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Suffering By Faith

Hebrews 11:36-38
Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (NIVUK)

Some people think that those who suffer because they trust in Christ do not have enough faith, or that they are being punished or even cursed by God. Not so. Believers in Jesus should not be surprised if those who resist His love persecute those who love Him (1 Peter 4:12-14, 16). Today's verses do not list particular characters whose faith was tested through suffering, but exemplifies the extreme brutality many have experienced.

The Psalms express so many of the emotions and personal agonies of these people. From verbal abuse to violent death: that was the suffering to be expected. They were ostracised from society, separated from their families, hunted like animals, starving with hunger, without clothes and without any of the comforts of home. They had no job in society, no apparent purpose in life or daily routine except to trust the Lord for each day. The writer says that the world was not worthy of them. Yet their character was like gold (1 Peter 1:7). The apostle Paul also suffered in similar ways (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).

This letter was written to believers who were under pressure to abandon their faith in Jesus. The writer called them to look at how God's people in the Old Testament suffered for their faith – and they did not have the confidence of knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection. Paul himself was encouraged to press on despite severe persecution: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death …" (Philippians 3:10). The resurrection of Christ encourages us to share His sufferings, because we too will gain His eternal reward.

Today, more Christians are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus than ever before. These verses will find an echo in some of the 218 territories where Word@Work is received. Jesus said it would be so (John 15:18-25). The suffering of some of our brothers and sisters is far worse than we would want to contemplate, but they endure because they trust the Lord who has called them. 1 Peter 2:21 says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." Today is our opportunity to stand together with them, to pray for them and to ask the Lord to give them the strength and courage to keep on trusting Jesus even though their community, or even family, has no time for Him or them.

Prayer 
Loving Father. Thank You for the persecuted church world-wide. Forgive me for the times I have been willing to compromise my faith to avoid persecution, or been so immersed in my own little world that I have forgotten to pray for those whose strong faith has brought suffering. Please strengthen them with Your presence and encourage them with the hope of their eternal reward. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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