Trials, Persecutions, and Sufferings: How Will You Respond?
How a Christian deals with trials, persecutions, and sufferings is a pivotal, turning point in the Christian life. The world’s response to a righteous life is often hostile. Scripture has things to say about some of the possible ways the righteous can be persecuted by the “wicked”.
Job 12:4-5—They laugh at the righteous.
Psalm 119:51—They mock the righteous.
Psalm 119:69-70—They lie about the righteous.
Psalm 11:2, 37:32—They shoot at the upright out of the dark.
Psalm 56:5-6—They twist the words of the righteous and often search for a way to hurt.
Psalm 119:78—They deal crookedly without a cause.
Psalm 119:85—They do not always play by the rules.
Psalm 119:95—They wish ill to the righteous.
Galatians 6:12—The life of the righteous is a rebuke to them, and because of this they attempt to bring the righteous down to their level.
Amos 5:10—Hate and speak against the righteous.
These are a few of the non-physical ways the righteous can be persecuted. This persecution can get even more severe when it includes physical beatings and death. Paul lists the physical abuse he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Notice I said that Paul endured these things. It is this word “endure” that is our fourth thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. The word in 2 Peter is patience and it means endurance, patient continuance. It is one of the things Paul says we are to add to our faith in order to live a victorious Christian life.
Whether a trial is persecution from without, fighting the sin that is within, physical affliction, or temptation, the Christian is to maintain his faith (2 Thessalonians 1:4), he is to endure. As James 1:3-4 tells us, the trying of our faith works patience (endurance) and when endurance is perfected it yields her perfect work. Second Peter 1:6 tells us this “perfect work” is godliness, the fifth thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. What does it mean to endure in Christ? Is it the same as a soldier enduring the heat of battle and coming out alive? Well, in a sense, but instead of the soldier maintaining his life, the Christian is to maintain his faith and obedience toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 14:12, 13:10). He is to maintain a righteous life no matter what the opposition may be (1 Thessalonians 5:15, Galatians 6:10, Matthew 5:44-48, Romans 12:18-21). He is to trust in the promises of God (Hebrews 10:36). He is to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and this includes through the bad times as well as the good. It is during the bad times that patience or endurance comes into the picture. It is during the struggles, the hardships and the periods of rejection that require endurance if one is ever going to come out of them according to godliness (James 1:3-4, 2 Peter 1:6), instead of with bitterness, hatred, scorn, or distrust toward the Lord.
How does endurance produce godliness? The tangible elements produced by endurance in trials are given to us in Romans 5:3-4. Let us look at this passage: “… knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” The tangible elements recorded here are experience and hope. Experience simply points to learning that God indeed is faithful and will deliver in His promises. Knowing that God is faithful increases our hope and desire to receive the fulfillment of the promises that are yet future. In 1 John 3:3 it states that the Christian who has the hope of seeing the Lord face to face is purified by this very same hope. This purifying is godliness. Now what is godliness? It is that inner attitude that does that which is well pleasing to God. It is not just yielding oneself to doing right, but doing it because you want to please Him. It is that inner attitude that shows itself in a holy manner of life (2 Peter 3:11).
The way to godliness is through endurance. Godliness is forged as we endure the bad things that come our way without succumbing to their destructive power. And not only not succumb to their destructive power but allow God to make us better people because of it. And not only to make us better people but mold us to be like Jesus Christ. Second Peter 2:20 talks about escaping the pollutions of this world by the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We escape them by avoiding them when possible. We do not go the places where it exists and we do not hang around with those who live it. We also escape these pollutions by enduring them in the grace of God, looking to our example, the Son of God, in the power of the Spirit of God.