• 5 February 2024

Chapter 18 – Suffering for the Faith

When I was a young boy my father, who was a pastor, took us Bible smuggling behind the Iron Curtain most summers. When we visited these persecuted churches I was struck by how vibrant their faith was despite – or perhaps, because of – their suffering.

One man in particular, a friend of mine called Simo, was often in prison for his faith and yet, even in prison, he couldn’t help preaching to his fellow inmates. They were so struck by his example that when the exasperated authorities stuck him in solitary confinement to keep him quiet, the other prisoners demanded he be let out so he could continue to talk to them.

So far in this book we have looked at general suffering, but sometimes Christian suffer for being Christians. As the gospel spread across the Roman empire, persecution began to grow and we see the result of it in the book of 1 Peter.

The letter reveals that Christians were beginning to face ridicule, which was turning to violence and, soon after, death. Peter tells his readers not to be surprised by suffering. In fact, if they are insulted they are blessed ‘for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you’(1 Pet. 4:14). This was what happened to my friend Simo. The glory of God rested on him.

My own church leader has written on these verses, ‘Rather than suffering clouding the believer’s current experience of God, it is a sign of God’s glorious presence with them.’

We must be willing to suffer for Christ ‘because Christ suffered for you, leaving an example, that you should follow in his steps’ (1 Pet. 2:21). In many parts of the world today, Christians suffer daily, even to death. And, even in the UK, where Christianity has had (exceptionally) a privileged position in recent history, this is changing. Not, of course, to the extent that we risk the persecution of life behind the Iron Curtain, but certainly through ridicule and discrimination.

Churches – and especially – their leaders, who hold to the teaching of Scripture often face fierce opposition in their wider communities. Please pray for them, that they would continue to stand faithfully for orthodox belief.

We should return good for evil towards those who persecute us. Peter tells us that we should commit ourselves to God and ‘continue to do good’ (1 Pet. 4:19). The examples of Christians’ patient endurance often turns persecutors to Christ. Think of the apostle Paul, or other examples throughout history. Many of the Khmer Rouge leaders, who beat Christians to death in the killing fields of Cambodia, found forgiveness in Christ.

Suffering for the cause of Christ is brief. How short this life is and how transient are our trials. As Peter says, ‘the God of all grace … after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast’ (1 Pet. 5:10). May that be so for us.

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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