Joyfully Suffering For Jesus

Joy and suffering don’t normally go together. Those two things are complete opposites. Suffering is hard. It hurts. It’s sad. It is not fun, pleasant, or enjoyable. But there was a time when joy and suffering were felt and expressed at the same time.

It happened in Acts 5 after the apostles had been unfairly arrested by the Jewish leaders, threatened to not preach Jesus, and then beaten for it. After all this happened to the apostles, look at what is said of them: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name [Jesus]” (Acts 5:41). Not only that but “daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42)!

Being arrested, threatened, and beaten when you haven’t done anything wrong is outrageous and truly suffering. But since it was on account of the name of Jesus, the apostles rejoiced! They felt an honor and worthiness to be able to suffer for Christ. Because it meant that they were honoring and glorifying Christ, even in the face of persecution. I picture them all smiling as the left the council. Even though their bodies were probably throbbing from the pain of the beatings, their hearts were throbbing with joy. Then, with renewed courage and boldness, they gladly continued to teach and preach that Jesus is the Christ. No matter what would happen to them by men, they would never stop proclaiming the name of Jesus.

What a great example they set for followers of Christ today. Are we going to face persecutions today? Yes. Is it going to be fun and pleasant? No. How will we react? How will we face the persecutions that come our way? With fear and doubt? Or with boldness and joy? Just today I read a report of Christians in Afghanistan that joyfully, willingly continued to sing and worship. And they were killed for it. There are plenty of other such stories around the world of Christians being hated and attacked. Even if we never have to face physical threats of attack in our own lives, there are still other ways and means in which the world around us will persecute us. People with mock us, make fun of us, and say all kinds of things about us. They will be hateful, ugly, and try to hinder what we are doing for the Lord. Look around us in our societies today. Look at the hostility toward Christians and the Bible. We need to be like the apostles and Christians of the early church. When we suffer because of the name of Jesus, we need to smile. When we are hated for speaking the truth of God’s Word, we need to sing. When we are rejected because of our righteous living, we need to feel worthy.

Consider what the apostle Peter would go on to write in one of his letters: And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. AND DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEIR THREATS, NOR BE TROUBLED. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:13-18). Peter tells us not to be afraid. If God is for us, what can man do to us? And even if we do suffer for a time on earth, it will be okay because of the hope we have in Christ. Also, Peter reminds us that Christ suffered for us. So we should be willing to suffer for Him.

Peter went on to say that since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit(1 Peter 4:1-6). We have to have the same mind as Christ. We have to fight against sin. Stop living for ourselves and live for God. The world will think we’re strange for not joining them in their sinful ways. But we know that God is going to judge those in sin and punish them. We want to be found faithful to God.

Finally, Peter said that we should 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. 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 (1 Peter 4:12-19). Rejoice in the fiery trials. Rejoice so much that you are partaking of the very things Christ suffered for us. Know that we are glorifying God in our lives. If we suffer for the name of Christ, then Peter says we are blessed. Blessed with the fellowship of God and the hope of eternal life no matter what the world may say or do. Let’s commit our souls to God in continuing to do good knowing that our Creator is faithful.

We will be persecuted one way or another to varying degrees. Let’s face it head on with the strength and hope God supplies us. Let’s rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ. And let’s have the boldness and courage of those who have gone before us and never stop proclaiming Jesus as Lord, Savior, and King.


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