Christians in countries like Syria, to the mocking, slander and restrictions being felt by the Western church.
Jesus was very clear on the cost of choosing to follow him, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24 NLT) It involves giving up rights to doing things our way and following the way of the cross. The expectation of comfort and a problem free life is really associated with wanting our way.
Sounds a bit gloomy perhaps? Well, maybe there is a shift of perspective that will help us in these times.
1. God isn’t surprised or caught out by events. He remains sovereign and the fact that his Word specifically and clearly warns us to expect opposition is an obvious encouragement. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
2. So often, as Christians, we assume that bad things are a negative outcome from our actions. Of course, this can be true if there is willful sin in our lives. If we are serving God and desiring to live a holy life, however, then opposition is more likely to be a sign of doing the right things. This can be an indication that we are bearing fruit, pursuing holiness and moving with God’s plans for us.
3. An eternal perspective changes everything. As the CEV Bible puts it rather eloquently, “God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) We are now foreigners in this world, therefore our motivations are easily misunderstood. We make every effort but the real objective is to glorify God by living right for him even though this will lead others to accuse us of doing the opposite, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
4. The battle is not a human one. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Jesus has already won the ultimate victory in this realm and, in the meantime, there is a recognized defense, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Maybe you are part of a church that is being accused, blamed or mocked unjustly or you personally are faced with lies, slander and criticism. If Jesus is at the center, doctrine is sound, pride is buried, repentance is fruitful and disciples are being made, then just maybe you are following Jesus. When Jesus left Galilee for Samaria (Luke 9) he knew it was hostile territory with no shelter available but his destiny and the purposes of God were waiting ahead. So let’s follow Jesus into Samaria and into God’s purposes for us. “Sorry, this may be uncomfortable but it will sure bring you into the exciting more of God!” Be encouraged friends, our God is for us and he’s in control.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chris serves on the leadership at Living Hope Community Church in the Isle of Man. He is married to Carol and they have 2 married daughters. Chris was in the business world for 26 years before joining the church staff. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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