Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trials and Persecution 1: The Inevitability of Suffering

There seems to be a trend emerging in our churches. There is a lesson that is being taught that goes like this - all the pleasures of this world can never satisfy you, and that the only way to prosperity and contentment is through recognizing the wonderful plan of Jesus Christ in your lives.

This narrative is completely accurate, but a bit misleading. You share this lesson with anyone, they will immediately think that living for God will allow us to find prosperity and success here on this Earth, that we will never truly have another trouble in the world. 

But that image is completely wrong. Indeed a careful examination of the Scriptures reveals to us quite the opposite. We are promised in 2 Timothy 3:12
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

Jesus himself was persecuted, tortured, and then crucified. He definitely did not live a prosperous life by the world's standards. Some might argue that he did all of that, so that we could enjoy life more abundantly. Yes, that is true, but not without persecution. Jesus specifically tells his disciples (that includes us) in John 15:18-21,
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."

We know from history that Jesus' prophecy rings true. Every single one of the disciples endured much persecution. They were banished, stoned, beheaded, and crucified. Ray Comfort in his book, God has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message, wrote,
"Church tradition tells us the fate of several apostles and early evangelists:
Philip: Crucified, Phrygia, A.D. 54
Matthew: Beheaded, Ethiopia, A.D. 60
Barnabus: Burned to death, Cyprus, A.D. 64
Mark: Dragged to death, Alexandria, A.D. 64
James (the Less): Clubbed to death, Jerusalem, A.D. 66
Paul: Beheaded, Rome, A.D. 66
Peter: Crucified, Rome, A.D. 69
Andrew: Crucified, Rome, A.D. 70
Thomas: Speared to death, Calamina, A.D. 70
Luke: Hanged, Athens, A.D. 93"

Some might try to say that it's different these days. That the people of this age are not as evil as they were back then to persecute Christians. But that conflicts with the words of 2 Timothy 3:13,
"But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

It may invoke a wonderful emotional response to say that our lives here on Earth will be all full of happiness if we accept Christ, but I believe it is more important to make sure our words are accurate than touching.

Yes, we will have the benefit of having Someone powerful in our lives to strengthen us through our trials and persecution, but we will still have such trials and persecutions.

Perhaps we should first understand the inevitability of struggles in our life before we begin to learn of the wonderful plan Jesus has for us. He does have one, but it isn't necessarily one that we might at first consider wonderful. It might not be comfortable, but I think we can all admit that God's presence in our lives (and the true purpose of salvation, eternal life) is much more valuable than the luxuries and comfort in this world.

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