When Christ walked the earth it was incredibly dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. Even before Christ came people faced peril and ridicule when they talked about God and their faith in Him. When Christ gave the disciples their great commission, He told them they would face trouble in this world while following Him.
Our culture in what we call the "1st world" may not be a threat of death at every turn when we follow Jesus, but we still face challenges in our walk with Him. We face loved ones, friends, enemies and strangers alike who will try to sway our faith in God. We trudge through slander, ridicule, loss of relationships, harassment, bullying, assaults and all kinds of abuse from people because we choose to believe that God is God, scripture is truth, and Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins. The world around us is ripe with those who will gladly rip your faith to shreds if you let them.
So what do we do when we face these challenges? How do we respond when loved ones and friends discourage us in our faith? What do we do when we face loss and hurt for the sake of our relationship with our Creator?
The first thing we do is rejoice. Rejoice because when we face hostility and suffering for the sake of our faith, generally that means we're doing something right. We are called to be different, to be set apart. One of the best ways to know you're set apart for Christ is when others who don't walk with Jesus notice and lash out because of it. Just as Christ suffered we will suffer, and through it we will glorify God when we respond with praise to our Father in the midst of the hurt and danger.
The next thing to do is pray. Be grateful to God for the opportunity to shine His light, and lift that gratefulness to Him. Just like we discussed last week, tell Him all that you're feeling, experiencing, and struggling with. Suffering for His sake is by no means easy. When we lift our hurt feelings, struggles and sins to Him, and pray over our relationships that are tough or at risk, we allow Him to give us His grace, mercy and love so that we may exemplify Him to those who try to condemn us. Seek to empty yourself to God so that He can fill you up with Himself, equipping you for the battle ahead.
Lastly, set the example. Now that you've rejoiced and given it to God, use what God fills you up with to live in the image of Christ. Don't just walk the walk; talk the talk. It's not an easy thing to be loving toward those who seek to tear you down, but do it anyway because that is what Jesus would do, and what God calls on us to do.
Praise God for trusting us with these opportunities to glorify and exemplify Him. Let go and let God fill you up with His goodness. Use what God fills you up with to glorify Him, strengthen you, and share the love, truth, mercy and grace of Jesus.
'“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that stop flowing in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. ' Job 6:14-17
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:41-44
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, Philippians 1:29