IF SUFFERING IS SURE TO FOLLOW, WHY SERVE JESUS CHRIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
A dear brother in Christ recently expressed trepidation concerning the suffering of the Bible believer. He told me that he knew 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The brother did not want to pursue godly living because he knew it would result in persecution. Is this a valid reason for not engaging in grace living? Should we avoid suffering for Christ?
ARE WE REALLY BEING “PERSECUTED?”
Friends, while people may snicker at us for being Christians, frown at us, make rude gestures at us, ridicule us, and shun us, these intimidations should be the least of our concerns. To get the aforesaid brother to realize his faulty reasoning, I asked him if someone had ever come to his door, dragged him out, and hauled him off to prison for being a Christian. Of course not, he said. He lives here in the United States of America, where our constitutional rights protect our spiritual beliefs. So, can we really say that we are persecuted? Why fear what is minor compared to what others suffer for Jesus Christ? If they are willing to endure more, why should we avoid undergoing less?
Have the authorities tortured us for being Christians? Has anyone ever torn our limbs apart on the rack? Burned us alive at the stake for owning and/or reading the Bible? Starved us to death? Beheaded us for refusing to convert to their religion? Cut off our arms and legs, fingers and toes? Drowned us? Beaten us with clubs? Pummeled us to death with rocks? Down through the centuries, believers in Jesus Christ suffered such horrendous fates for their faith… and worse! There are precious members of the Body of Christ all around the world right now, our brethren, suffering similar fates under oppressive and merciless governments. If God’s grace could and can get them through those terrible ordeals, all the way to physical death, then His grace can surely get us through our (lesser) “suffering.” And, if our persecution were to ever reach such extreme levels, then God’s grace that aided other Christians in similar situations will definitely be there for us.
Here in the United States, we have it relatively easy. We should never take our religious liberties for granted as many here do. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do not have such freedom, so they have to stay “underground,” assembling in private. Father God alone knows just how many Christians are in hiding, trapped in such godless nations, wondering when government officials will arrive to arrest, afflict, and/or annihilate them. If these Christians knew those risks, and yet cling to the Scriptures, then can we really shrink away from the minor harassments of which we tend to complain?
Yes, we are called terrible names for being Bible believers. We are laughed at and mocked. Perhaps we are punched or kicked. We are shunned at social functions. Still, this is nothing compared to the suffering other Christians are experiencing worldwide. It is likely, dear friend, that you live outside the United States. Perhaps you know what real suffering for Jesus Christ is. Maybe your faith in Christ makes you liable to a fine, a lifetime prison sentence, or even a death sentence! You are probably suffering a worse fate than I am for being a Christian. My heart goes out to you! We Americans have it good, and thus have no reason whatsoever to complain about “persecution.”
While America is spiritually declining, thankfully, the Bible has not yet been outlawed here. As per the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, we still have the freedom of religion. We are still free to publicly assemble with other Christians. The First Amendment also guarantees us the right to free speech. We have the right to quote Bible verses wherever we go, without fear of imprisonment or other penalties. Let us in the United States never take these our liberties for granted. If the Lord tarries, they will eventually vanish… it remains to be seen if that will happen in our lifetimes. Until then, we must remember that there are Christians in other nations far worse off than we are. They are in our thoughts and prayers.
Wherever we live, whatever we may be suffering for Jesus Christ now, or whatever we may suffer for Jesus Christ yet future, let us not shun that glorious opportunity to be fully subservient to the God-Man Who suffered and died for us! It is time to show our love and gratitude to Him by yielding our lives to Him… even if living means suffering and dying!
GRACE MOTIVATION: LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO GOD
Acts 14:22 says of Barnabas and Paul, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” In verse 19, the unbelieving Jews had just killed Paul by stoning! God raises him from the dead, and he fittingly begins to preach to those new Christians all about how they will have to suffer “much tribulation!” Despite the traumatic death he had just experienced, Paul could not help but encourage others to suffer for Jesus Christ too! Can you get any worse suffering for Christ than dying?
Doubtless, the Christian is to suffer “much.” Yes, the Christian “must” suffer trouble. Is that really disadvantageous though? Dear Christian friends, let us consider how much the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and bled for our transgressions. The wrath of man disfigured His outward man. The wrath of God punished His inward man. He gave His life for us! Now, we have the nerve to declare we want to avoid suffering for His name’s sake? We would prefer a life of ease and carefreeness, totally regarding the fact that we have been bought with a price?! Jesus Christ paid our sin debt with His blood; we serve Him now rather than sin and Satan. Does it make sense for us to rebel against our Master? No. Then why are we refusing to pursue grace living? We do so, not because it is logical, but because it is convenient. We want to avoid suffering because we are selfish. Our sinful nature is controlling us, and we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
Second Corinthians chapter 5: “ For the love of Christ constraineth [compels, drives] us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
Christian brethren, may we be willing to yield our lives to the God-Man who died for us and rose again. We will never be able to repay Him, no, but we can give ourselves over to do His will (why He saved us from sin anyway). After all, He saved us unto good works. Those good works will cause unbelievers around us to oppose and mistreat us. They—under Satan’s control—rebel at anything and everything God is doing. They hate Jesus Christ living in and through us as much as people hated Him when He lived in His own earthly life 20 centuries ago.
However, we should not fear our persecutors. They can take our physical lives, but that is all they can take. They cannot take our souls! Remember what the Lord Jesus Christ encouraged His Apostles with when He first commissioned them: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him [Father God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
GRACE GLORIFICATION: AN EXCEEDING AND ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY
Read what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 12: “ And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” How could Paul “take pleasure… in persecutions?” Was he so irrational that he loved suffering? No, but he knew that suffering could benefit him in the long run. We are not glad to suffer, but we are glad to know all types of suffering—in this case, persecution—works to our advantage. (And, if you want to know what true suffering for Christ is, go read Paul’s experiences described in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 and 2 Corinthians 11:23-28! When you suffer those things for Christ, then you can complain!!!)
Notice what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “ For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (He wrote this, of course, after the Jews had killed him in Acts chapter 14! Notice there is no protest, no bitterness, and certainly no decision to stop preaching about Jesus Christ because it is too hazardous and painful!)
Whatever afflictions are troubling us, my dear friends, just remember that they are only temporary. This earthly life will not last forever. If we are walking by faith in the light of grace as we endure those difficult times, there is a far greater advantage to us being reserved in Heaven. Indeed, we do not see these invisible things with the physical eyes. We see them through the eyes of faith, looking at the verses in God’s Word that speak of that “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
A hint of this glorious eternity is exposed in 2 Timothy 2:11-13: “ It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” To the extent that we let Jesus Christ live His life in and through us, that is the extent to which we will live godly. To the extent that we will live godly, that is the degree to which we will suffer for righteousness’ sake. To the extent that we suffer for righteousness’ sake, that is the extent to which we will reign in the heavenly places for all of eternity for Jesus Christ’s glory! Oh, yes indeed, on the authority of the Bible, let me assure you that it is well worth the suffering for Jesus Christ!
Never forget, dear Christian friend, that Father God is very much aware of whatever you are suffering for His Son’s sake. You are on your way to Heaven because you placed your faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins. But, there is a reward for your service to God now that you are a Christian, and part of your service to suffer. He will reward you with an opportunity to serve Him forever in a special place within Heaven’s government. Your quality/level of doctrine, service, and suffering will determine your rank. Again, it is well worth the suffering for Jesus Christ! Be not afraid—let God’s grace lead you and let it get you through wherever and whatever the life of Jesus Christ brings your way!
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:14-17).
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:13-16).
NOTE: The 2017 Slidell Grace Bible Conference will be held Friday-Sunday, December 1-3, just north of New Orleans. The title and theme are, “Eschatology 101: An Introduction to the Things of the End, Dispensationally Delivered.” Speakers are: Richard Jordan, Eric Neumann, and I (Shawn Brasseaux). We would love to have you come and join us! Insightful Bible study and good ol’ Cajun & Creole cooking! Videos to be archived to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/1611kjvambassador. For more info, download the flyer: https://arcministries.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/2017-slidell-gbc.pdf.