Have I mentioned that I am always blown away by the complexity and “deepness” of the information and thoughts shared and discussed at my college Bible study? This Wednesday was no different.

The topic of study was persecution.

One of the first things our book mentioned on the subject – and, in my opinion, one of the most important and underlying aspects of it – was that Christians have always been persecuted. As “aliens” and “foreigners” on earth, we cannot expect that people won’t look twice at us; nor should we “think it strange” that the world mocks, shuns, tortures, and/or kills us (the weirdos).
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13
As believers, it is not so much a matter of if we will be persecuted as it is when. Thus, it is not so much a choice of whether we will suffer from persecution, but whether we will suffer well (rejoicing as we “partake of Christ’s sufferings”, according to Peter).
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” ~ 1 Peter 4:16
Our response in the face of persecution has the potential to bring glory to God. If we are unashamed and boldly stand firm in our faith, we will give even greater witness to Christ.

I was challenged by a story included in our book:
Pliny, the Roman governor in Asia Minor during the second century, was puzzled by the Christians who were brought before him for trial. He wrote about one of his experiences to Emperor Trajan asking for advice. His letter has become famous in history.
Pliny wrote that a certain unnamed Christian was brought before him, and finding little fault in him, Pliny threatened him by saying, “I will banish you.”
“You cannot,” came the reply, “for the entire world is my Father’s house.”
“I will slay you and you will be blotted from eternity,” said the Governor.
“You cannot,” answered the Christian, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away your possessions,” continued Pliny.
“You cannot, for my treasure is in heaven.”
“I will drive you away from man and you will have no friend left,” was the final threat.
The Christian calmly replied, “You cannot, for I have an unseen Friend from Whom you are not able to separate me.”
If I were in such a situation, would my response be boldly straightforward? Would my faith prove more valuable and more meaningful than enjoying a comfortable life, having good friends, or life itself?

Another area of the study (that we didn’t get to in Bible study, but that I was thinking a lot about when I was reading our book and answering some of the questions) had to do with this verse:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." ~ 1 Peter 5:10
Persecution not only is an outward witness of our faith, but also is an inward strengthening of it. Through suffering, God gives our faith an immovable foundation of truth. I found it so interesting that the Greek word translated “fiery trial” (purōsis) in 1 Peter 4:12 refers to the intense heat used to refine metals by burning away impurities. It is not a fire that consumes (think bonfire); rather, it is a fire with a specific purpose. Like fire that purifies gold, suffering purifies and perfects the faith of a believer.

Persecution is neither insignificant, nor purposeless.

I think it’s also important to remember that suffering and persecution are part of living in a cursed world. Sin is the cause of the sadness, pain, and destruction that we see all around us: persecution, hate, natural disasters, crime, broken homes, rape, war . . . The results of sin are not somehow caused by God, and I don’t believe it is God’s will that His people suffer, either (that is fatalism). But that does not mean that He is not in control. And how amazing is it that He has not left us to live with the consequences of the curse (which would not have been unjust!), but has provided for our rescue through Christ, – wonderful, merciful Savior! – whose death and resurrection defeated sin, death, and the Devil.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I have no desire to suffer . . .I am a wimp when it comes to pain, and I shrink from uncomfortable situations. But I also know that, as a Christian, – an alien in this fallen world – persecution happens. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to genuinely “rejoice” in suffering, but, whether I lose face or friends, a job or possessions, or even my life, I pray I will choose to suffer well for the glory of Christ.

I find peace, comfort, and courage in the promise that "no one can snatch us from [His] hand" and the knowledge that nothing – not even death – can take away the hope that I have.

. . . For my life is hid with Christ in God.

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