Willingness to suffer for Christ - 29 July 2019

Ewald Schmidt

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Romans 8:35-36 (NIV)

A human being can stand almost any amount of suffering if the reason for doing it, is strong enough. We do not like to suffer at all. By nature, we will always choose the path of least resistance to avoid pain and discomfort. But then, when the reason is strong enough, human beings can overcome almost any obstacle in our way. History is filled with the stories of people bearing unimaginable pain, making huge sacrifices to save the lives of others. The history of the Church is filled with the stories of martyrs, who would rather die than deny Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Believers in 1st century Rome had experienced this suffering very personally. Our verse does not talk about a faint possibility on the other side of the world, but the daily reality of the Christians to whom Paul addresses this letter. They lived in daily fear: when will the knock on the door come for them? They were denied their citizens’ rights in the Roman Empire, and forbidden to trade – they could not even buy food because the rest of society was forbidden to sell them anything. They were humiliated by being tortured and executed in public. The nakedness refers to being thrown to the lions for the crowd’s entertainment in the Circus Maximus and later the Colosseum. They were to face the gladiators unarmed, some were crucified or set alight by cruel Roman authorities. They had a choice in the matter – deny Christ as Lord, and all would be well again. But most Christians could not do that. Why not?

All these trials were designed to pull Christians away from Christ. It was so since the beginning of the church in the 1st century, and it remains so in many places around the world today. But Christians have weighed their options. In the one bucket of the scale, they put all the suffering they have to endure in this life. On the opposite side, they considered the love and the hope that Jesus offered for eternity – temporary suffering measured against the hope of eternal glory. When we experience the love of Christ first-hand, and know the joy of a living, hope-filled relationship with him, it gives us the courage to accept all that comes our way. Nothing is more precious than the love of Christ. For this love, people were willing to suffer and die across the pages of history. To know him is worth more than any earthly treasure.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your love in my life. Thank you for all that you have sacrificed to set me free. Thank you for the eternal hope I have in you. Grant me the strength of the Holy Spirit to endure any price it may cost me to follow you. Amen

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