Suffering, Trials, Tribulations, and Persecutions
By Greg Turner
Suffering is a required part of our Christian walk. It is not clear why some churches preach that people will have great health and wealth by becoming a believer in Christ. Jesus says:
Matthew 5:10-12 (KJV) 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
So according to Jesus our reward is in heaven and not on this earth. In fact the world which is controlled by Satan (Rev. 12:9) cannot possibly treat us well. Jesus said:
Matthew 5:44 (KJV) 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Matthew 23:34 (KJV) 34Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye [the world – in particular the church leaders] shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
John 16:33 (KJV) 33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
John 15:18-21 (KJV) 18If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
These are the words of our master Jesus Christ. There is a verse that might lead some to believe that wealth can be had by a Christian in this lifetime. We can see that in Mark:
Mark 10:29-30 (KJV) 29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
But was Jesus talking about an individual Christian receiving this ‘hundredfold now in this time’ for their own selfish uses and purposes? We can see in the book of Acts that much wealth was donated to the church and it was shared amongst all to everyone that had need. In the mean time the brethren all had jobs to do in the kingdom and if they were focused on the wealth that ‘they’ had received then they would not be doing those jobs that Jesus gave them. How could they? For “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon“(Matthew 6:24). Jesus did not contradict himself. Yet, some Christians will have wealth (Matt. 6:33;1 Tim. 6:17-19) as God will balance out the body. Having wealth can be as much a trial as not having it for “therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). This means one has to be willing to give it all up. A person’s focus has to be on God. Trials will come with or without riches because they are either related to Jesus purifying us as we will see later or to the world hating us as we have already seen.
We can see further that without trials we can not even enter the kingdom of God:
Acts 14:22 (KJV) 22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
And many will quit because of tribulation or persecution:
Matthew 13:20-21 (KJV) 20But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
Yet we are required to suffer:
Philippians 1:29 (KJV) 29For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
So, why quit? We must not give up just because of suffering and tribulations for these are given to us to perfect us. Many of us do not notice the small bit of words at the end of the verse that talks about being baptized. Here is what it says:
Matthew 3:11-12 (KJV) 11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
We never notice that part about the fire and the fan blowing the flames to purge the wheat (God’s people) on his floor. It is this very fire that brings the trials to purify us. Peter says:
1 Peter 4:12-13 (KJV) 12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try[test] you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (KJV) 6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations[trials]: 7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 5:10 (KJV) 10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
And Paul says:
Romans 5:3-4 (KJV) 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
Do we understand? If you have children then do you not chastise them to perfect their character? You do this because you love them! So too God does it because He loves us and wants us to be with Him for eternity! We can see that by the trials and tribulations that many things are perfected in our character. Jesus does it so that we can be a part of the coming kingdom of God in power. He does it for the salvation of our souls. We must endure these things and not give up for:
James 1:12 (KJV) 12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation[trial]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
James 5:10-11 (KJV) 10Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Why does He say endure? We often have a choice with regard to trials. We can endure them or we can fight back or we can give up. For example your spouse might be abusing you. Your choices are: 1) you can endure it (which also means you can bring it up to the council of the church, but in the end you have to trust in Jesus to resolve it for there is only so much they can do), 2) you can file for divorce (breaking God’s law), or 3) abuse back (breaking God’s law). Another example is the government might arrest you for your beliefs (like in China where you are not allowed to have a bible) and they might say they will let you go if you renounce your belief in God. What will you do? The trials are given to test us and to perfect our character, to show others God’s true light and to do His work. To not endure means we are not willing to serve in His kingdom the way He has chosen for us to serve. If we take it into our own hands then we fail the test. God will retest us because He loves us. We have all heard of people who seem to be repeating the same mistakes over and over. This is because they have not turned it over to God and trusted in Him to resolve, and thereby, learn what He wants them to learn.
We must also remember that even when it is darkest in our trial that God is with us:
Hebrews 13:5-6 (KJV) 5Let your conversation[conduct] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV) 11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
These might be hard things to believe in the flesh when we are being persecuted by family, friends, church and coworkers for our beliefs. Yet, we are in good company. We can see that in the following verses:
Hebrews 11:36-39 (KJV) 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted[tested], were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (KJV) 8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed[why is God allowing this?], but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken[God remembers us]; cast down, but not destroyed[God will lift us up];
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (KJV) 23Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils[danger] of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings[sleeplessness] often, in hunger[scarcity] and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
1 Corinthians 4:11-13 (KJV) 11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
Those are some pretty strong words. Have we endured such things? Some of us have endured some of them and this article in no way diminishes the trials (present and past) of those reading this. In stead we need to see that they are for our good! That we ought not to feel depressed, but rather rejoice knowing that the end result is eternal life! The path is narrow. It was prophesied that “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Is. 53:12). The strong in faith will survive to receive the spoil as Jesus said in Matt. 5:12. Friends, I cannot water it down. It might seem overwhelming, but gold and silver cannot be made pure without a strong fire under it.
Remember that we are all a part of the same body (I Cor. 12:20-26) and we are to help each other if possible (:26). For “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3 KJV) and God “who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:4-6 KJV).
We can see that this is especially true for those who have already been in tribulation as they know what it is like and can all the more (abound) console and comfort those who are going through it. Just remember that these things must be or else you are not a part of the kingdom of God and so that is why Paul and others said to glory (Rom 5:3) in it and count it for joy (James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:13) and remember to “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Rom. 12:14).
Finally, we must trust in God and we must in times of trial remember this:
Micah 7:7-9 (KJV) 7Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. 8Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. 9I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.
In His name do I share these things and God be with you all during these times of trial and suffering,
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