ACTS 16:20-25 – And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
THEME OF THE DAY: PREPARING FOR PERSECUTION. Today’s scripture is one of those riveting accounts that should cause us to stop, ponder, and ask, “Would I respond like that?” As we read of Paul and Silas being attacked, and beaten for proclaiming Christ, and then investigate our own lives, we should be humbled over what little suffering we know for the Lord Jesus, yet let’s not beat ourselves up. In God’s providence, we are not in the situation of Paul and Silas or of the persecuted church around the world. We might be soon, and in some measure, we are going to suffer persecution for the faith. The Apostle Paul affirms this in his second letter to his son in the faith and ministry colleague, Timothy – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). The real question is not “Would we respond like the first century believers or Christians living in persecuted countries?” but “Are we preparing to suffer as they did?”
Here are two ways that will equip us to endure suffering for Christ with the heart of glad submission and rejoicing like Paul and Silas.
First, develop the mindset that the Christian life is the suffering life, not in morbid self-inflicting of pain way, but because God has ordained it to be so. From the Apostle Peter we are told this is the path of the Master that will be followed by His people – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). The Apostle Paul also reminds us that suffering for the Gospel, and Him who is the Gospel, the Lord Jesus, is not only ordained but a gift, like faith, from God to be embraced, not rebelled against or complained of – For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30).
A second way, and it must be diligently pursued, is to maintain and deepen a close walk with the Lord Jesus. It is a walk proclaimed by the Apostle Paul who does so from a literal prison – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14). If we are inconsistent in God’s Word, church attendance, prayer, doing battle daily against sin, and lacking the self-discipline and self-control needed for a close walk with Christ, we will succumb to persecution. Our strength is in Him, but only through knowing Him. It is important to note that in the Apostle Paul’s life his passion was to know Christ AND the power of His resurrection which enabled him to suffer well – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).
Persecution and suffering in the Christian life. They are sure things, and our responsibility is to daily be in the process of preparing for it so we will not only endure them well but give bold testimony of the One who we are being persecuted and suffering for.
PRAYER: “Father, help me develop the spiritual discipline to grow in Your Son.”
QUOTE: “If we are lazy now spiritually, we will be in grave danger when persecution comes.”
In the affection of Christ Jesus,