21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21)
The reality of suffering persecution as we follow Jesus Christ is a predominant theme in Scripture: not only in Peter’s first epistle but also throughout the New Testament. Here is but a brief sampling.
John 16:32-33 – 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Acts 14:21-22 – “21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Romans 5:1-5 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
In commenting on Romans 5:1-5, John Calvin writes, “By saying that the saints glory in tribulations, he is not to be understood as though they dreaded not, nor avoided adversities, or were not distressed with their bitterness when they happened (for there is no patience when there is no feeling of bitterness). But as in their grief and sorrow they are not without great consolation, because they regard that whatever they bear is dispensed to them for good by the hand of a most indulgent Father, they are justly said to glory: for whenever salvation is promoted, there is not wanting a reason for glorying.”
This is one of the Bible’s inconvenient truths and ironically an evidence that the Bible is authored, not by man, but rather by God. No man would come up with the idea that man is destined to suffer when they follow God. That certainly is not one’s best life now. This may be a life ending with martyrdom, of suffering unjustly when people slander and lie about your character in order to advance their agenda, or even the breakup of your home when your unbelieving spouse no longer wants to be married to a Bible toting, church attending Christian.
If we are to follow Jesus, we follow Him on the road of tribulations. He is our example. The health and wealth gospel of America cannot stand under the scrutiny of God’s Word. This is what Jesus meant when He said to His disciples, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
Thank God today for His many blessings, including the blessings of suffering because of Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!