The message of the Bible, and the testimony of Christian history, is the antithesis of what the health… wealth… and prosperity gurus proclaim (Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, etc). According to Scripture, the Gospel message is a stumbling block to those who are perishing, but a sweet smelling aroma to those who are being saved.
The message of Scripture is not that Christians escape tribulation, but that through it they overcome!
Persecution, hardship, and suffering will be the normal experience to the extent the Church is a faithful witness to and for Christ! If suffering for Jesus is not part of our life, then we must question if we are being a faithful witnesses. Suffering, hardship, persecution, and tribulation always has been… and always will be… part of the Christian experience!
Consider two quotes…
Never did the Church so much prosper and so truly thrive as when she was baptized in blood. The ship of the Church never sails so gloriously along as when the bloody spray of her martyrs falls upon her deck. We must suffer, and we must die, if we are ever to conquer this world for Christ. C.H. Spurgeon
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Tertullian
Now consider the Scripture…
Jn 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
John 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation.
Acts 14:21 They returned to Lystra & to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, & saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
2 Cor 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake…
2 Tim 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…
Ro 8:36 (Quoting Ps 44) As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial WHEN it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice & be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God & for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out wtih a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy & true, how long before you will judge & avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe & told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants & their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
The message of Christ, The Apostles, and Christian History will not fare well in a world that is self centered. The way of suffering that Jesus said would be for all those who follow Him will not be popular or be included in many (If any) church growth manuals. But none the less, the truth of suffering for Christ is pure… and when experienced… worthy to cause worship of God.
When Christians are faithful witnesses (Greek: MARTOUS… martyr), suffering will result to one degree or another. The question we have to ask is… does my experience affirm the Scripture and Christian history? If not… we must answer the question why it doesn’t?
Remember: The message of Scripture is not that Christians escape tribulation, but that through it they overcome!