Persecution — A Gift of God’s Grace?

October 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | Leave a comment

I mentioned in my sermon yesterday that suffering for Jesus is a gift of God’s grace.  I’m still trying to get my mind around that idea.  That statement came from Philippians 1:29 where Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (NIV)  The word granted in the passage is from the root word charis or grace.  We could translate, “It has been graced to you for Christ sake, . . . to suffer for him.”  Salvation has been graced to us, but suffering?  Now that’s a heavy thought, but if we believe the text of the Bible, that is what we must believe.

We would do good to recall that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” (Matthew 5:10)  “All men will hate you because of me;” (Matthew 10:22)  and “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20)  Later, Paul would add this thought, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)  We know these things are true but somehow think that persecution is an acquiescence of God to a sinful world, and his followers get caught in the middle.

Instead, I believe were are to view persecution as a part of God’s grace – a gift he gives for his greater glory.  We confess that Jesus is sovereign over all; therefore he is sovereign over persecution and suffering.  He doesn’t acquiesce anything, he makes persecution and suffering a part of his eternal plan.  He uses it to confirm that his followers are his (Philippians 1:28), to conform them to his image, and to advance his kingdom to others (Philippians 1:12).

No wonder, we are told in Acts, the disciples “left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  I hope if I ever have to face persecution, I can stand firm with that kind of joy, knowing that suffering persecution is a part of God’s sovereign plan, and he will use it for his greater glory.  I have lived a fairly easy life, with nothing in the way of real persecution for my faith in Jesus, and I may finish my life that way, but I fear for the next generation of believers in our country.  The way things are progressing, they may have to face a persecution we never thought possible here.  May they face it with courage and genuine faith in the sovereignty of Jesus, remembering that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

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