“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. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 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? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”
I Peter 4:14-19 NKJV
I have entered this Holy Week with a heaviness, as I feel the potential of this one being our last. Each morning, I have considered the actions and interaction of the Lord Jesus, as He took each progressive step to the cross. We who are the beneficiaries of His grace, are taking our own steps, as we walk to the end of the age, facing uncertainty in the here and now, and certainty in the age to come.
Many of us, far flung are feeling the suffering that Jesus did, as we are being condemned for our identities in Christ. In lands where followers of Jesus are in the minority, we are discriminated against, tortured and killed.
As I read the passage in I Peter this morning, I was reminded that the Lord uses persecution as a means of clarifying His church. As the smelter places gold in the crucible, we too are placed under great heat, that the dross of sin be scooped away. Because we are His, and because we the Ambassadors of Jesus, it begins with us, for we are the ones who bring the message of the Good News.
In the refinement of the Lord, we are made more effective in sharing the Good News, and we are made holy. In these end times, we must stand out against the rest of the world, for if we are just like it, how then can the Lord judge the wicked. Because we are judged first, the wicked have no excuse when their turn comes.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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.”
I Peter 4:12-13 NKJV
In our suffering, the glory of God is shown. I say it once, I say it again, we are being watched by a world that does not know the Lord. We are also being watched by those who know Christ, but have not yet surrendered fully to His Sovereign will.
I am one who has been blessed greatly in suffering, for through it, I have experienced deep intimacy with Christ. I rejoice in all that I have lost, and I glory in the cross of Christ, and the eternal promise I have in Him. All of the suffering, whether it be due to infirmity, or due to my identity in Christ, has made me an effective witness that He can use.
Brothers and sisters, many of us are going to soon feel the sting of persecution, as the values that compel us, found in the Holy Scriptures, run headlong into the values of the culture. Some of those attacks will come from those who were once with us, but not of us, who have been employed as counter attackers.
In the coming struggle let us be mindful of the goals of the Father, as He is using the trial be bring abut maturity, even as the evil one is meaning to destroy.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Romans 8:28-30 NKJV
All that we will face is a part of what the Lord is doing to do as He ushers us on our journey to glorification. The plan of Jesus is greater than the plan of the devil, and we already know that the devil is destined for defeat. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus.
In what will be perilous times, let us seek after the word of God, and all the other protections the Lord has already afforded us. We do not enter into these times as ones unprotected, but as those having the full armor of God.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—”
Ephesians 6:13-18 NKJV
By standing in the armor provided by God, the wiles of the devil are neutralized, and his aims blunted, as what he meant for evil turns miraculously for our good, and for the furtherance of the Gospel.
Let us not strike out at those who hate us, but let us resolve to take the struggle and the pain. The world is while to look upon our wrongs and lose site of the glory of the One who sent us.
When those who call upon the Name of Jesus are persecuted, the Lord is most often glorified, and His influence spreads. Let us be suffering saints, people blessed to encounter the same struggles as our Savior. May we rejoice and have the same heart as Paul the Apostle:
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:8-11 NKJV
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