We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”
(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Years ago I read an excellent book by Glenn Penner entitled, In the Shadow of the Cross: A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship. This book outlines and explains how it is that the North American church is so terribly ill-equipped to endure real persecution (which is sure to come our way). With Christianity’s widespread acceptance in the west came freedom, affluence, and privilege. This became the “atmosphere” in which the church lived and breathed in the west. This caused theologians and Bible school and seminary professors to reinterpret the many New Testament references to, and instructions regarding, enduring persecution for Christ’s sake. Such references were interpreted to reflect spiritual realities only. Those that were taught such things went on to teach future pastors and ministers also. Today there are mega-church congregations who have never heard a word about suffering hardship for their confession of faith. Rather, they are told that if they have strong faith and no un-confessed sin, they are guaranteed to be healthly, wealthy, and prosperous. Even a cursory reconnaissance of church history (not to mention the Bible itself!) reveals the grave error in this kind of thinking. Christians are not immune to hardship and suffering. In fact, the Bible guarantees that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Sometimes doing the right thing can actually make things worse, at least in the short term. Moses is a good case in point. At God’s command he demanded that the pharaoh release the Hebrew slaves. The pharaoh’s response was immediate. Instead of releasing the slaves or easing their burdens, he added to their afflictions (Exodus 5). In courageously and faithfully obeying God, Moses’ actions actually made things worse for His people. We know how it all turned out of course. By resisting God and afflicting His people, the Pharaoh’s nation was broken by 10 stupendous, supernatural sign judgments. Israel was finally released from her bitter bondage in a spectacular display of power and redemptive love (Deuteronomy 4:37). This is an example of God working all things together for the ultimate good of His people (Romans 8:28). We shouldn’t be too surprised, therefore, if we suffer in this life for doing the right thing under God. After all, as New Covenant priests we are called to offer the sacrifices of righteousness (Deuteronomy 33:19; Psalm 4:5; 51:19). In other words, doing the right thing will of necessity cost us. God sees all of this of course and has promised to reward us openly for our faithfulness and obedience (Luke 6:22-23; 14:13-14; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). As today’s verse passage reminds us, though we are not immune to adversity, we have been empowered to endure and even triumph over it. Glory to God!

God bless you, dear saints,

pastor john