It is a reality that Christians will suffer for their faith – what strategies could Christians employ to help them persevere resiliently in the face of suffering?
The Apostle Peter offers three quick strategies:
First, remember that you have some powerful help on your side!
‘If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:14)
I remember at time in primary school when I found myself in a playground argument and I was at the mercy of some bullies a couple of years my senior. Being pushed around and insulted was not particularly comfortable. It was short-lived, because seeing what was going on, my older cousin and his mates seated nearby saw my dilemma and very quickly came to my defence. All of a sudden the threat from these bullies changed to great joy as they found themselves at the mercy of my older cousin! It is helpful when you have someone powerful on your side!
Having the name of Christ will attract insult. But the benefit is that you have some powerful allies. In your corner is the Spirit of glory and of God.
Second, recognise that you are not suffering because you deserve it.
‘If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.’ (1 Peter 4:15)
If you are reading this it is likely that you have fairly open access to Christian resources – unlike many of our brothers and sisters who live in countries where it is against the law to be Christian. Their experience of suffering for faith is far deeper, desperate and devastating and to an order of magnitude that many western Christians would struggle to even comprehend.
If you suffer for your faith it is not because you are getting your just desserts. God is not pointing the finger at you and accusing you of being in the wrong. This truth applies to all Christians – be they under the threat of the state, at the mercy of extremism, faced with family ostracization or at risk of professional disadvantage.
With God, who knows exactly what all do and say, we have a Father would never makes wrong judgements – in fact, his judgements always put what is wrong, right.
Third, realise that you have no reason to be ashamed, instead praise God.
‘If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name’ (1 Peter 4:16)
Some 100 years after Christ walked on earth, the Christian church had been established and was growing so large that the empire of the day saw it as a threat to their rule. So the Romans started to kill Christians in order to stop the growth. The plan failed. Those who saw how willing the Christians were to stand for their belief in Jesus took notice.
One of the Christian leaders, a man called Ignatius (the bishop of Antioch, today Syria), was so eager that God be glorified, that he was willing to be thrown to the lions so that others would see his faith. He wrote a letter to the churches in Rome recognising that it was likely that he would ‘be a meal for the beasts’, that his body would be ‘ground fine by the lions’ teeth’, that they would not leave ‘the smallest scrape of flesh’ behind. His comfort – that he was dying for God as Jesus Christ’s disciple. (Ignatius, ‘The Epistles to the Romans’ in Early Christian Writings. London: Penguin, 1968, 86.)
Now Ignatius took it a little far, we shouldn’t let this letter convince us to run out and find a lion’s den to get thrown into!! But what it does illustrate is the way that Ignatius rejoiced in the suffering that he received for his faith – and he was eager to live so that God would get the glory. If you suffer for being a Christian – don’t be ashamed, but praise God.
For more in this Series:
Resilient in Suffering
If you are going to live for Christ, are you willing to make a stand?
Living for Christ will involve Suffering!
Strategies for Resilience in Suffering
Suffering and Judgement
How does a Christian become more resilient in suffering?