Summary: An exhortation to praise when life hurts.
Praise In Persecution
We often paint the Christian life as one of utter joy and prosperity when we witness to unbelievers. Christians spend their lives trying to live up to that sales pitch. They learn to ignore the pain in their lives or accept it as punishment for their sins. They wear plastic faces to church and then run home where they cry out to God for forgiveness. They think that it is their lack of faith that has caused them such trouble, sickness, or failure.
I am hard pressed to find a place where God has promised us that we would never suffer from the normal annoyances or problems of life. He promises us blessings as we are obedient and an abundant life, but never a perfect one. All you have to do is turn to Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, and see that some of God’s saints will suffer loss and even what we might call premature death.
Even if He had promised us a rose garden them there roses have thorns! They will draw blood if they prick us and even the most seasoned of gardeners get a prick or two now and then. That bowl of cherries we talk about has pits and stems. Do we burn rose bushes and run from cherry trees? No, we accept the possibility of a prick and the trouble of removing the stems and pits to enjoy the scent and beauty of the rose and the sweetness of the cherry.
Yet, when it comes to God and the Christian life, we want to affirm satan’s accusation of Job (Job 1:9-11). We expect a life hedged in and protected from all adversities and problems. After all, we are the King’s Kids. Why should we not have pampered and frivolous lives? Doesn’t He owe us that? Sadly, when God does not pay up, we curse Him or at least accuse Him and abuse Him. We want to be paid lovers.
In fact, we are not only not going to miss the normal annoyances of life, but we are promised that we will suffer persecution. Whoa, wait a minute!! Not the "p" word!!! I want nothing to do with that! That is for the Chinese and Russian Christians. This here is America and we started this country to escape religious persecution.
Yes, I know and then the Puritans persecuted the Baptists and the Congregationalists wanted to institute state taxes to support their churches. The persecuted escaped to become persecutors. Born agains persecute the lost forgetting from whence they came. Some Baptists spend most of their time persecuting each other instead of pursuing the true enemy. They forget that we defeat him by the blood of the Saviour and not the blood of the brethren.
That may be why the Church thrives so well in persecution. It is so busy running to God for its life it does not have time to practice some of the frivolous activities of peace time. It needs to become a lean, clean spiritual fighting machine instead of the chubby spoiled brat having a tantrum (Deut 32:15).
People you would not have greeted in the marketplace or shook their hand you now find yourself with your arm around as you lie in a pool of blood. A much better way to enter glory than to lie in that pool shaking your fist at each other as the enemy gloats.
Before the Church Triumphant can truly walk in what Christ has bought for Her, she must shake off her bonds of pleasure seeking and quit running and hiding when the bully approaches. She must submit to suffering. Before you and I can learn to walk in His victory, we must submit to suffering because it is the promise of Jesus.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (KJV)
We often quote this verse to balm us when we lose our job or when our bunions and lumbago are acting up, but I believe Jesus was promising that there would be more than just those human problems.
In the previous verse, He was telling His disciples that they would be scattered foretelling the Garden arrest and their running away. He then spends most of chapter 17 praying for these men that the world will hate because the world hated Him and the word of truth. It was not just them He prayed for, but also those who would believe in Christ through the disciples’, soon to be apostles, word of testimony. If you were saved by reading John or any of the New Testament writers this means you. He prayed for you here.
When we think of tribulation we think of our normal troubles or of The Great Tribulation, but the Greek word means pressured and carries with it the connotation of affliction or trouble caused by persecution. The pressure we feel when we have a flat during rush hour on our way to that important meeting is not even close. I suppose on a 1 to 10 scale, the flat falls in at 1 and the tribulation spoken of here is more like 11.