What is a worthy pursuit

For Christ, will suffering always be part of following Christ?



The Bible talks a lot about suffering in the name of Christ. During the New Testament era, followers of Jesus were often banished and ostracized by their own families and communities. The worst persecution came from the religious leaders (Acts 4: 1-3). Jesus told his followers: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ”(Matthew 5:10). He reminded his disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you” (John 15:18).

2. Timothy 3:12 says: "And all who want to live piously in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution." As in biblical times, many Christians today have had to experience that a public declaration of faith in Christ leads to arrest and beatings , Abuse or death (Hebrews 11: 32-38; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 3: 8; Acts 5:40). Those of us who live in free nations shudder at the thought, but we feel reasonably safe. We understand that there are thousands who suffer every day for the name of Christ and we are grateful that we are spared this. But is there only one kind of persecution?

Jesus says clearly what it means to follow him: “Whoever wants to follow me, deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to keep his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will keep it. For what use would man have if he gained the whole world and lost himself or suffered harm to himself? ”(Luke 9: 23-25). Our modern understanding of the term "take up your cross daily and follow me" is often unsuitable. In the time of Jesus, the cross always symbolized death. If a man wore a cross, he had already been sentenced to death on the cross. Jesus said that in order to follow him one must be willing to die. We will not all be martyred. We are not all imprisoned, beaten, or tortured for our beliefs. So what kind of death did Jesus mean?

Paul explains this in Galatians 2: 19-20: “I was crucified with Christ. I live, but now not I, but Christ lives in me. For what I now live in the flesh, I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. ”Following Christ means that we die in the face of our own way of doing things. We consider our wills, rights, passions, and goals to be crucified on the cross with Christ. Our right to direct our own lives died for us (Philippians 3: 7-8). Death requires suffering. The flesh doesn't want to die. Dying to yourself is painful and goes against our natural tendency to indulge in pleasure. But we cannot follow both Christ and the flesh (Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:26, Romans 8: 8). Jesus said: "Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Paul suffered more than most because of Jesus. He said to the Christians in Philippi: "For it was given to you for Christ's sake not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29). The word given means here “granted” or “given as a gift”. Paul does not present suffering as a curse, but as a blessing or benefit.

Suffering can take many forms. In choosing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, we are in conflict with the world. Galatians 1:10 says: “Do I now want to convince people or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing to people, I would not be Christ's servant. " By orienting ourselves closely to the teaching of the Bible, we will be exposed to rejection, ridicule, loneliness, or betrayal. Often the cruelest persecution comes from those who consider themselves spiritually but define God on their own terms. If we choose to stand up for justice and biblical truth, we are guaranteed to be misunderstood, ridiculed, or worse. We must remember that no suffering or threat prevented the apostles from preaching Christ. Paul even said that the loss of everything is worth it: "I want to know him and make the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings and thus his death like" (Philippians 3:10). Acts 5: 40-41 describes the reaction of the apostles after they were once again defeated for their sermon about Christ: "They went away cheerfully from the council because they were worthy to suffer disgrace for His name's sake."

In some ways, suffering will always be part of true following of Christ. Jesus said that the way that leads to life is a difficult one (Matthew 7:14). Our difficulties are also a way of identifying a little with his suffering.

Jesus said that if we deny him in front of people, he will deny us in front of his Heavenly Father (Matthew 10:33; Luke 12: 9). There are many subtle ways to deny Christ. When our actions, words, lifestyle, or entertainment choices do not reflect God's will, we are denying Christ. If we claim to know him but live as if we do not know him, we are denying him (1 John 3: 6-10). Many people choose this type of denial of Christ because they do not want to suffer for him.

Often times, our greatest suffering comes from within as we struggle for control of a heart that has to let its will die and surrender to the rule of Christ (Romans 7: 15-25). In whatever form we suffer, we should accept it as an honor and privilege that, like the apostles, we were "worthy to suffer disgrace for his name's sake."

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Will suffering for Christ always be part of following Christ?
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