The Apostle Paul warned and encouraged the Christians in Philippi that as believers they had been given the privilege of trusting in Christ, but they also had the privilege of suffering for Him too. (Phil 1:29)
In today’s passage, the Apostle Peter also warned and encouraged the same message as Paul but to the persecuted Christians living in five regions of Asia Minor.
These messages were not only for the Christians who were being addressed at those times, but also for Christians for all time. You and I must hold firm to these warning and encouragements of Truth because our Judge is returning. Just as Jesus suffered so must we because we are following Him, and the world wants nothing to do with Him.
As Americans, who currently have the freedom to practice our faith, you and I presently only have to endure a “normal” level of persecution for living in a pagan world: slander, mockery, laughter, hatred, etc. But we must not forget that around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters face a great deal of suffering. According to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2022, an average of more than 16 Christians were killed every day in 2021, 360 million Christians, or 1 in 7 believers around the world, suffered significant persecution for their faith, and there were close to 6,000 total martyrs worldwide. So, 2021 saw a 24% increase in Christians killed for the faith.
I read about these losses, and my heart breaks knowing that today, 16 of my brothers and sister in Christ, somewhere in the world, will die in His Name. It is the sinful hatred of the world for God’s Family that brings us closer and closer to Jesus’ return…and it should bring us closer and closer to Him within our faith.
Friends, I have been mocked for my faith, people have questioned the sincerity of my faith, and loved ones have laughed behind my back and to my face about my faith. Jesus allows me to learn about these moments because I believe He wants to see where I will turn. I always have a choice, either turn to Him in prayer and trust that He will handle it, or turn to the world and attempt to get even? We all go through suffering for our faith, and Jesus is refining us for a time of greater suffering. Each time we trust in Him and allow Him to use our suffering for good, He grows us up in our faith more and more, so we learn to trust in Him more and more, and in return He blesses us.
1 Peter 4:12-19
Suffering for Being a Christian
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also,
“If the righteous are barely saved,
what will happen to godless sinners?”
19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for Your example of suffering. Help us to cling to You when we feel persecution for our faith. Please fill us and our brothers and sisters around the world with Your strength, Jesus. No matter what this world throws at us, we claim our faith, trust, hope, joy, peace, love, and salvation in You, Jesus. I ask all of this in Your Holy Name, Jesus. Amen.