If you missed the blogs from earlier this week, please go back and read them. They will help set the stage for the rest of the week. We are considering 3 major applications that will help us understand what it means to be a witness. We have already seen that Christianity is defined far differently by us today than it was by Paul and that our failure to suffer has hindered evangelism. Today, we are going to see our third application.
A third application that I would like for us to consider as we think about being witnesses, or martyres is as follows: The reason we are not suffering for Christ is simply because we are unwilling to. Some of us think that we aren’t suffering because we live in America. We may not be imprisoned or beaten physically, but Paul did not make a distinction between being beaten with rods or being shipwrecked by accident. He did not distinguish between being cold while traveling or being stoned by the Jews. For him, any suffering that came while serving Christ was part of the cost of following Christ.
When was the last time we suffered for Christ? When was the last time we suffered as part of a choice to be openly Christian in risky situations? Paul warned in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” So often we say, “those Chinese believers are so on fire for Christ because they are persecuted.” “Persecution just breeds revival.” But, could it be that they are persecuted because they are on fire for Christ? Could it be that persecution does not just refine true believers, but rather reveals true believers? Something tells me if we transplanted a Chinese evangelist to America, he would find a way to get arrested. Suffering is synonymous with the Christian life in most of the world, and throughout the Word. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12-14, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”
Why is so much of the NT and Christian history filled with persecution and warnings about persecution and suffering? Because, it is assumed that followers of Christ would take seriously His Great Commission. And nothing stirs up the forces of darkness like carrying the light into those riskiest places. Nothing stirs up Satan like Jesus followers being true witnesses.