“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV).
In this fallen and evil world, the righteous may not always get the justice they deserve, or be adequately rewarded for their righteousness.
In this anti-Christ world, living a godly and upright life may result in persecution. Choosing not to compromise your moral and spiritual values or principles may result in some losses or deprivations. Daring to be different among your colleagues may be greeted with severe criticism or even ostracism.
In this morally depraved society, refusing to yield to temptations to sin may not be celebrated, but may result in hatred or hardship.
The Scripture clearly states, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12 NKJV).
The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19 NKJV).
Nevertheless, it is God’s commandment that the believers should rejoice always.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philip. 4:4 NKJV).
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (James 1:2 NKJV).
God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous (1 John 5:3). If God therefore commands us to rejoice in hard times and situations; it is because God knows we can.
The early disciples rejoiced, gloried and took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions and in distresses for the sake of Christ. We too surely can rejoice at all times and in all situations today (2 Cor. 12:10, Rom. 5:3, 2 Cor. 7:4).
However, if we are going to count it all joy when we are going through fiery trials and tribulations for Christ’s sake, we certainly need to have the same mindset, values, and understanding that the early disciples and apostles of Christ had or possessed.
In the first part of this series we began to explore the secrets of the unending joy of the early disciples even in the face of opposition, tribulation and persecution.
First, the early disciples were fully prepared to embrace and endure suffering, tribulation and persecution for the sake of Christ.
While the Lord Jesus was present physically with His disciples He did not hide from them what they will face, suffer and endure for His name’s sake. So, they were not caught unaware or unprepared when persecution came.
Jesus taught His disciples in John 15:
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (NKJV).
Therefore, when the early disciples were opposed, imprisoned, beaten, ridiculed, or persecuted for the sake of Christ, they regarded it not as a strange or unusual thing. Rather, they embraced and endured it with joy (Acts 5:41-42).
Second, the early disciples could glory and rejoice in all their tribulations because of their unreserved and irrevocable surrender and submission to the Lordship of Christ and His will.
The early disciples were completely sold out to the Lord Jesus – dead to themselves but alive to Christ.
They judged or reasoned “that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15 NKJV).
The ultimate goal of the early disciples was to fully please the Lord and do His will. In the course of pleasing the Lord and carrying out His will and commands, they regarded nothing as too dear, precious or great to sacrifice for the Lord’s sake.
As a result, they embraced persecution with joy and esteemed it a great honour to suffer or die for the sake of their Lord who loved them and died for their sins.
When beaten and imprisoned, the Scripture records in Acts 5:
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (NKJV).
Paul boasts not in his achievements but in his infirmities for Christ’s sake in 2 Corinthians 12:
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NKJV).
What a challenge and encouragement for us today!
You are mostly troubled, offended and provoked by tribulation or persecution for Christ’s sake because you have not unreservedly surrendered and submitted yourself to Christ and His will. Until you truly die to yourself, you cannot embrace or endure insult, ridicule, injustice, deprivation, or persecution for Christ’s sake with joy and calmness.
Self will always seek to defend, complain, protest, and even retaliate or fight back when hated, hurt, punished or persecuted for the sake of Christ. Therefore, you cannot accept, embrace or endure persecution with joy and calmness if you are not dead to self.
The early disciples rejoiced and gloried in their tribulations because they were truly dead to themselves – to their ego, pride, status, achievements, positions, or possessions.
Third, the early disciples drew strength and courage to rejoice and glory in suffering, tribulation, or persecution for Christ’s sake from their unshaken and unswerving faith and confidence in the Lord and His promises.
Although the Lord frankly told His disciples that they would experience tribulation and persecution, yet He told them also to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world for them (John 16:33).
The Lord also assured them of His presence with them always, in all situations, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
The early disciples wholeheartedly believed and trusted in the Lord’s faithfulness and ability to keep His promises. That was why they were never agitated, restless, unsettled, or unhappy in any tribulation. That was why Peter could sleep deeply in the prison while in chains (Acts 12:1-11). That was why Paul and Silas could sing hymns to God when beaten, chained and threw into the prison (Acts 16:23-28).
If we also have absolute confidence in God’s promises and believe that He is ever with us, we shall be calmed and cheerful in the midst of any trial, tribulation or persecution.
Lastly, the early disciples were strong, calmed, and cheerful in all their tribulations for Christ’s sake because their minds and affections were set not on mundane or fleeting things of this earth, but on their heavenly rewards and glories.
The joy or happiness of the early disciples of Christ was not based on their earthly possessions, positions or qualifications, but on the Lord Jesus Christ and their eternal rewards in heaven.
That was why they were unruffled when all that they had was taken away from them. The Scripture testifies that they joyfully accepted the plundering of their goods, knowing that they have a better and an enduring possession in heaven (Heb. 10:34).
In the light of their eternal rewards, their present tribulations were considered as light affliction. They acknowledged and testified that their “light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17 NKJV).
And that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 NKJV).
You also can go through any tribulation with joy if you “do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18 NKJV).
Beloved, you will not faint or lose your joy and peace in the face of suffering or death for the sake of Christ if you set your mind on “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Pet. 1:4 NKJV).
The Scripture exhorts you in 1 Peter 4:
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, when going through any suffering, tribulation or persecution for Christ’s sake, help me to set my mind on the eternal rewards and glories that You have prepared for me in heaven so that I may endure tribulation or persecution for Christ’s sake in this evil world with great joy, in Jesus’ name. Amen.