I grew up in the church. As a child I sang “Dare to be a Daniel”. I knew the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Stephen, Paul, Silas, John, and Peter. As an adult, I read the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and have read many accounts since then of those who have suffered for the cause of Christ. I have always admired those who have had to endure countless tortures, brutal deaths, dismemberment, loss of family, loss of property, loss of livelihood, and the list goes on. The question I have had, so many times, is this: “Do I have what it takes?”
Maybe like me, you have wondered the same thing.
How do we face the pending onslaught Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount and later in Matthew 10, Mark 13, and Luke 12? I believe the answer is found in the moment... that moment Moses experienced when he was between an army and a sea. That moment Daniel and his colleagues experienced facing lions and fiery ovens. Those moments culminated from a deep relationship with the God they loved.
Our journey toward suffering is measured. We are first called by the Spirit. We come to repentance. Then, through multiple cycles of Psalm 23, we experience the futility of our desires, and grow in our knowledge of Him. Gently, He leads us through the valley of death’s shadow repeatedly... ever deeper each time. His goal in this is not to suffer needlessly. Rather, we suffer because we know Him more, and He knows us. Our allegiance, wills, and desires are different from the world in which we live. We become hated because of Who we serve. While it seems we are hated by those around us, we realize that we were once children of wrath, as well, sold in sin and slaves to death.
Our hope is in God alone. In Christ alone. By Grace alone. Through a faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, we are drawn ever onward. Although pressed, we are not crushed, and even if we are persecuted, we are not abandoned. He will accomplish in us the works He has pre-ordained for us to do, and will perfect the good work started in us. These thoughts are profound. They are God’s words. They are the hope of living life with God to its fullest. God’s words never return to Him fruitless.
So my brother and sister, if you struggle with the angst of the future, know that you cannot predict it. When it comes to suffering, none of us will be able to stand if God isn’t with us. Even Peter and the other disciples who stated they could boldly go with Christ couldn’t stand in the hour of Christ’s death. Any fantasies you might have of being a brave Christian can be dashed. The only way to endure suffering is through the enduring disciplines of knowing God’s word, the communal act of worship, and through loving each other. The God you love and know now, is the God who is forming you for His ends. Walk with Him in your choices, know His word, talk to Him often, and keep your relationship in right standing through repentance. In the end, nothing else will matter... He will be the one speaking, loving, and giving you what you need in the moment.