Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5, verse 10.
Be warned: you may not like this. This may bristle against what you know.
People in America today don’t suffer the way folks used to. This isn’t designed to guilt you out, or make you feel like we aren’t good enough. It’s simply a matter of fact, a statement about the way things are. For example, Phil Robertson. We can talk about religious persecution, but tell me: was the man seriously persecuted for what he believes? Or Chris Kluwe, the has-been kicker for the Minnesota Vikings. Same question.
Isaiah was martyred by pagans. The love of Hosea’s life was a whore who was chronically unfaithful to him. Amos was murdered by the son of another priest. Elijah was subject to fits of deep, black depression. Ezra watched as his countrymen, thrown into exile, rejected God and all that Ezra had based his life on. Ezekiel and his wife were seized from their home, carted away to a foreign land as slaves, and he watched his young wife die a horrible death. Ditto those twelve apostles, all but one of whom suffered excruciating deaths.
Have you or I suffered like that?
Again, please understand this: don’t feel inferior. You have terribly difficult things happening in your life. There is real suffering happening in this world, here and now, today as we share this time together. There is real persecution of people who believe in Jesus in China, Iran, South America, and even in some places in the US (though probably not in Monroe, Louisiana). And it was just yesterday that James was exhorting us to not grumble, not grouse, against each other; to remain steadfast in faith.
Steadfast, perhaps, like those prophets of old. They truly suffered for what they believed. In a way, faith is like the old song: God never promised you a rose garden. Gee, that sounds like so much fun!
But life isn’t all fun, and the fun parts are usually only enjoyable because we can contrast them with the other times that aren’t. What’s more, what’s good in life is good because of love. God’s love. Jesus’ love. The prophets knew that, which is why they stood fast in it. If we value that love, it shouldn’t be a surprise when we’re persecuted for it. When that happens, we can be encouraged knowing that hundreds, maybe thousands or millions, of believers before us stood up for Jesus and stood fast. If anything, God promises that faith won’t be an easy row to hoe, and that before He restores this world to heaven, He will let it endure pure hell. In those days, it’s our lot to stand for Him. Like the prophets of old.
Lord of ages, help me to stand for You.
Do you stand for Jesus?
If not for Him, what do you stand for?
What are you prepared to do about that?