Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
How often do we take seriously the call from Christ to take up our cross? What do we expect to get when we seek to follow Him with all our being? I think we must look to those who have gone before us to see what exactly is in store for those who truly follow Christ. Our precedent is not a life of comfort, ease, and peace. Rather, we see from those who truly stood for the cause of Christ a life of hardship, difficulty, and in many cases persecution. While we do not live in a closed country where the Gospel is a crime, we do see many instances of God-fearing, Christ-honoring people who endure hardship for the sake of Christ.
So many times, I believe we as Christians in America expect our walk with the Lord to be easy. We do not understand the difficulty being associated with the Gospel means for us. It puts us diametrically opposed to the cause of the World, and it places us in direct opposition to forces much stronger than we could ever conceive. We find ourselves on the front line of a tremendous battle, where the casualty count is high. We forget that we live in a world where more martyrs are made than ever before in Church History, and that we live in a world where husbands and fathers are brutally tortured for bearing the cross of their Lord.
So it should come as no surprise to us that when we remain faithful to Christ, we do not have an immediate and guaranteed claim to blessings and fortune (and if any preacher has told you this, he has lied to you). We have an inheritance and we do have great blessings, but those are found in Christ and not in the things of the world. The examples we are to follow from Scripture lead us to one conclusion, faithfulness to Christ will undoubtedly lead to personal hardship, spiritual warfare, and great opposition.
I have shared before that the past year has been the most difficult I have ever endured, and I do not nor can not rescind that stance. I have felt hardship and opposition in an entirely new way, and in the midst of it all I consider it a joy to have been found worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. I have sought to be faithful to the teaching of the Word and the growth of His people, and while there have been glorious moments of rejoicing, there have been many more moments of personal angst. And for that I am thankful.
I encourage you to pray for and support your pastors and leaders. They have/are/will endure/d great hardship for the sake of Christ. They deal with things and carry a weight many other people will never know or understand. And it is my prayer that the people I serve with would never know the full depth of my weight I carry. Stand behind them, support them, love them, submit to them when they give instruction. Follow their faithfulness, and heed their instruction.
May the Lord find us faithful, and may we consider all things a loss for the surpassing greatness of knowing Him, making Him known, and living in the joy of our salvation in Christ