Do you ever experience those times when God is attempting to teach you something? There have been many times as I have studied His Word where the Holy Spirit has revealed a deficiency in my walk with Christ. This was one of them. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to develop and present a message during our evening Philippians Growth Group series. The latter portion of Philippians chapter one speaks to the reality that Christians do experience persecution. Paul expresses that identification with Jesus Christ will inevitably produce a certain measure of persecution. Through this passage he helps believers to understand that persecution is an evidence of Biblical salvation and that suffering is a gift from God. The idea being that if we are to walk worthy before the Lord, suffering will be a natural part of Christ-followership.
This is where the paradox begins. My selfish view of Christianity is bent toward ease, comfort, and expected blessing. For many, our view of church is seen in comfortable seats, a great worship experience, and a practical message that encourages me. “The coffee better taste good and if the thermostat is not set to 73 degrees, ‘church’ is just not right.” The problem is, this is not found in New Testament Christianity.
Now before you you dismiss the premise of this spiritual truth, I would encourage you to consider the words of our Savior. Remember, we claim to be His disciples. Jesus said: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”(Matthew 10:22) In verses 24-25 he goes on to say: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”
Jesus says to his followers, both then and now that we will be hated as he was hated. Despised as he was despised. Rejected as he was rejected. Persecuted. Now I want to quantify this persecution be helping us to realize that there are various degrees of implementation. For the Philippians, some were ostracized from their family, friends, and culture; while others were put to death.
Perhaps the more convicting aspect of this study came when I began to unpack the below verse:
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”- 2 Timothy 3:12
The above verse promises persecution to those that will “live godly in Christ Jesus.” If you rearrange the thought one could say this: those who do not live godly, will not suffer persecution. Brothers and sisters, if you and I do not experience persecution, people probably do not know that we are Christians. You say “well of course they know, I go to church every Sunday.”
These past few weeks, I have been challenged to consider how committed I really am as a disciple of Jesus. Am I adequately showing the one who I say I follow? Silence is perhaps the greatest way to avoid persecution. However, sir, when you laugh at the world’s jokes at work and enjoy the entertainment when it mocks God you most certainly will be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution. Ma’am, when you talk about someone negatively to an unsaved friend or display a worldly attitude, don’t expect to see Christ glorified and that friend miraculously believe what you claim to believe.
The believer has no fear of persecution because we have a God who is greater (1 Cor 10:13). Paul says in Philippians that persecution is a gift as is salvation. (Phil 1:29) My desire is that I would never be like the individual that Jesus describes in Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”