Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; (1 Peter 4:12)
There is definitely a price to pay because if you name the name of Christ, you will become a conscience to an evil world which does not welcome such a conscience.
As the world darkens before His return (whenever that will be, I pray it is soon), our work as the Holy conscience of the Lord’s people proclaiming repentance for sin, will become brighter against the cultural darkness.
We are in a war. Being a Christian and proclaiming Christ to a lost and dying world is an act of war. The General of the world, satan, takes issue with each and every volley, foray, and battle. He will marshal his minions to come after you (and me). Why? Bright people in a war are targets. It is counter intuitive when you’re battling, to stand up and get out of the trench. It seems wrong to light a fire in the dark so snipers will see you. It seems odd to be called to put lights in the window and put away the blackout curtains. We do not put up blackout curtains and hide in the darkness. We tear down the curtains, expose the light and megaphone the truth to the quiet and quivering streets.
In 1990 being a Christian in Russia meant the communist government took issue with you. Persecution and restrictions against all religion did not ease until 1991. MacArthur again from the same sermon–
I had a Russian pastor say that to me right there one Sunday night not too long ago. I said, “It must be difficult in Russia to pastor the church.” He said, “Not so, it must be difficult in America. In Russia we know who the true Christians are.”
Do not be surprised when persecution comes to you. It is to be expected, and the result will be that you are strengthened, you will be shown to be a true believer, and God will be glorified.
Here is a list of the kinds of suffering that Christians endure, compiled in the MacArthur sermon above and taken right out of the New Testament. When you read the list, remember to think of the global church, not just the Christians in America.
Matthew 5:10, we will endure persecution for righteousness.
Matthew 5:11 & 12, endure revilings and slanders.
1 Peter 4:4, we will be evil spoken of.
Matthew 10, we will endure false accusations.
Matthew 10:17, scourgings for Christ.
Matthew 10:14, rejection by men.
John 15:18 to 21, hatred by the world.
Matthew 10:21 to 36, hatred by our own relatives.
Acts 7:58, some of us will endure martyrdom.
James 1, we will endure temptation.
Acts 5:41, we will endure shame cast upon us for Christ’s sake.
Acts 14:22, we will endure tribulations and troubles of all kinds.
Acts 4, Acts 5, Acts 12 reminds us that many Christians will endure imprisonment.
Some, according to Acts 14:19, might endure stonings.
2 Corinthians 11:24 & 25 reminds us that some Christians have endured beatings.
1 Corinthians 4:9, we will be made a spectacle to men.
1 Corinthians 4, we will be misunderstood, we will be defamed, and we will be despised.
2 Corinthians 6:8 to 10, we will endure troubles, afflictions, distress, tumults, labors, watchings, fastings, and evil reports.
If you are not enduring any of these now, you will. If you are just coming out of some of these, you will again. I personally have endured 5 of them. I mention that because I live comfortable in America, dwell in a religious area, have a small life, and don’t get out much. Yet there it is. Even unknown and small Christians like me who speak of sin and repentance, proclaim Jesus as holy and righteous, will be hated, slandered, rejected. I think of those brave Christians in the Muslim nations and missionaries in hostile territory. The towering men of the faith like John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Sinclair Ferguson,… we will never know what they go through. Every pastor of every true church in the world fights battles ongoing and pitched, as pointed targets of satan. What they endure…
Yet we still do not hide our light under a basket. Soldiers of the faith, it’s counter-intuitive to make ourselves targets. But it is what we’re required to do.
So, the fiery trial here is not just any trouble. It’s talking about persecution for your faith, persecution for righteousness sake, persecution because of the identification with Jesus Christ. But God allows it to come. Verse 12, “Which comes upon you for your,” what? “Your testing.” God allows it to come because it proves the genuineness of your Christianity.
God has not put me through the physical agonies that others have endured. It doesn’t look as though I will be martyred (though you never know). I live well, quietly, and comfortably. Yet the bit I’ve gone through for His name is still difficult. Whatever you have gone through or will go through, means that will have more to rejoice in when He comes. I’ll forget in a moment all that happened when I see His face. I’ll feel such joy when I know eternity stretches before me as a peaceful, holy, beautiful life in Him.
Whatever we go through, big or small, Jesus is worth it. Oh, how He is worth it.
So stand tall, let the light of His glory shine.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:15)