Our lives are full of pain and difficulties. Our life is full of problems that we are trying to solve, it is a kind of daily struggle. But we must distinguish between ordinary difficulties and Christian difficulties.
Because the fact that we struggle for a living and suffer from diseases does not distinguish us from non-believers. These are not Christian sufferings, but the problems of our lives. As Christians, we have to fight over these, the spiritual battles that define our faith.
„Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1Peter 4:12-19)
If we only suffer what non-believers suffer, then we are no different from them. Moreover, many Christian denominations do not want to suffer as much as non-believers, so they teach about a carefree life, health, and wealth. These are not believers, but carnal people who do not want to follow Jesus as He has determined.
But how can we believers suffer, which adds to the difficulties of our lives? Jesus spoke about this:
„Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:16-33)
So it is different to suffer because of life's problems and different to suffer because of our faith as a Christian. In fact, Christian suffering is the problem of the world and, in addition, the suffering that is due to the observance of God's law.
For example, our behavior, how we react in certain situations. Do we respond as a carnal person or as Jesus would? Do we stand by the teaching of the Bible or assimilate into the world? If they do bad things to us, do we do bad things to them, or good things?
„You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
It's a pretty spectacular thing when something glows in the dark. You can see it from afar. If we don't do more than people who follow worldly values, then we are no different from them! We don't really become Christians by calling ourselves Christians. We become sons of God because God calls us His children. And children resemble their parents. Are we similar to God?
„So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:12-18)
What does it mean to suffer with Christ? It means that what Jesus suffered, we must also go through. Jesus was persecuted, but not by unbelievers. The unbelievers did not persecute Him, but did not receive Him (Samaritans). That's a difference. It doesn't matter whether they are indifferent to us or hostile. Moreover, Jesus received this hostile behavior from those for whom He came and for whom He lived and died.
The truth often has to be proclaimed among believers, because they are not aware of it either. And this often provokes hostile emotions in them. This is how we can be part of the persecution for the sake of the truth.
„Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
(December 15, 2023)