On Sunday I taught our Adult Sunday School class from 2 Timothy 3. When we read verses 12-13 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”, one of the men in my class simply asked, “Why?”
I am not easily stumped by questions in class, but admittedly his simple question caught me off guard somewhat. I mean I know that we can expect persecution as Christians. Scripture is clear on that inevitable fact: 1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” and 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” reiterate what Paul said to Timothy. We WILL suffer persecution as believers, and we will face trials, heartache, discouragement, distress, heartache and more.
Scripture tells us to take delight in our persecutions, in our trials, because it does improve our character through testing and it allows us to relate in small measure to Christ’s suffering on our behalf. Scripture also encourages us through our “sufferings” by saying that there will be great reward if we are found faithful through the testing. 2 Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”; 2 Corinthians 4: 8-11 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”; Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ″Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. ″Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Still the “Why?” question still lingers. Why must we face this? My head knowledge understands, my heart doesn’t.
I read on Facebook quite a long while back a youth state bluntly, “Why should I become a Christian when my life will suck just as much…maybe more afterwards?” It is false teaching to tell that person that if they become a Christian, all their pain, heartaches and discouragement will instantly go away by their confession of faith. No, my young friend, that is a lie.
I have discovered that more and more people (young and old) are wanting a religion of convenience, of little effort; a religion or faith that promises only success and happiness and will wipe away all hurts (past, present and future). Any religion that promises that kind of life is a false one. The enemy laughs at the naivety of people who are drawn into the trappings of those “feel good” faiths.
Christianity does not promise that. On the contrary, we can expect trials and tribulations. “Why?”
To Strengthen Us: God allows us to experience trials, persecution, and suffering so that we must entirely lean on Him for strength rather than rely on our own self-sufficiency. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves, He is in control.
To Be Aware of Our Sinful Nature: We live in a “fallen” world as a result of our sin. It’s not going to get better, as Paul says, but will get worse. There is only One Way to save us from our fallen nature – We need a Saviour, Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23; “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
To Discipline Us: As a result of our fallen nature, we will constantly find ourselves drawn to the ways of the world. Sin is rampant. Scripture tells us that “…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Jesus is the only One Who can save us from our self-destructive behaviour.
To Test Us: Will we be found faithful in the midst of these trials and sufferings? Trials are meant to test our character and our faith. Will we abandon God at the first sign of trouble or will we stand firm knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
To Encourage Us: Yes, even in the midst of trials, God reveals Himself as our provider, comforter, and friend. He does not abandon us, but protects and supports us. Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”; Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”; Revelations 3:10 “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”
To Reveal Himself to Us: When I was going through cancer in 2001, I had that “peace that surpasses understanding” as I leaned on God throughout that entire experience. I found that I had a real and clear understanding of what Paul meant when he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 I did not have a complete understanding of Who God was until I faced cancer with Him as my Rock and Salvation.