Suffer As a Christian Not a Sinner
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:12-19 NKJV
All believers, who desire to live a godly life, in obedience to Christ Jesus — to the Word of God and the Spirit of God — will at one time or another suffer persecution from the ungodly and/or the religious. If you live your life to please the Father, then you should not be surprised that you experience persecution from those who are not submitted to God. Christians, through the generations, have not been strangers to persecution, neither should we, in this generation, be surprised when we encounter uninvited or unwarranted persecution from others. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11 NIV, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Know this: the Holy Spirit is there for us when we need Him — He will strengthen us to be able to endure. If we truly suffer for Jesus’ Name’s sake and for being loyal to Him, He will be with us all the way!
Not all suffering is as a result of good Christian conduct. Notice that the scripture says that, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. Some people think that every time someone picks on them, that it is because they are a Christian, but it may just be because they did not conduct themselves properly, or even because the other person is having a bad day. Some people are their own worst enemy and cause problems everywhere they go, and have the cheek to blame it on persecution. You can’t take persecution or opposition personally, but you should always check your own heart and motives to make sure that you did not invite it.
If you are doing ungodly things, and you are chastised or punished for that, then you cannot call it persecution for the Gospel’s sake — you are in trouble because you are doing wrong things. You have no leg to stand on, because your troubles are deserved. The Father will not reward you for sin or disobedience to the laws of God. 1 Peter 4:15 tells us that you are not suffering as a Christian if you are suffering because you are a murderer, a thief, an evildoer or a busybody. It should be very obvious to everyone that murderers, thieves and evildoers are not living godly lives! Galatians 5:19-21 NIV says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If we do these things and get into trouble for it, we definitely cannot claim we are being persecuted and we need to bear the consequences of our actions without complaint.
However, there is another sin mentioned in 1 Peter that gets many Christians and non-Christians in trouble. It is something that we all are tempted to do — to be a busybody! A busybody is someone who is always watching what others do and who meddles in other people’s affairs, all the while neglecting their own responsibilities. 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 says, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.” And 1 Timothy 5:13 says, “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” We each must mind our own business. Getting into trouble for being a busybody is not persecution! Persecution is an unwarranted attack — not a deserved punishment. Make sure you do your best to do right and to conduct yourself properly at all times!
We should not seek out suffering, nor try to avoid it. When the early Church was persecuted, they rejoiced, because they knew they were doing God’s work and that the attack came because they were harming the devil’s kingdom. It is not a shame to suffer as a Christian — just commit your soul to God, who is faithful to keep you in His hands, and keep on doing what is right regardless of what suffering or persecution it might bring. Our response to persecution should not be surprise or fear — rather rejoicing. Rejoicing because we know that they are not just persecuting us — but Jesus also — and if we share His suffering, we will also share His glory. We will receive the reward of those who persist and endure through the persecution and opposition and continue to serve, obey and glorify God!