“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10 – 12
A cursory reading through the Bible would not be void of this kind of talk. The Bible is full of warnings and promises that the Christian walk is full of persecution, suffering and trials. We see this exemplified in our Lord who “was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3a). We further see this in the life of the Apostles who were beaten, persecuted, mocked and killed for the sake of Christ. We see the “others” that, “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:36-38). The Christian life is not alien to suffering:
- “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” – Acts 14:21-22
- “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.” – 1 Peter 4:12
- “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
- “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – 2 Timothy 3:12
- “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” – John 15:20
- “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” – 1 John 3:13
Even in the life of Christ, Satan worked through the Pharisee’s and Judas to execute our Lord. Satan must have thought he had the upper hand when Jesus, the God-man, was dangling upon that cross; bloody, beaten, bruised, unrecognizable was the Son of Man. The Enemy and his demons must have rejoiced while Jesus was in the tomb only not knowing His death on the Cross eradicated their power and put them on a leash. Jesus death on the Cross disarmed the powers of evil, sin and death. Satan’s attempt to destroy the Gospel message only greatly benefits the message of the Gospel.
So then, suffering is a blessing to the Christian. It furthers the Kingdom of our Lord and deepens our dependence upon God’s grace. Samuel Rutherford said that when he was cast into the cellars of affliction, he remembered that the great King always kept his wine there. Charles Spurgeon said, “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.” One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Do you hear that? Light and momentary afflictions? Let us not forget the afflictions of Paul either. Stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, hardships, calamities, imprisonment and ultimately, death – these are all light and momentary my brothers. Why can Paul utter that these things are light and momentary? For they preparing in us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. The suffering is preparing us for Jesus and all of His glory. We will continue to look forward to the things that are unseen (striking paradox), for the things that are unseen are eternal – namely, Jesus!