We like our comfort. You would be hard pressed to find someone who would rather sleep rough than in a five star hotel. Given the choice most people would rather live in a ‘safe’ country like the UK than war torn areas such as Iraq. We try to avoid situations that may bring conflict. Our society of political correctness does its best to cause no offence to anyone. If we suffer any sort of persecution for our faith we pray that God would remove it. Yet the Bible teaches something radically different. Something completely counter-culture.
1 Peter 2:21 says “This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps.”
God has not called us to a life of comfort. He has called us to ‘pick up our crosses’, to take the narrow path. But are we suffering? Around the world there are areas where Christians face great persecution. But here in the our country? In our town?
If God has called us to suffer, and Christ himself has warned us that “everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me” (Matthew 10:22) and we are living a life of relative comfort, are we doing enough? Are we standing out from society? Are we living as new creations? Does the devil see us having enough impact to be worthy of attention and attack?
We want to make our lives comfier. We look to build bigger houses and grander churches. But are we building on the sand or on the rock? We crave after material things that soon go out of fashion, yet Jesus tells us to be his follower we should sell our possessions and give the money to the poor. We look for ways to get away with doing the bare minimum, yet Jesus tells us to go the extra mile. We want a comfortable, easy life, yet we are called to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
We are saved because Jesus was willing to suffer for us. We are called to be like him. We need to “arm [ourselves] with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer” (1 Peter 4:2). We need to follow Jesus’ example in everything we do. This includes being prepared to suffer hardships for the sake of the gospel.
“But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (1 Peter 4:16) – do we see it as a privilege to suffer for being a Christian? Do we thank God when the world insults us? Or do we ask that the world would accept us? Because perhaps rather than being accepted by the world, we run the danger of becoming acceptable to the world. If we don’t have the mentality that it is a privilege to suffer for being a Christian then perhaps we will not live in a way that will cause the world to hate us for our allegiance to Christ, instead taking a path that will nor provoke any persecution.
Romans 8:28 reminds us that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” God can use times of suffering to (amongst other things) teach us, to bring us closer to Him, to discipline us, to make us more reliant on Him and to aid our witness as we show those around us that we have overcome or are enduring the hardships with God’s help.
Brother Yun goes as far as to say ‘It’s not those in prison for the sake of gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.‘(The Heavenly Man pg189-190). For many years Brother Yun was in prison, beaten, tortured and persecuted because he was a Christian in communist China. Yet he came to realize that through his persecution he was getting opportunities to reach out to and save many criminals. He was getting to spend time in prayer and meditating on God’s word that his busy life as a pastor in the underground house church movement hadn’t allowed for. His physical suffering brought him closer to God, and allowed him to experience His intimate presence.
So if God has called us to suffer, if Christ has led us by His example and suffered, if God can use suffering for His glory and it is a privilege to suffer for God’s name, are we going to be content sitting comfortably, or will we be prepared to do and say the things that will put us in the firing line from the non-Christian world?