This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Joseph Ton (Romanian Christian writer), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:29)
Suffering is not something strange. Actually, it is not even a tragedy, but a favor. 'To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps' (1 Peter 2:21).
According to Peter, suffering is our calling. It is even a favor. Peter and John were flogged, which is a terrible punishment. But when they were sent away with bloody backs, they rejoiced 'because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name' (Acts 5:41).
Peter and John considered it a special honor to be flogged, as if they realized that they had received something which was not granted to everyone.
A Christian must be found worthy to suffer for the Lord. Such suffering is a calling, a favor, and an honor.
A moment of introspection: Worthy of Suffering… Not something strange… Not even a tragedy. Each of us responds to Christ's call on our lives in a very individual fashion. But what characterizes our lives? Ease? Pleasure? Distraction? Materialism? Would any of us be willing to earnestly say that we want to be found worthy to suffer for the Lord? Would we wish such a favor? Do we wish to follow in Christ's steps? Would this be our calling? Would worthiness to suffer for the Lord be considered a favor or an honor?
A few minutes perusing the "Christians in Crisis" website's Latest News section should suffice to show any viewer that a life of ease, a life of pleasure, or a life of materialistic self-centeredness cannot be said to characterize the lives of Christians around the world who suffer for the Lord and therein follow in His steps. It might be safe to say in many churches today, that a Christian who is willing to live radically enough to offend the world and to take the consequences, bearing his or her cross, would not be readily understood. Somehow, in our churches, we have forgotten the cost of being Christ's disciples in this world. Personal loss for the sake of Christ, abasement for the sake of the furtherance of Christ's kingdom here on earth, being arrested for representing Christ in an antagonistic world… These things, brother Joseph says (and the holy Scriptures support) describe to a very limited degree the calling, favor, and honor given to those who would call themselves "disciples of Christ".
What have we missed? What favor, what honor has eluded us in our lives because we have viewed the price of discipleship as being a tragedy, a punishment? How would we choose to respond to brother Joseph's challenge that "a Christian must be found worthy to suffer for the Lord?" His assertion is perhaps very simply an affront to our self image and our complacency as Christians. Our self-image does not include rejoicing at the special honor of being flogged. But as persecution comes to Christians in the West, we may newly find ourselves at a loss — when confronted by a hostile world. In a recent House of Prayer meeting, we prayed for two young Egyptian Christian girls who have been raised by parents to understand that persecution is something to be expected, and further instructed on how as Christians they are to respond to such worldly animosity. If we are wise, we will consider for ourselves how we will respond as Christians, and how we will help other Christians to know how to respond to persecution as it rears its ugly head. A good resource is available from Open Doors, entitled Standing Strong through the Storm. The paperback book costs $10 on the Open Doors website: www.odusa.org. This book is been used around the world to train Christians on how to respond when persecution comes to them. As persecution comes to us, may we too view suffering for the Lord to be our calling, to be a favor, and an honor granted to us by God himself.