Why We Are Better When We Suffer
"The fall of Christianity in America will be its lack of persecution." - Francis Schaeffer
I visited the persecuted church in a middle eastern nation and listened to their horrors and hardships. Our small contingent sat in silence. As our time with them drew to a close, I heard a stunning statement.
"I know that as Americans you will pray for our persecution to end. Do not pray for persecution to end. Pray for our perseverance. We are better when we suffer."
That statement was stunning because it was spoken over a theological divide. They pray for perseverance. We pray for prosperity.
Paul voices a prayer for the persecuted church (2 Thess. 1:5). He does not pray for persecution to end, but for it to fulfill God's purpose.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 Thess. 1:11-12
The word "resolve" means that God has something in our suffering that is important to accomplish. "Resolve" means that we are better when we suffer. How so? In suffering:
It becomes less about who we are and more about who God is (2 Thess. 1:1-2)
The songs they sang in worship in the middle east were different than our American worship anthems. In the ME, the songs centered on the sovereignty of God. They wrestled with his purposes. They needed God!
We worship like God needs us. Our songs center on how crazy happy Jesus makes us. Our songs are full of "me" and "my." The persecuted church sings about "He" and "Him."
2 Thessalonians reminds us that God's resolve is not for us to have an awesome day but to experience His grace and peace despite what the day may hold.
We grow together in faith and increase in love (2 Thess. 1:3-4)
Persecution crucifies our individuality and builds community. In America, we measure a Sunday by "what I got out of it." The persecuted church is concerned about steadfastness. They share in suffering. It is not "my faith" but "our faith." Every person gives love and is loved. Persecution presses people together.
We put the Kingdom in perspective (2 Thess 1:5)
Paul considered them worthy of the Kingdom of God. We consider which church serves coffee.
I was in the ME during the time of the ISIS caliphate. As people were fleeing, pastors in the area were buying burial plots for their headless bodies. They wanted their massacre to be a witness that Islam has failed and that the true Kingdom of God was found in Jesus.
There is a much different mentality when you are preparing to die for Jesus vs. praying about which church has the best children's program.
My persecuted brother was right. We are better when we suffer.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1.
- List the commands in this passage.
- List the promises in this passage.
- List the principles we should apply from this passage.
Visit Open Doors USA and read about the persecuted church. List 3 ways your reading reveals pettiness in your own life. How does this reading change your perspective? Pray for the perseverance and witness of your persecuted brothers and sisters. Consider how you may be able to get involved.