Summary: sermon on suffering for Christ
FAITH & SUFFERING; GOD’S GIFTS
When you think of Christian persecution & suffering what do you think of. Do you think of suffering for Christ is when someone called you a religious fanatic. Do think of suffering for Christ is getting up to go to church? Or perhaps you think of persecutions as something that happened in Paul’s day, you know being beaten, thrown in jail, or perhaps being feed to the lions.
Well the following statistics may come as a surprise to you. The number of Christian martyrs, those who have died for their faith in Christ, in this century alone is greater then all the other centuries combined. Every year some 156,000 Christians are killed because of their faith. Also, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lives under governments which persecute Christians for their faith in Christ. We should realize that while being a Christian in the United States is not a live threatening thing, for the majority of the worlds Christians, it is.
Places like Sudan see the male population of Christian villages shot, mutilated, and sometimes crucified. In Egypt not one month as passed in the last ten years without the beating, torture, or murder of Christians, or the burning of their homes or churches. It is not uncommon to see open letters calling for the death of Christians.
In countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, and China, is quite routine to see Christians being beaten or killed for their faith. In Nepal, which is a Hindu kingdom, if you convert to Christianity you spend a year in jail, if you are caught converting others to Christianity, you could spent six years in jail.
So begin persecuted for Christ, suffering for the sake of Christ is very much a reality in our time, just as it was in Paul’s time. And while Christians lives here in the United States may not be threatened, there are instances of being persecuted for the Lord Jesus. Many time we are persecuted simply because of our lifestyles, as 2 Tim. 3:12 tells us; "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
So there are times we are called to suffer for the Lord. And as we shall see today there are good things associated with this suffering for the Lord.
Let us turn to our passage for today, which is Philippians 1:29-30:
"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me." In this verse we see that God has called us not only to believe in Him, but he has also called us to suffer for his sake. Faith and suffering for the Christian is intertwined, one cannot separate the two according to the Scriptures.
There is a certain theology in Christian circle today known as the Word-Faith Movement, or Name-it-claim-it theology. Now what this particular group teaches is that God does not want any of His children to be poor or sick. In others words they say if we have enough faith, we will be rich, if we have enough faith, we will never be sick. They only thing which prevents us from realizing that, is either our lack of faith or some secret sin we have that we have not confessed.
They say the only reason we suffer is because we do not have enough faith. However in this verse Paul contradict that belief. Paul does not state here that we suffer because of our lack of faith but that we will suffer because of our faith, because we do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
We see that the Word-Faith movement has it backwards. Realize that with faith in Christ comes suffering, Paul states that you can expect it.
People are under the assumption that being a Christian is easy, that when we put or faith in Christ as our Saviour, somehow life gets easier. It does not get easier, it just gets easier to handle. When we trust in Christ, God assures us that suffering and persecution will come, put God also assures us that He will give us the strength to endure it. He is not going to increase our strength, as some assume, but He gives to us His strength.
I once had a conversation with a man by the name of Mike Sullivan. I was working as a maintenance Mechanic at the time. Mike was my bosses, bosses, boss. He was the president of the branch I worked for. He was very successful business, being at the right place at the right time. As we talked about Christianity and my believes he told me that Christianity is for weak people, people who can’t handle life.