Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark
“They summoned the apostles, and when they had flogged them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and released them. Yet, they left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.”
Jesus’ earthly life was an example of suffering for righteousness’ sake. It may be true that we cannot walk in the shoes of our Savior, but we are called to follow in his footsteps. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians (1:29), wrote, “It is given to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.” In the next verse, Paul explained to what type of suffering he was referring: “Engaging in the same struggle that you saw I had.”
Paul, what kind of struggle are you speaking of?
“Persecutions and sufferings such as came upon me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra” (2Tim. 3:11).
Paul, do you think that all true believers will be persecuted?
“Indeed, all who are willing to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2Tim. 3:12).
How many believers, Paul, do you think are compromising and refusing to “suffer persecution for the cross of Christ ”?
“As many as desire to put on a good show in the flesh” (Gal. 6:12).
What should our attitude be, Paul, toward those who persecute us?
“Bless those who persecute you” (Rom. 12:14).
Thank you, Paul! And Amen!
None of Jesus’ followers could have believed that our Lord meant for them to be excused from the persecutions and sufferings that he endured during his earthly ministry. Jesus made this crystal clear to his disciples when he gave them this warning: “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20). So, the earliest followers of Christ knew that if they obeyed Christ, they would suffer for him. They understood that it is impossible to obey God and, at the same time, escape the cruel hatred and scorn of those who are of this world.
In the light of this truth, every born-again believer who is not being persecuted today will have to confess that he or she has failed God, for, as Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master.” Those who teach that earthly success and comfort are marks of righteousness and faith are saying, “The servant IS greater than his master.” I think, my friend, we will find truth in the following scriptures, which Jesus spoke to his disciples – and is now speaking to us:
“If the world hate you, know that it hated me before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18). “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who are weeping now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you, and revile and cast out your name as evil for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day, and dance! Behold, your reward is great in heaven! For their fathers used to do such things to the prophets” (Lk. 6:21–23).
So then, we must say, with Jesus, that all true followers of Christ are hated and persecuted. But what about those believers who are happy and at ease instead of being hated and persecuted? There is only one thing to say about these unwise brothers and sisters, and Jesus said it, in Luke 6:25–26: “Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger! Woe to you who are laughing now, for you shall mourn and weep! Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to do such things to the false prophets!”
Reader, if you haven’t already done so, get a good case of holy Ghost religion and then start reproving this old world of sin. If you do this, you will soon find out why only a relatively small number of believers are suffering adversity for the glory of God. The Spirit of Truth, which is the Comforter, or the holy Ghost (Jn. 14:16–17, 26), will draw persecution whenever and wherever it is permitted to manifest. Let it live in you! Jesus, you remember, said to his unbelieving brethren: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it, that its works are evil” (Jn. 7:7). Indeed, my friend, “when [the Comforter] comes, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:8); that is, if we will let him have his way in our lives. We are commanded to yield to the Spirit, and when we yield, we will find ourselves doing as Paul said to the saints of his day: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
If Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, was made perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10), how else are we to obtain this goal? Every believer must reach this goal of spiritual perfection, or he will suffer great loss. The spirits of just men are “made perfect” here in this life (Heb. 12:23), and to that end, God has promised to “make you perfect for every good work, that you may do His will, doing in you what is pleasing in His sight” (Heb. 13:21). I know there are those who say we cannot attain to perfection in this life, but Jesus taught otherwise. He commanded his followers to “be perfect, just as your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Then Jesus, in his unerring wisdom, added, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfected shall be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40). If this was Jesus’ teaching on the subject of perfection, what should ours be?
Let us obey the immutable instructions found in Hebrews 6:1: “Leaving the matter of the beginning of Christ, let us press on to perfection.” Multitudes of believers who, years ago, should have been established in holy living are still confused and bickering over elementary truths of the gospel. Only God can help the souls languishing in this condition. The few who are willing to grow in Christ, however, may rest in the certain hope that “the God of all grace, who called you into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, [will] perfect you, and support, strengthen, and establish you” (1Pet. 5:10).
My dear Reader, let us ignore the nay-sayers and “press on toward the goal, for the prize of the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul encouraged us to have a mind to pursue perfection when he wrote, “Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way, and if you think any other way, God will reveal even this to you” (Phil. 3:14–15). What a promise from God! This promise brings to mind what Jesus said in John 7:17: “If anyone is willing to do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Yes, Jesus promised that we would be delivered from our own opinions, as well as the opinions of others, if we are willing to do God’s will! It is exciting to know that doing the will of God will lead to knowing the true doctrine of Christ. At the same time, God’s people must be forewarned that obedience to God and understanding the truth will bring about the same persecutions and sufferings that Jesus and the earliest believers suffered.
The world still hates God, and if He is in you, the world will hate you, too. But Jesus is the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), and he has promised, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). It is this assurance that gives us courage to endure hardships and be prepared for that blessed, eternal abode of the redeemed. Keeping our eyes on this goal, we can see that being persecuted for the sake of Christ is an honor, not a disgrace. It is an honor of which the world is not worthy (Heb. 11:38), but an honor that helps make us worthy to stand before God “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). Oh, my dear Friend, let’s be determined to answer the call of the aged apostle Paul, whose voice still touches the heart, even after many centuries: “Do not be ashamed of the witness of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner; on the contrary, join me in suffering for the gospel that is based on the power of God” (2Tim. 1:8).