A number of years ago, a meme with a picture of first Century Christians, standing in a Roman stadium and surrounded by lions, was floating around various social media sites. The caption underneath the picture said, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It was quite an impactful illustration of what is missing in so much that passes for Christian teaching today. Many are led to believe that if they come to Christ, their life will get easier and easier. In fact, the opposite is the case. When we come to Christ, we do so with the expectation that we will suffer and endure hardship on His account. What enables us to endure suffering for the name of Christ is that He suffered in the flesh for us.
The apostles were themselves men well acquainted with suffering, and members of the early church witnessed how much the apostles endured for the sake of the gospel. Nevertheless, Peter believed it was necessary to remind first century believers about the blessing of suffering for the sake of Christ. He wrote, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
Nothing can hurt us if we endure suffering for the sake of Christ. Jesus taught this when He said, “Don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more” (Luke 12:4). The suffering we are called to endure in this life serves the glory that shall be revealed in us. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, knew this when he looked up into heaven as he was being stoned and prayed with the face like an angel, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, learned what it meant to suffer for doing good. While burning at the stake for his testimony, he famously said, “Eighty-six years I’ve served him, and he has never done me injury.”
When we arm ourselves with the same mind with which Christ was armed, we will be able to endure hardship for the glory of God. Since Jesus suffered for us (1 Peter 3:18), to forgive us and to bring us to glory, we can suffer for Him. The suffering we endure for doing what is good is a mark of God’s blessing, rather than a mark of failure and loss. In the end, it will be seen as gain. May God give us the grace to remember the One who suffered for us to bring us to God, so that we might suffer for Him to bring Him glory.
Written by Nicholas Batzig