Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: When we look at life from an eternal perspectives it alleviates stress and helps us focus on God’s perspectives rather than our own limited-selfish view-point.

How to Respond to Hardship (John 15:20)

Illustration: All the Ethiopian teenager had to do was tell the men who were beating her that she no longer believed in God, and they would have stopped. Yezeshewall was being detained and beaten because of her faith in Christ. But she told her tormentors, "Jesus is greater than all, . . . greater than Marxism, greater than anything."

According to an article in World Vision magazine, the torture continued as she was kicked, hit with an iron ball, and dumped unconscious on the prison floor. When the guards who had beaten her were asked by their supervisor why she had not given in, they replied, "We are dealing with a Christian who says she will not leave Christ."

What a remarkable testimony! This young woman endured brutal treatment because of her faith in Jesus Christ. Later, she was released without explanation.

The apostle Paul described the incredible suffering he went through for the sake of the gospel as light and momentary when he considered the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" that awaited him (2 Cor. 4:17).

The persecution you endure may be far different and less dramatic. But when difficulty arises because of your faith, remember: Jesus is greater than anything. (Our Daily Bread)

"To be at peace with God is to clash with the world".

1. Realize that persecution of the Godly is a normal part of the maturing process for every Christian. Remember that God is working His will in ways that we cannot see or appreciate at the time. One old hymn says,

"Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free. No there’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me!"

As we follow Jesus we will have to experience more of the pains, shame, and hardships as we are called to carry our own cross and follow Him. God uses people who have shown themselves to be faithful in little things and rewards them proportionate to their endurance under hardships. (Luke 16:10)

2. Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20) By complaining or shirking from hardships, persecutions, or criticisms we are in effect distancing ourselves from identifying with all aspects of Christ. We must remember that no servant is greater than His master, but every pupil when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

A part of growing into a useful servant is enduring the suffering, shame, and indignities that Jesus went through. Love is macro-thumeo (Long-suffering). Love has the capacity to endure without blowing apart.

This process is meant for our benefit to produce greater maturity, godliness, and insight into His will for our lives. Job said, "When I am tried I will come forth as gold." We too need to have this optimistic outlook for the stresses that we face as this will help us triumph through the most difficult of circumstances.

3. Let remember the numerous examples of people who endured persecutions for the sake of Christ throughout history. Heb. 11:35-38 says, "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them." These people were blessed by God through His enabling grace that was sufficient for any trial. God used these great pioneers of the faith to lay a trail for the rest of us to follow.

Many great Christians were humble people who when reviled they did not retaliate in kind, but kept entrusting themselves to the Lord and His greater purposes. Allow God to work through you regardless of whether you can understand all that is happening to you.

When you look back on your hardships from heaven you will fully understand why God allowed each and every trial to come into your life.

When we look at life from an eternal perspectives it alleviates stress and helps us focus on God’s perspectives rather than our own limited-selfish views.

4. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Jesus said in Matt. 5:43,44. This may be one of the most difficult commandments, but it is entirely within the realm of our God given capacities. Remember when Stephen prayed for those who were stoning him in the book of Acts. Others declared that his face was like that of an angel because they observed the power of God flowing through him. This is not an admission of weakness, but rather of the strength that we are relying on through God’s sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9,10)

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