But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,1 Peter 3:14(NASB)
None of us want to suffer. Often we actively resist suffering, and sometimes we view it as correction or punishment from God, especially if it is a fellow believer who is suffering! And yet in his first epistle, Peter tells his readers that if we suffer at the hands of ungodly people for righteousness' sake, we are blessed indeed.
Paul reminds us that believers are not only called to trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation but also to be ready to suffer for His name's sake. And as we go through life, we are even called to rejoice in our adversities, knowing that adversity and suffering works endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Indeed, in his first letter to Timothy, he explains that ALL who live godly lives WILL suffer persecution for the sake of the gospel.
Suffering for righteousness' sake must never be confused with the suffering we experience as a consequence of our sin or wrong choices. If we suffer for doing what is wrong, we may have to face some serious repercussions. But if we suffer for doing what is right in God's eyes; obeying His Word, holding fast to that which is good, proclaiming the good news of the gospel, or simply placing our faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour, we may well have to face mocking, threats, persecution, and death.
We live in a fallen world where sin, sorrow, pain, and death is the portion of all men. We live in a world where the vast majority of people are dead in their trespasses and sins, at enmity with God, and have willingly rejected His gracious offer of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The good news of the gospel is deeply offensive to prideful man because it unceremoniously unseats king self from the throne of his heart. It forces fallen man to either admit that he is a sinner in need of a Saviour or reject the truth of the gospel. It requires profane man to confess God as the King of their heart and establish Him as Sovereign in their lives (and this is loathsome to ungodly men who prefer to be master of their own destiny and captain of their own soul).
The natural man cannot accept or understand spiritual things that are revealed from God. The words and wisdom from the Lord are foolishness to an unsaved person. The truth of the gospel of grace is a mystery to those that are lost in their sin, and so the hatred and contempt they have for the Lord is transferred into hatred and contempt for His children.
Nevertheless, we are not to feel threatened or intimidated by those that hate us. We are not to fear our adversaries or be troubled if they mock our faith or be fearful by their threats and animosity. We should not shrink back from suffering for righteousness' sake, but regard it as a privilege and honour to be worthy to suffer for Him Who died for us and rose again to save our soul. Peter tells us that suffering for the sake of righteousness is a blessing that brings with it great reward and immense joy.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that when men shall reproach us, persecute us, and say all manner of evil against us falsely for His sake, we are blessed. Jesus not only tells us that unbelievers hate Him without a cause but that they will also hate us because of Him. Paul said that the intimidation and trouble Christians face because of our faith in Christ, is sharing in His suffering: "That I may know Christ," was Paul's prayer. That I may fellowship in His suffering. Oh not Christ's suffering on the Cross, only HE could pay the price for sin, but we can be identified with the One who endured the Cross for us.
Suffering turns into a blessing, when we realise that we are being identified with Him and we are favoured by the Father if we suffer for righteousness' sake: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake," are Christ's astonishing and comforting words. And let us remember that if we are willing to suffer for Him, we have the immense joy of reigning with him in heavenly places.
Heavenly Father, I know that in this world I will have tribulation and troubles as a child of God. I pray that I would not be fearful but trust in You. I pray that these words of Jesus would sink deep into my heart in whatever situation I find myself in: "In the world you will have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world." In Jesus' name, AMEN.
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