Monday morning we awoke to headlines like these:
Bombings Kill Dozens in Churches in Egypt
Why ISIS Declared War on Egyptian Christians
“ISIS Egypt affiliate: Christians are our ‘favorite prey’
In two separate attacks on Sunday, houses of worship in Egypt were targeted by Islamic radical terrorist. At least 44 people were killed and over 100 injured in Alexandria and Tanta.
Persecution against believers in Jesus in nothing new in Muslim controlled countries. Over the past several years we have witnessed the capture of those professing faith in Christ. Their imprisonment, torture and even beheading.
One wonders IF or WHEN such attacks will become the norm in America instead of the exception. We have enjoyed religious freedom and have been able to assemble without fear of physical harm. That privilege may one day end.
The encouragement of Scriptures like 1 Peter 4:12-13 will take on new meaning and provide motivation for faithfulness in the face of our foes.
“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.”
Disciples of Christ knew about “the fiery trial” in the first and second century. Christians suffered cruel treatment at the hands of the authorities. They were beaten. Stoned. Imprisoned. Dismembered. Fed to the lions. And burned at the stake.
While we are not exempt from present day persecution, we can find comfort, encouragement and consolation through faith in God’s promises and provisions. These four facts can help us not to lose heart.
(1) The Christian’s lifestyle is opposed to the world.
In the text Peter reminds us and them that unbelievers think the Christian’s lifestyle is “strange.” Furthermore, to proclaim that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God is not politically correct today. Preaching Jesus as the Christ will quickly raise the ire of the antagonist.
(2) Persecution is not unexpected.
Sometimes we will be reviled for our faith. Maybe ostracized. Or even oppressed. The persecution could be subtle or even overt. It might be emotional or physical. It might result in the loss of some benefit or a relationship.
(3) God is not impervious to our pain.
When we suffer God knows. God cares. And God hears our prayers. (1 Pet 5:7). His Word offers help and hope in times of suffering. The Psalmist put it this way: “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps 55:22).
(4) There is a sense in which we can rejoice, even during difficulties.
No one enjoys suffering. The Bible is not advocating a masochistic view of Christianity. However, through God’s grace we can find the strength to endure. And even feel honored that we share in the sufferings of Christ. Furthermore, we live in hope of the day when God replaces suffering with eternal glory.
Finally, there is even a benefit as we suffer for Christ. The pain we endure can actually produce spiritual maturity. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet,” observed Helen Keller. “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman