Summary: Do you suffer for Jesus and righteousness in this world? The way you suffer is an example of Jesus to the world. How you handle persecution and trials for Jesus and righteousness testifies to your faith.
In my last post, I concluded teaching on developing Christian character as a disciple of Jesus from the book of Revelation. In this post, we will finish the series on developing Christian character by talking about suffering as a Christian.
Every disciple of Jesus suffers in this life because we still live in this world. We have an opportunity to redeem the time we are here. Our suffering comes in different ways, but it gives us ways to grow in our faith and Christian character. How do we deal with each suffering as it comes?
Whether you suffer trials to grow you, suffering for Jesus, righteousness, and through persecution, you will find Jesus doesn’t leave you. He ministers to you first, and then through you to others. We deal with suffering differently than the world. No one welcomes suffering, but we know God has a purpose in it, even though He doesn’t bring it. Let’s get started.
Trials to Form You
James gives us clues as his entire letter deals with trials. Trials vary in the Christian life. He begins his letter by describing trials (James 1:2-4). The rest of his letter describes some of these various trials. How do we react to trials? With joy! We are not masochists. We don’t look for trials and we don’t have joy because we face them.
He further tells us we face trials because God is developing our character in them. He doesn’t bring trials to us (James 1:13). But He uses the trials we face to make us greater in faith and stronger in character. This is why we can have joy in our trials. He increases the strength of our faith in Him by using adversity to strengthen our faith muscles.
When people train with weights, they don’t get stronger by using weights they can lift easily. When I used to lift weights, I started with weights I could handle. After warming up with them, I then added a little more weight to create adversity for my muscles to fight through. Jesus does the same with trials for you. His ultimate purpose is to strengthen your resolve in faith. Instead of asking why you suffer the trial, turn to Jesus and walk through the trial with Him by your side. Jesus promised we would have tribulation while we live here (John 16:32).
Not only do we grow in faith and character through trials and adversity, but we draw closer to Jesus. He has overcome the world, and we join Him in this victory. We can learn lessons and our trials. As we step through each trial, the next trial will be harder as Jesus continues to strengthen our faith in Him. Though we must walk through the child, Jesus’s presence with us shows He cares for us, and we can cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). Ask Jesus if there’s a lesson you need to learn in your trial.
Suffering for Jesus
One reason we suffer in this world is because of Jesus’s name. As a Christian, you identify with Jesus. You must represent Him well (1 Corinthians 5:20). If you suffer for committing a crime or did not live out His teachings, the world will remind you. Many people who know you are a Christian watch you to see if you will follow Jesus’s teachings. Though they may not, they want to see you fail.
Peter reminds us we should suffer for Jesus, not for the wrong we do (1 Peter 4:16). Don’t be surprised when you face trials (1 Peter 4:12-19). He says we should rejoice in our sufferings because we suffer as Jesus suffered. When we suffer as Jesus suffered, we receive our reward in heaven, and we share in His glory (Philippians 3:8-10).
Others will persecute you and make you suffer for Jesus’s name (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus speaks of what people will say about us and to us. Reviling and uttering all kinds of evil against us often comes through what people say. In America, most Christians have not experienced persecution like other countries. But we suffer nasty comments, commentary, and reviling from enemies of the faith.
We have not yet suffered to the point of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4). But when we suffer that much, we will stand united with Jesus. However intense the persecution you face, stand firm and do not give in to those who try to get you to give up on Jesus.
Suffering for Righteousness
Jesus describes suffering for righteousness (Matthew 5:10). We live a righteous life for Jesus as we are in the world but not of it (John 17:12, 15-16). He tells us we are blessed while we suffer for righteousness’ sake. We will inherit the kingdom of God. We suffer now, but our inheritance is waiting for us.
Job suffered for righteousness. God picked him because of his righteousness for Satan to test him (Job 1-2). He asked Satan, “Have you seen My servant Job”? God may choose you to suffer for righteousness’ sake to show the world your resolve and faith in Christ. Stand firm like Job. Your suffering may be great, but it doesn’t last forever. When we suffer for righteousness, we know our suffering has an expiration date. Don’t give up before it’s over.
Persecution comes to us because the world hates us because it hated Jesus (John 15:18-19). You bear the name of Jesus, and they hate you because you are faithful to Him. They will persecute you, call you names, and abuse you. Just because it’s because of Jesus that they persecute you doesn’t mean they don’t come after you personally. Prepare for persecution and suffer it well for Jesus. Let them see you maintain your faith, and even let it grow, with the adversity you face.
When you don’t give in to the persecution and stay faithful to Christ, the world sees your faith and allegiance to Him. They don’t understand it. They can’t take it away from you no matter what they do to you. This is a witness of Jesus all its own. Jesus told us it was coming (Matthew 5:10-12). Although it doesn’t feel like it when you are persecuted, Jesus calls you blessed. Your reward does not come in persecution but after it when you are in heaven.
Don’t give up Jesus when you are persecuted. Stand firm in the trial and tribulation. Jesus is more precious than any persecution we face. As James says, when we stand firm in the trial, God gives us the crown of life (James 1:12). Don’t give in. Don’t let them force you to give up your inheritance. It will all be worth it in the end.
Make sure you are suffering persecution for Jesus and righteousness. Sometimes we cause the persecution that comes upon us. Perhaps our personality brings on persecution. Don’t suffer trials because you committed crimes and sinned against God. That’s not suffering for Jesus or righteousness. It’s suffering because you did the wrong thing. Don’t suffer trials and persecution because you harass and exasperate your situations. Be a good representative for Christ.
Do you feel persecuted for Jesus and righteousness? Don’t give up your faith. Let the world see your firm resolve in Jesus. Ask Jesus to give you the strength to stand firm in your persecution and trials.
This concludes the section on developing Christian character by talking about suffering as a Christian for Jesus. Next, we will talk about our spiritual formation as we are formed by the Holy Spirit in Spirit baptism.