I Peter 4:12-16
Persecution and suffering should not come as any surprise to us; for God has warned us that, after their redemption, Christ’s people would be refined in the fire of affliction (Zechariah 13:7-9). Both for Him and for us, the road to glory leads through suffering (Hebrews 2:10). Being united with Christ means that we must experience, in however small a way, what He experienced. Suffering for Christ’s sake is proof of that union – and an assurance that we will one day also share in His triumph (Romans 8:17). So trials are a normal part of the Christian life, and should be greeted not with bewilderment but with joyful acceptance.
To take our stand with Christ will mean sharing with Him the contempt and rejection of the world (Hebrews 13:13). Yet it is an honour and a privilege to be labelled with the name of the Messiah! For the very naming of Jesus, along with His ‘royal’ title, invokes His Spirit in all His majesty and glory. Many persecuted Christians have experienced a special awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Should we not envy those churches that suffer persecution, rather than pity them? (Acts 5:41)
It is important, however, to ask ourselves the question: am I really suffering for Christ’s sake, or have I brought it upon myself by some kind of wrongdoing? There is nothing inherently honourable about suffering punishment for some crime, or for behaviour that causes offence to other people; this is how to bring Christ’s name into disrepute. The distinctiveness of truly Christian suffering is that it is totally undeserved; it has come upon us purely because we are known as Christ’s people, and so it is in itself a sign that we belong to Him.