Why do Christians suffer persecution? PART 3

Comfort while still in pain

 images (59)

By Ninos Hadjirousou

 

We continue our five points from our last article which we started in May 13th and 26th.

e) Suffering for Christ’s sake can give you greater joy of assurance.

For those who are unconverted suffering for the sake of money or for the sake of anyone other than God, is done in vain. Because the thing or person they put their trust into, is not eternal and not always faithful. In fact, money cannot sympathize with your weaknesses, a person who has not experienced your difficulties cannot relate to you. Neither can any person understand the deep feelings and thoughts of your mind when tragedy strikes in your life. Only Jesus can, because He became flesh and lived on this earth as man. He is God the almighty, but let’s not forgets that He was man also like us. That should comfort us, and motivate us to throw ourselves to Him in our time of need. Jesus qualifies as the best and only one who can completely sympathize with our circumstances in this life, because He too was under much temptation and much suffering. But the difference between us and Him, is that He defeated temptation and His faith in the Father’s will was never shaken by the waves of suffering that came upon Him. He endured until His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). He did it because He loved us first. He died for our sake and ultimately for His own glory. He was risen on the third day and ascended into heaven seating on the right hand of power. So why should that make us rejoicing in our suffering on this earth?

Because if you are God’s child and if you know this revelation, you have nothing to fear.

Your soul is saved from the wrath of God and you’re therefore declared justified by faith alone not by your own doing; but by Jesus Christ’s merit’s you are counted as righteous and are declared justified because you trusted in what He has done for your sins on the cross (Romans 5:1-2, Ephesians 2:4-8). You have now peace with God; you’re not an enemy of God anymore but a child of God (Romans 5:11, 8:1, 15-17). If Paul lived only for this life, if the resurrection was not real; then our sins where not an accepted sacrifice to the Father and we are still under His condemnation. Indeed Paul wrote that “our preaching is in vain” “your faith is in vain” we “misrepresenting God” “you are still in your sins” and “ we of all people are most to be pitted” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

But the reality is that Christ has risen and there is now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). God has blessed us with the ability to endure and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing all that I have just mentioned (Romans 5:3-5). It is the foundation which we lay ourselves upon the Rock, Christ Jesus. Jesus said “You will be sorrowful now, but you’re sorrow will turn into joy” “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20, 22).

And if we have that joy in Christ; we have an unshakable assurance also. This assurance is evident by the way and character that the Holy Spirit teaches us to live when we walk in Holiness. Our mind becomes more like Christ’s. This is reflected in the words of the Apostle Paul, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:12-12). He found joy, because he gained Jesus Christ and found comfort and relief, remembering and thanking God for the joy of His salvation.

If we desire to have Him, we must look at the things that we possess. People, money, family and see them as good ways to enjoy the riches of God on this earth. But they are not the foundation of our unshakable faith and joy. They are not the foundation, for trusting in those alone will make you fall so low so as to even die in vain.

Christ is our tower and He is our advocate in all our difficult circumstances. Let us look to Him and we shall find assurance and joy in our time of need. Ask and He will give us the peace that endured Him in His humanity to go all the way on Calvary and die on the cross. We have an advocate and one who has gone through the many struggles that we face. But “take heart” take courage says He “I have overcome the world “(John 16:33).

If you don’t believe that Christ can do so then let me add something else. There is evidence throughout the rest of church History, when Christians where ready to be martyred for their faith received supernatural help to face death the way the Lord did. An example is shown in the 2nd century AD, when Roman Emperors persecuted Christians because of their ‘exclusive truth claims that Christians made for their faith.’ Christian’s insisted that there is one way one truth and one light. Whereas all other religions, according to Dr Needham, were “syncretistic (Greek for ‘federated’, ‘joined in alliance’) that is, they did not make any claim to be the one and only truth.” He adds that “Church’s exclusive, intolerant, missionary attitude to other religions marked Christians out and made them very unpopular.” This is no surprise at all, for a Christians knows the Words of our Lord, when He says “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you.”(John 15:19).

Christians refused to worship the emperor and violated Romans Law. Needham wrote “The chief test of whether someone accused of being a Christian was a real Christian, was for the magistrates to order him to worship a statue of the emperor and say ‘Caesar is Lord’ that is ‘ Caesar is a divine figure, a god’. A faithful Christian would refuse, because for him or her, ‘Jesus is Lord’, not Caesar.”

So Christian’s where persecuted for 200 years by the Roman Empire. But what extraordinary growth the church has had when its saints suffered. I found one letter that records the exile and martyrdom of Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200-258). Here is what the exile looked like:

We picture Cyprian being brought into the palace of the Governor of North Africa Patermus. He asks Cyprian what is his religion? He said “I am a Christian and a bishop. I know no other god’s beside the one true God, who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in it. We Christians serve this God; we pray to HIM day and night, for ourselves for all people, and for the health of the emperors themselves.”

Paternus asks him ‘Do you persist in this purpose?’ Cyprian answered him saying that he cannot change his purpose. Thus because He refused the change his mind he was send into exile to the city of Curubis, to which he replied ‘I go’. A year later there was a new governor, Galerius Maximus who recalled Cyprian from exile and asked him if he would consider obeying the roman rites of worship and consider the consequences by not doing so. But Cyprian said to him ‘refuse’Do as you must. In so clear a case, I do not care about the consequences’.

After he responded this way, Galerius send him to be put to death by the sword. To which Cyprian final reply was ‘Thanks be to God”…

What courage indeed.

Let us gaze and remember that this courage was not something Cyprian possessed himself; it was a courage given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord.

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