Suffering is not what anyone wants, but the Bible teaches us that Christian suffering works to establishes our faith at a higher level. This is our glorious opportunity in suffering. I am reading a book now about the early Christians and their response to suffering. In Carthage the gladiator games began. Criminals of the Roman empire were brought into the great amphitheater to die a vicious death at the hands of gladiators or the claws of wild animals. When Christianity became a crime, Christians were marched in to the arena, but they responded differently. They did not walk into the arena in fear, but in confidence that their death would bring them into eternal life and their grace in suffering would turn hearts back to God. This is the power in Christian suffering.
They did not run and try to protect themselves but they gathered to stand together in solidarity. Tertullian recounts how Christians had been ravaged by leopards given them an appearance of having taken a blood bath. They were commanded to come to the center of the arena where the gladiators would finish them with beheading. They gathered the strength to come together, walking without fear, coming together and giving one another the ‘kiss of peace’ which was a ritual greeting of Christians of the day. The Roman guard who had authority over them for months in prison as they awaited their execution came to the center of the arena with them. One of the Christian men asked him for his ring. The guard put it into his hand and the Christian man dipped the ring into his own blood and gave it back to the guard as a symbol of their bond. The guard had listened to them and treated them well because he had seen the power they had in love and prayer. The guard became a Christian just a short time after this. It was the way Christians responded in suffering.
As American Christians, we cannot compare ourselves in the least to that kind of persecution, but we need to see the power of evangelism found in the way we respond to our suffering.
Whatever you may be going through today, I want to remind you that God is in control. The suffering you are experiencing is God’s way of giving you a glorious opportunity in suffering to change someone’s life for all eternity. Christian suffering releases the power of God. God is using this valley to give you an opportunity to increase your faith by not allowing fear to reign in your heart. And the evidence of our faith can be seen in our patience and confidence in God’s ability to see us through. We suffer in the grace of Jesus Christ.
The days of persecution for Christians have been escalating slowly like a pot of water slowly heating to a boil. We must ready ourselves now by enduring hardship with patience, confidence in God, and a desire to be used by God through our reflexive behavior to suffering. Whether the suffering comes from this pandemic, natural disasters, personal tragedy, or persecution for your faith, may the Lord be with you and sustain you with peace, patience, and grace even under these most difficult situations. This is your glorious opportunity in suffering. Here is our Verse of the Day:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!