The Essence of Discipleship (Part 8) (by Wil Cunningham)
The Essence of Discipleship (Part 8)
Reading: MAT 5:10-12; 2TI 3:12, JOH 16:33
The word ‘Hebrew’ most likely came from a word that meant ‘a wanderer, a pilgrim’. As Christians we have inherited this quality of pilgrimage. We are strangers in a land that is not our own; we are not of this world. We are passing through to our own home, which was made for us, and for which we were made. As strangers it is natural that we would have some discomforts in this world. But we are of such a different nature to the others in the world that the experience of the godly is bound to be fraught with suffering. The Scriptures have much to say about suffering that we would do well to investigate. The specific area of suffering that is relevant to our passage is that of persecution.
The basic reason for our persecution is that we are different, indeed contrary, to those around us. This is why Paul says that the godly are guaranteed persecution. Those who are friends of the world need not fear persecution, but those who are contrary to the world must expect it as a natural course of events. We must choose one of these categories; we cannot be a friend of God and a friend of the world (JAM 4:4,5). This implies of course that the life of the Christian naturally should be so different to the lives of non-Christians as to be easily noticeable. As this radically different, godly life is developed in us it will force a response from those around us. That response will either be belief or hostility (JOH 15:20). If the response is belief we are rewarded as ambassadors of God. If the response is hostility we are accorded the highest honor, that of suffering with Christ (REV 2:10).
In considering this concept we must keep in mind the relation of time to eternity. Our lives are very short and, compared with eternity, are almost miniscule. Yet, our manner of living in this breath of time will impact our experience for all of eternity. If we choose friendship with this world we will have momentary pleasures that will rob us of eternal honor and reward. If we reject this world in favor of suffering with Christ we choose momentary hardship, in return for eternal glory. The apostles understood this. They believed that Jesus would soon return for them, and lived accordingly. Of the twelve apostles, eleven of them died violent deaths as subjects of persecution. Yet as they were persecuted, they found within them an immeasurable joy in knowing that they were “found worthy to suffer shame for His name” (ACT 5:41). Each of us also has to choose between the momentary comfort of friendship with the world and the eternal joy of suffering for Christ. This is a daily decision. As we make this choice we do well to keep in mind that God is, and that, in both time and eternity, He always rewards those who seek Him (HEB 11:6).