Summary: Are you ready to suffer for Jesus? This sermon examines the possibility of suffering and how to be ready if it ever comes.
Are You Ready to Suffer for Jesus?
August 21, 2016
TEXT: Acts 14:21-28 – “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. 24 And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: 26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. 28 And there they abode long time with the disciples.”
Illus. – Imagine yourself for a few moments to be a Christian in the first century—and you have been discovered and captured by the Roman authorities. Your belongings are confiscated, your house sold, and you, your spouse and your two children are imprisoned separately. Your spouse was thrown to the lions, your daughter was eaten by a pack of ferocious wild dogs, and your son was drawn and quartered.
Then a Roman guard asks if YOU are willing to give up your faith in Christ and worship the Emperor according to Roman law. If not, he warns, you will be submerged in boiling pitch, and set on fire as a slow burning torch to light a dinner feast for Nero.
What would you do?—Give up your faith or go on and suffer and die for Jesus?
Our text tells us that Paul and Barnabas returned to the churches they had previously started. Verse 22 tells us what they did: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Paul knew he needed to prepare these believers and strengthen them because he knew what was ahead of them. He told them that they would suffer tribulation until they entered the kingdom of heaven. It’s generally understood that the “tribulation” Paul refers to here is persecution.
That’s what I want to talk to you about today—persecution, opposition to Jesus Christ. I just want you to ponder one simple question: Are you ready to suffer for Jesus?
Note with me a few things we find in today’s text:
I. FIRST, NOTE THAT IT IS NORMAL FOR BELIEVERS SUFFER FOR JESUS.
Paul didn’t sugarcoat the future these Christians faced. Verse 22 says they “must” (that is, almost certainly would) go through persecution. This is something that has historically been a fact of life for most believers in almost every age—that they should expect to be persecuted for their faith in Christ.
This is a frequent and recurring theme throughout the New Testament:
• JESUS warned of it on several occasions: – Such as in John 15:20: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”
• PAUL predicted of it several times as well: In 2 Timothy 3:12 he said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
• THE APOSTLE JOHN foresaw it – He said in 1 John 3:13 – “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
• And PETER warned of it – In 1 Peter 4:12-13 he said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
True believers throughout the history of the church have experienced this first hand.
• The Christians in the days of the Roman Emperors experienced it—when between 100,000 and 500,000 were martyred.
• Millions were harshly persecuted and many murdered by the Nazi, Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes of the 20th century.
• Even today, Christians are being persecuted and martyred for Christ in places like China, North Korea, Cuba and almost all Muslim countries to some degree.
History shows that pauses from persecution of Christians, like we have in Western countries today, have been the exception rather than the rule. It’s something Christians have historically accepted as the price of following Christ.