A few weeks ago I was talking to one of my daughters about a friend she was trying to encourage. He thought he was going through some unusually difficult times — and he was openly unhappy at God about it. How could she encourage him to endure and to trust God’s providence in his life?
That discussion included not only the topic of suffering that comes simply from being alive — untimely deaths, cancer, broken relationships, car accidents, job and economic losses — but also the kind of suffering that comes from doing righteous things and then being persecuted for them. Among the things I told her was, “Don’t you be angry if I die suddenly or am taken to jail for standing for the truth. God is good. Always.”
We are willing to acknowledge sudden death, but we are not so willing to acknowledge imprisonment for saying Biblical truth. The former has always existed. The latter appears to be coming.
In two separate blogs, Al Mohler this week wrote of a preacher in Great Britain that was arrested for something he said while preaching and that Franklin Graham was disinvited to a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon for something he said.
Specifically, the preacher said while preaching at “Speaker’s Corner” in London’s Hyde Park that homosexuality is among a number of sins that are identified by Paul in 1 Corinthians. One woman took offense, and he was arrested under the “Public Order Act” which accused him of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior.”
And Franklin Graham’s offense? The Pentagon deemed that his statements about Islam are “inappropriate.” So what is he saying? Simply that there is only one means of salvation and that is in Christ alone. In a recent interview he said, “I am who I am. I don’t believe that you can get to heaven through being a Buddhist or Hindu. I think Muhammad only leads to the grave. Now, that’s what I believe, and I don’t apologize for my faith. And if it’s divisive, I’m sorry.”
So in the past week we’ve seen an example of clarity about sin and its consequences and the exclusivity of the gospel for salvation be not only denounced but to some small form of persecution.
Peter said that we should not be surprised by such things. It is nothing unusual or ordinary, and it is even good because it provides testing for our faith and affords us an opportunity to share in and identify with the sufferings of Christ — we become a contemporary model of His kind of suffering.
This kind of suffering and ostracism is nothing new — this is what most believers in the rest of the world know right now, and it is what other believer have always experienced since the time of Christ. Suffering is normal; being safe and free of risk is not. [Aside: why is it that we Western Christians find suffering so objectionable when other believers have always assumed they would receive persecution and were still content with and joyful in God?]
More suffering will come; do not be surprised.