Nobody expects to suffer! For those of us who follow Jesus, one form or another of suffering and/or sacrifice will surely come.
As we face a new year, I am reminded of this in two specific ways. Late in 2022, my good friend and colleague, Kevin Popely went to be with the Lord. It was not a slow, natural death, but an abrupt parting. At 62 years of Kevin finished his journey of faith.
In the middle of 2023, we began to get reports that 100’s of Christians in Manipur were being slaughtered. Their homes were burned, their churches torn down, and, those who weren’t killed, escaped to live in jungles. One Indian colleague went to Manipur several times to visit a pastoral friend who was suffering. In the first instance, the Manipur pastors’ wife and daughter were burned alive in their home. In the second instance, the pastor was beheaded and his sons escaped to the jungle.
More could be recounted at all levels of suffering and sacrifice. As we face 2024, and an increase of violence all around us, to say nothing of the daily struggles of life, how are we to respond? I think that David and Paul give us insight.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” 2 Timothy 3:12-14
Should we expect less? Psalm 3 gives us the encouragement we need.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.