Earlier I was reading this article on Voice of the Martyr’s persecution.com, a website dedicated to assisting the worldwide persecuted church. The article briefly described how a 30-year old Indian Christian was deported from the Maldives simply for possessing a Bible in his home.
Upon reading more articles from the site, I was struck afresh with the normalcy of suffering to the Christian life. The circumstantial ease of the West has contributed to a false understanding of suffering, persecution, and martyrdom for the sake of Jesus. Because of a lack of persecution, we often have the notion that saying “yes” to Jesus means a steady incline of favor or blessing in personal and domestic affairs. One brief look at the book of Acts or the book of Hebrews shows that this idea is completely foreign to Scripture.
God has a purposeful design to magnify Jesus in our lives not only in the demonstration of His power but also in the restraint of His power. In hardship in this present evil age, we have the promise of the tender compassion of Jesus in the midst of it and the assurance of the ultimate eradication of it. And most importantly, we can have confidence of God’s intention in bringing us through adversity – intention for His glory and our good. The apostles of Jesus and saints of old were clear examples of this afflicted way of a life of faith:
“Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise”
(Hebrews 11:36-39 NKJV)
The way of suffering is the way of love because we can magnify Jesus and His sufferings in the midst of it. When we shed tears of joy in the midst of adversity, it reveals that whatever was lost does not compare to the precious treasure of Jesus that can never be taken from us. Yet even in the midst of comfort and ease we can weep with longing for Him, openly declaring that the pleasures of this life are insufficient and worthless compared to the preciousness of who He is.
As we walk out our lives as sojourners, pilgrims, and strangers setting our hope fully on the day of Christ (1 Peter 1:13), may God’s design of glorifying Jesus in our suffering find fulfillment in us, and may we not shrink back from following the path of Jesus to the cross day by day.