Many Christians today are discouraged by what's happening around them. I've heard stories of believers young and old about how they faced different kinds of hardship when all they did was to love God.
All they ever did was go to church, attend prayer gatherings, and be of service to their fellow believers and those who didn't know God. But still they faced hardship.
Perhaps, you might be one of them, a people who've had bad things happen to them when all they ever did was follow Christ. If you're one of them, I want to encourage you:
God knows what you are going through.
Don't be surprised
Friends, it's a fact that when we follow Christ, we will do nothing but what is good and pleasing to God. We will love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We will love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
That sounds great, but the truth is that not everyone loves God. And because not everyone loves God, everyone won't love their neighbors as themselves.
So, don't be surprised when you are persecuted, ridiculed, mocked, and even rejected for following the Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, it's an honor to go through all of it if it's for the sake of the Lord:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV)
Why will they persecute me?
To help you understand why we shouldn't be surprised that persecution or all sorts of bad things happen to us even when all we do is follow Christ, here are some things to consider.
1) We have an enemy
As Christ-followers, we must realize that we are at war. We have an enemy, and even if he was already defeated and disarmed by the Lord Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:15), he will still try to harass us. Ephesians 6:12 tells us,
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
2) Our Lord Jesus Himself was persecuted
In John 15, the Lord Jesus Himself warns us that persecution is coming to us. Why? Read what He said:
"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also."
3) To refine us and prepare us
You might not want to hear this, but hardship is very important to our walk with Christ. Everyone who chooses to follow Jesus must count the cost of following Him, and that cost includes being willing to suffer and go through difficult times for His sake.
Consider these passages:
"And when [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."" (Acts 14:21-22)
"So [the apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:40-41)
Friends, I am not scaring you. I want to encourage you to be steadfast and prepare yourself for whatever comes. God loves us, and wants us ready for anything. Remember what 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us and be honored if you face hardship while following Christ.
"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."