If you are a Christian and doggedly holding firm to your faith, you are going to suffer. You are going to be knocked down, kicked about, pushed to the limits, exasperated, frustrated and more for the sake of the gospel.
Most of the time this will be spiritual attack through people, but sometimes this will boil over to physical abuse as well.
And also most of the time when these attacks come they will be based on lies and innuendo, falsehoods, deceptions and half-truths. This is the situation Paul faced in this section of Acts 21 and there is a lesson and warning for all of us.
Paul wrote to Timothy and told him the following.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Paul used his own life as an example to Timothy and his life bears witness to us also. Verse 12 is the key and a strong reminder for all who are seeking to walk a godly life. You will be persecuted and you will suffer.
Peter likewise said much the same when he wrote in 1 Peter 4:12,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
In fact I would argue that if you are not suffering from time to time the fiery ordeals of this life, and if you are not at times being persecuted, then something is wrong! Not that I would wish such times upon anyone, but it is clearly stated in many places that those who seek to follow God and The Lord Jesus Christ will come under fire.
Lies and Innuendo
As I mentioned above, many times these persecutions will be based on lies and innuendo. People will hate you simply because you are a Christian and they will spread lies, rumours and false accusations about you just as Paul suffered here in Acts 21. Look at what they said about him in verse 28.
“Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Paul NEVER preached against the people, Moses, the law or the temple. Likewise he did not take Gentiles into the temple for he knew it was inappropriate to do so and it would have enraged those devotees of Judaism. These were bald lies built upon circumstantial and second-hand testimonies purely to drive the people to revolt against him.
And there will be liars today who will do the same to Christians as they oppose the word of God.
But is it any wonder that those who oppose the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ do so? They are not children of God and if not His children then they are children of the devil. Jesus rightly put these people in their place when He said in John 8:43-47,
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
They are liars as the devil is a liar and the father of lies. All lies originate with the devil and so it is not surprising his children and servants behave in the same way as he did. The devil opposed Jesus and he opposes those who follow Christ today.
Suffering is to be expected for that is our lot when we make a stand to follow Jesus Christ. But what is more important is our attitude to such suffering for the sake of the gospel. How should you react and behave in such a situation?
Joy In Suffering
In the letter of James we see the approach he advocates for those who are suffering the trials and tribulations that overtake all of us from time to time as we hold fast our faith in Jesus Christ. He says in James 1:2-4,
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James tells us to count the sufferings and trials we go through as cause for joy. The tests of our faith should be celebrated for by them we are strengthened. It is by testing and trial that we learn to trust and obey The Lord Jesus Christ and God who is working on us to prepare us for the salvation He has promised to those who come to Him in faith. That certainly is cause for joy and for celebration.
God is also disciplining us through what we suffer so that we can stand mature and able to fight the good fight of the faith. The writer in Hebrews 12:4-8 has this to say about the trials and tribulations The Lord allows us to go through.
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
The trials and tastings are teaching us the discipline that enables us to endure. And it is because of the trials that we must endure for in this world we need to understand that the whole world stands against us as Christians. The ruler of this world is the devil and he with his demons and his human servants will do anything to oppose The Lord and His people.
That is why we must endure and have need of endurance. To stand against the opposition and to become the children of God.
And yes it can be wearisome and tiresome. Again the writer of Hebrews in chapter 12:11-13 had this to say when we are worn out from the troubles of the world.
11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
When you are wearing down…look up. Look to God and Jesus Christ and know that He is sustaining you. These trials and issues may seem painful, but they lead to peace, joy, steadfastness and in the end the promises of God to live with Him in his eternal kingdom.
Do not be worn down by the lies and innuendo of the opposers in this world. Rather be encouraged for the victory is yours in Christ Jesus and the time is coming when all will be revealed and it is the faithful who will stand beside Christ on His return. Yes it is painful for now, but in due course it subsides and you come out the other side stronger.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Remigiusz Szczerbak)
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