I recently wrote a devotional about “How we respond to Persecution” for the Online Bible study Gracefully Truthful. And it got me thinking about whether suffering is a spiritual discipline.
Typically, we think of the disciplines as something we choose. Suffering and persecution are not something we choose but something that is forced upon us. But then again, maybe it can indeed be a chosen way of life. Let’s dig further.
In my devotion, mentioned above, I spoke about Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, missionaries to Ecuador. They ministered to a head-hunting tribe deep in the Amazon region. They actually knew what might occur if they tried to contact the people. It seems to me that they chose to suffer for Christ. Jim Elliot said,
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.Jim Elliot
Choosing to Suffer?
There are people groups who certainly have not chosen to be persecuted. They just happen to live in a country or under a regime that persecutes them for their beliefs. Certainly, they are not choosing this.
However, what about the missionaries that go to these places with the Gospel? They are aware that they are going against the laws in these places. They are, in fact, choosing to suffer for the furtherance of the Gospel.
When Christians decide that they will take a stand, defy rules to share the gospel, or even just make a statement on social media, we are choosing to possibly face persecution. The apostles in the early church were doing just that. They knew that to take a stand for Jesus meant cruel punishment and even death. But they chose to do it regardless of the possibilities. They prayed that God would give them boldness to speak out and preach the Gospel.
And now, O Lord, hear their threats and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”Acts 4:29-30
Rejoicing in our Suffering
Several times in scriptures we are encouraged to consider it all joy when we suffer. Persecution in itself proves that we are doing the work of God. Satan does not like it when the Word of God is spread about. He will do everything to stop it, including persecution and instilling fear.
Even more, we can celebrate in our suffering because it causes spiritual growth. James said it clearly in his letter…
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.James 1:2-4
What Will You Choose?
So now, it is our choice. Do we choose to remain silent and forgo the suffering or do we speak out for Christ so that others may know? Remember the words of Jesus,
“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.Matthew 10:32-34