Last week in the sermon we looked at the reality that Jesus has been given all authority, power and rule over all things, both in heaven and on earth and that rule is not just the future but also now, for the purpose of building and sanctifying His church. Here are three takeaways from that truth that we looked at on Sunday:
Because Jesus, the God-Man has all authority…
- We must all face judgment
- We must proclaim the gospel
- We must live for our King
If we are going to live in a way that glorifies our King that means we will face persecution and suffering for His name and for His glory. This was true for the apostles, and it has been true for believers throughout the centuries. Even today in other parts of the world many are facing substantial persecution like public mocking and scorn, estranged relationships, legal problems, fines and jail sentences, and even in some cases martyrdom.
Are you ready for that kind of persecution? Do you really believe that Jesus is King, that He has all authority, and that His will is being perfectly and purposefully carried out in the world? Do you believe it enough to live for Him in a way that causes the world to persecute you, even murder you because of your faithfulness to Him?
Are you ready to suffer for your King?
The “Christian Country” we have enjoyed in the past may be gone in just next next few decades, if not earlier. However, we are citizens of a different kingdom, a lasting kingdom, an eternal kingdom! If we are faithful to that kingdom and to that King, we will suffer persecution.
I want to just take a few minutes and look at some key reminders about suffering for Christ that I hope will encourage you as you likely face the path of persecution in the days ahead.
If you live for the King, your suffering is Expected
1 Peter 4:12–14
 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV)
Peter here tells his readers not to be surprised when they suffer for Christ as if it’s something strange and unexpected is happening. It should not come as a shock to us, if we are living for the King, that the world would be against us. In fact, in John 15:20-21 Jesus Himself promised that the world would respond this way to us, because they responded this way to Him. Paul also echoes the expectation of persecution, specifically for those who “desire to live a holy life in Christ Jesus” in 2 Timothy as he seeks to encourage and exhort the young preacher to be faithful in trials.
While we may not desire persecution, we should expect it and view it as confirmation that we are walking with Christ on a consistent basis. While there can be seasons of peace and we are to actually pray for such peace, the reality is that the world does not love God, does not desire to submit to the authority of Jesus and our faithfulness, while salt and light will also bring about suffering.
For further study: John 15:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:12–13
If you live for the King, your suffering is Ordained
1 Peter 2:19–21
 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (ESV)
Peter here is claiming that suffering unjustly for Christ is a “gracious thing.” He says it again in verse 20, that suffering for doing good is a “gracious thing” from God’s perspective. Why is suffering a gracious thing?
It is gracious because it is what we are called to endure in response to what Christ has done for us. Verse 21 clarifies this by showing Christ as our example in suffering for our salvation so that we would follow Him in suffering persecution with the same response. Our suffering, if done well, reflects Christ’s suffering to other believers and to the world around us. Suffering is not random but is an intentional grace God gives us to shine His glory in and through us as we respond in a Christlike manner.
Peter says, “For to this you have been called.” God has ordained that we go through persecution. God has ordained it as a grace for us. God has ordained that persecution by wicked men to bring about his work of grace in our sanctification.
While we may be caught off guard by how and through whom the persecution comes at times, we must remember that God has ordained all of this in His plan for our good and for His glory.
For further study: Phil 1:27-30, 2 Tim 1:8-12
If you live for the King, your suffering is Purposeful
1 Peter 1:6–7
 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
1 Peter is a book that deals a lot with the issue of suffering for Christ, so it makes sense that these first three concepts are rooted there. In this passage we see another amazing word when it comes to suffering. That word is, “rejoice.” Peter is not just telling us to rejoice but expecting us to rejoice, not in the fact that we are suffering, but rather in the result that this suffering will produce. Verse 7 tells us what that result is. Persecution is a direct and powerful test of our faith that often reveals weak or false faith. The testing of our faith should result in praise, glory, and honor when Christ returns (more about that later).
God has providentially ordained our suffering to reveal the validity and surety of our faith.
Is it any wonder that those who fall away from the faith tend to do so in times of trial or times of persecution or attacks on what they claim to believe? Persecution is a trial designed to reveal the validity and depths of our faith and ultimately to strengthen it as we run to the Rock for safety.
Paul and James both echo the idea of rejoicing in trials and persecution in Romans 5 and James 1. In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul even gives us another purpose for our suffering which is to find our hope and comfort in Christ, so that we can encourage others to remain faithful in their trials and persecutions. There is a great purpose for us individually and as the body of Christ in God’s plan for persecution.
For further study: Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 1:3–5, 1 Peter 3:13–17
If you live for the King, your suffering is Glorious
2 Corinthians 4:16–18
 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)
We’ll leave 1 Peter for this last reminder about suffering for Christ and turn to Paul. We’ve already seen Paul, Peter, and James in harmony in regard to this topic of suffering persecution for the name of Jesus.
I love this Paul’s first sentence in this passage, “So, we do not lose heart.” In this context, Paul is talking about the suffering he and others have endured for the sake of the gospel, specifically toward the Corinthian believers. This suffering includes being afflicted, facing perplexing circumstances, persecution, and even physical abuse. Why can Paul go through all of these harms for the Corinthians and come out on the other side saying, “we do not lose heart?”
Verse 17 reveals the mind of Paul. He views all his suffering as ‘light’ and ‘momentary’ in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” in store. Paul reminds us that suffering here on earth is not only purposeful but it will be praised and rewarded in eternity. Jesus echos this in the sermon on the mount in Matt 5, saying that our reward in heaven will be great if we are persecuted for Him. James uses the term “crown of life” to describe the eternal reward for those who are faithful through suffering in James 1:12. Peter weighs in with the beautiful promise, that God will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us through suffering in 1 Peter 5:10-11.
If you are in the midst of persecution, know that God has ordained it for a glorious purpose, your sanctification and ultimately, your glorification. If you are not currently facing persecution, set your mind on these truths so that when you do in the days ahead, you can fall back on the truth of God’s grace working in and through those trials.
I think John Piper sums it up well:
“I’ll venture this: every millisecond of your pain — from fallen nature or fallen man — every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that suffering.”
For further study: Matthew 5:10–12, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:10–11, 2 Peter 4:13
So… are you ready to suffer for your King?
I’ll leave you with one last passage. I hope that we can and will echo the attitude of the apostles here as they considered their suffering on account of Christ:
 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (ESV) [emphasis mine]