(1 Peter 3:13-21; 4:12-16)
Lesson 7 -- first quarter 1998
January 18, 1998
© Copyright 1997, Christian Light Publications
Rejoice in persecution?
Did you notice this lesson's printed text insists on a positive disposition toward "suffering for righteousness' sake"? This passage calls us to happiness and rejoicing in the face of persecution for our faith. How can this be?!
The word happy used here comes from a Greek word the KJV translators more frequently translated "blessed." In other words, this is our condition before God. This helps us understand that God does not expect us to respond with glee and giddiness whenever we suffer for well-doing. Rather, the Lord assures His people, "Blessed are those who suffer as a Christian!"
The concept of rejoicing presents a different scenario. Whereas blessedness is a condition, joyfulness is a choice. When the opposition inflicts persecution and suffering upon us, we will always have some sort of response. Today's lesson reminds us that God desires a response characterized by rejoicing.
An obvious question at this juncture is "Why and how would anyone rejoice in such a circumstance as persecution?!"
Who can harm us? No matter how much inconvenience, deprivation and pain we have to go through, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Besides, "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4)! In Jesus we are "safe and secure from all alarm." The Apostle Paul presents us with a perspective made almost incredible by the magnitude of his personal sufferings: "our light affliction, which is but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17). We do best when we put this present life in the context of the next. Time, though it may drag as we suffer, will seem as nothing when we finally reach the presence of the Lord. No wonder the Psalmist wrote: "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear; what can man do unto me?" (Psalm 118:6). Yes, what can he do?!
Christ also suffered! The Lord understands what we go through, because He already walked the way before us. Not only that, He understands what we go through because He goes through it all over again with each one of us. At this point it would do us good to remember why Christ suffered. He suffered for me! Is it not fitting then that I should get to suffer for Him?
We share His sufferings. Colossians 1:24 presents a fascinating concept for our consideration and encouragement: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." There seems to be a sense in which we get the "leftovers" of the Lord's afflictions! Because we share in His sufferings we can reap the benefits: consolation (2 Corinthians 1:5), the life of Jesus manifest in us (2 Corinthians 4:10) and fellowship and power (Philippians 3:10; Romans 6:5).
God is glorified. We like credit for what we accomplish. We like recognition for what we suffer. But what should really compel us to joy in suffering is the knowledge that God receives glory when His people distinguish themselves under persecution. "On your part he is glorified."
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