(Romans 8:35) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
In Foxes Book of Martyrs, we read about the death of three men in France during the early part of the 19th century – “A man named Astuc was wounded and thrown into the aqueduct; Baudon fell under the repeated strokes of bayonets and sabers, and his body was also thrown into the water; Boucher, a young man only seventeen years of age, was shot as he was looking out of his window;…” These are real accounts of real people who died a real death because they were Christians.
Does Christ love those who suffer for His name any less than those who sit comfortably on their couches each night and at peace in the pew each Sunday? It may appear that God favors those who live without tribulations and distresses. It may seem the blessings of this life are contained in the things we own and the opportunities to live. When we are in a situation of suffering because we name the name of Christ, it may seem at the time that we are forsaken by God. We may even believe the accuser must be right. But we see in the preceding verses of Romans 8 there is no one who can charge us with unrighteousness and there is no one who can condemn us if we are in Christ. If God cannot be convinced to move us back from life to death, from Christ to Adam, from light to darkness – regardless of the charges and accusations, then there is nothing and no one who can part us from His love. The love of God is a permanent fixture. It is demonstrated in the life God the Son willingly gave for us. It is guaranteed in the resurrection life He lives and imparts to us.
We are called to yield ourselves to righteousness. Some demonstrate this calling in the coffee shop as we witness to a friend about God’s love. And some demonstrate this calling in the depths of the dungeon and chains of torture as God’s love is proclaimed in the stripes and hunger they bear. May God give you the strength to demonstrate His grace and His love regardless of where and when your witness is put to the test.
Renewed Thought – “Therefore, I bind these lies and slanderous accusations to my person as an ornament; it belongs to my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled, and since all this is nothing but that, as God and my conscience testify, I rejoice in being reproached for Christ’s sake.” – John Bunyan
(1Th 2:14) “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:”
Suffering can come from unexpected places. The “like things” the Thessalonian Christians suffered were persecution and oppression at the hands of those they thought they knew. This meant neighbors, friends and even family probably came against these believers. In Acts 17, we see a riot caused by the fanaticism of the pagans. Christians believed they were doing the right thing as “followers of the churches of God.” Yet they suffered.
It’s easy to understand suffering when our wrong actions lead to it. It’s not so easy to understand suffering when we believe we are doing the right thing. It’s even harder when the suffering comes at the hands of someone we know, maybe even another Christian. If you aren’t prepared to suffer, you will not have a spiritually healthy response when it happens. We can sink into deeper suffering through deep depression when we aren’t prepared to handle the oppression of Satan or those who deal with us in the power of the flesh. One of the hardest things I had to learn was how to prepare to suffer.
Realizing that God can use the ungodly response of others to His glory through our response is a tough pill to swallow. Our belief in doing the right thing doesn’t protect us from oppression. When I wasn’t prepared to deal with the ungodliness of others, I relied on the only natural source I had: my flesh. This was immaturity on my part and only compounded the problem. The flesh will dig its own trench and stand its ground. The result is a stalemate between your flesh the flesh of others. Spiritually, this is the definition of defeat. Learning to trust God when we are confronted with ungodliness is something we gradually learn. We mature as we trust Him with our response, to heal the wounds of battle and give us the will to carry on.
Renewed Thought – Even though we may win the argument, we lose the battle when our defense comes from the flesh.