Over the past couple of weeks, I have written posts in a series titled Boot Camp: Facing Hardships in Your Daily Christian Lives. This next post will be on tribulations and persecution. As I prepared for this next post, I struggled between choosing two different passages of scripture to use. I finally came to the decision to use both because of their value towards this topic.
I have said it many times before and I say it again. A life full of struggle is a very common thing for Christians. Even Christ has said this. Starting in Matthew 10:16-22 (ESV), it reads:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Notice His words. He is sending us out to the wolves. We will be handed over to courts, whipped and flogged, and be brought before the rulers… all in His name. He goes on to say that family will turn on family: Brother against brother, father against his children, children against parents, and some will even put them to death. Everyone will hate us in the name of our Savior and Lord.
However, not all of His words are dark and gloomy. He advises us to be canny as serpents and innocent as doves. When brought to the authorities, He tells us to not worry. When the time comes to speak, the Holy Spirit will come to us to speak. And when families are being torn apart, he tells us to endure. For in endurance, there is a great reward; we will be saved. This reward is so much worth it. Sure, a life of pain and suffering might sound like it sucks, but when you throw in an eternal life of being in heaven, worshiping the great and Almighty God, it is definitely worth it.
Through basic training, soldiers undergo an extreme lifestyle change and huge stresses. It is no easy task to become a member of the US Armed Forces. When I went through basic, I did so to become an Infantryman. I consider being an infantryman to be the most physically difficult entry-level job in the Army. While the training duration was one of the shortest, it was also some of the most difficult training a soldier can go through. From Day Zero/Shark Attack until Graduation, the Drill Sergeants would treat us with hostility and put us in situations where we suffered in various different ways.
However, they did this for a reason. They were training America’s front line of defense. They were training soldiers who would eventually be in combat situations where one wrong action could result in the deaths of multiple other soldiers. They were doing these things to prepare us for our jobs as Infantrymen. I want you all to understand though: There was never once a time where I was hazed. All the training and smoking/corrective action that we were put through was never too much for us to handle and was always a legal order. Looking at the definitions of tribulation and persecution, we didn’t completely go through tribulation and we technically weren’t persecuted because there was no ill-treatment. However, it does come close, and it paints a pretty good idea of what I’m trying to say.
Just as our Drill Sergeants put us through these difficulties, God does so as well. I spoke of this last week in my post about Discipline. I believe God to be sovereign in all things and so when I undergo tribulations and persecution, I feel assured. I know that whatever has come to pass has done so because God decreed it. I know that whatever I go through now and regardless of my current situation, God is with me. And I know that whatever the future has in store for me is God’s will. A passage of Scripture gives us great advice and peaceful assurance when it comes to this topic of tribulation and persecution. Found in 1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV), it reads:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
He opens the passage by telling us exactly what I am telling you: suffering in a Christian’s life is no secret. And not just any suffering, but a fiery suffering, one that burns us both physically and mentally. But just as Jesus suffered for us, we should rejoice in our sufferings for Him. In addition to that, His glory being revealed is something so great that we should also rejoice and be glad in that. The scripture tells us that we will be blessed when we are insulted in the name of our Lord. Why? Because when others persecute us, insult us, and put us through tribulations, that means that the Spirit of God is with us and that thought is such a comforting thought to have. These troubles are proof of what He said, and I know without a shadow of doubt that I can also trust His words of reassurance that God is with us through every step of our sufferings.
The Scriptures have rules and commandments that we are to follow as Christians. For example, being a murderer, thief, or someone who does evil is clearly wrong in the eyes of God. So we are told not to suffer as these people do, but instead let us suffer as Christians. As followers and believers of Christ, let’s suffer just as our Lord and Savior did, and when the sufferings come, let us not be ashamed to declare and confess who we belong to. Let us give glory to the God who had mercy and saved us. During these struggles and troubles, let us lift our heads and boldly confess Soli Deo Gloria, which means to the Glory of God Alone.
And then it talks about Judgement. Judgement will begin with us, the Elect. And when it is time for the judgment of nonbelievers, what then shall occur? If those who He calls don’t endure through sufferings, what will happen to those who were proud of their sin? Those that don’t obey the Gospel will have such severe consequences for their actions. While the righteous’s salvation is not an easy task, the outcome of it compared to the alternative is far much greater.
And to close, I hope you learned a thing or two through me simply explaining Scripture. At the least, I hope you remember a forgotten thing or found peace during a difficult time. However, the best way to end this post would in the words of Peter: Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. During these harsh times, Christians are able to trust in God’s plan and continue to give Him our souls. There is no other thing or being in the whole of creation that I would rather belong to than the Great and Almighty God.
Soli Deo Gloria.