The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Fifteen: Characteristics of the Overcomer - Willing to Suffer (continued)

In this lesson we will cover a final aspect of the overcomer’s willingness to suffer. The victorious Christian must be willing to suffer for righteousness sake, and even for Christ’s sake, that is, just because he bears the name of Christ. This is the suffering of persecution.

The verses we will cover speak pretty much for themselves. Yet, it is one thing to read these things on paper, and an altogether different matter to experience them. Those who really suffer from the abuse of others, just because they are following Christ, know a fellowship with the Lord that is truly special.

If one reads the testimonies of those who have been tortured or killed for Christ, one realizes that he is stepping onto truly holy ground. There is a separation unto Christ, and an experience of the reality of His presence, that seems deeper than that of other spiritual experiences. And, as we shall see, there is also a promise of great reward.

In the Sermon on the Mount, we read the following:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12)

In Luke we read a similar passage: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets” (Lk. 6:22-23).

Notice in the last passage how men will hate disciples “for the sake of the Son of Man.” This means “on account of the Son of Man” (AMP). In other words, simply because we are following Christ and are identified with Him, we may suffer persecution.

Jesus told us in advance that we should expect such persecution as His followers: “’Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave 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’” (Jn. 15:20).

Those believers who are willing to leave all in order to truly follow Christ are definitely going to suffer persecution, as the Lord tells us in Mark 10:

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mk. 10:29-30).

We may suffer not only because are believers, but also because of our righteous living, which infuriates the unrighteous: “not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (1 Jn. 3:12).

Two passages about suffering for righteous living follow: “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled” (1 Pet. 3:14). “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Yes, there will be times that we will be persecuted for doing what God considers as right. Of course, this kind of mistreatment often comes from those who do not know Christ. However, it is my experience, and that of others, that sometimes even fellow believers can say evil things about us, or cause us other harm, simply because they do not like the way we are following Christ. This is very sad, but I would warn you to be prepared for mistreatment even from brothers in Christ. If a believer sincerely desires to go deeper with the Lord than what most Christians experience, he may be subject to misunderstanding and ridicule.

As we have seen before, suffering comprises a test of character. This is also true of the suffering of persecution. The background of the book of First Peter, along with the context, shows that the fiery trial of suffering noted below is persecution for bearing the name of Christ.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. . . . if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.” (1 Pet. 4:12-16)

Early Christian history records that when persecution took place under the Roman emperors, some believers were steadfast and did not deny Christ. Other believers recanted their faith and were thus spared mistreatment or death. Jesus specifically warned us not to fear men, but rather to fear God and freely confess Christ before the tribunals (Matt. 10:16-33; Lk. 12:4-12). A denial of Christ under threat of persecution, He warned, would result in a denial by Him before the Father and His angels at His return (Matt. 10:33; Lk. 12:9). Such a denial will not result in the loss of eternal salvation, but of reward during His kingdom reign of 1,000 years (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4).

Those of us who live in the United States know virtually nothing of physical persecution for our faith. However, there are many believers today in Muslim, communist or other societies who are suffering severely for their confession of faith. We need to pray for our fellow believers that they will endure such severe testing.

A time of severe persecution against all believers is coming (Mk. 13:9-13). This will occur during the turbulent climax of this age. We should prepare our hearts now for this coming persecution.

The following Scriptures show the relationship between our willingness to suffer persecution and the matter of overcoming:

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” (Rev. 2:10-11)

“And they overcame him [the devil] because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even unto death.” (Rev. 12:11)

Our willingness to suffer in the ways we have described in these last four lessons is a key to our victory. Of course, we can obtain the grace to faithfully endure such suffering by coming to God for it (Heb. 4:16). Paul testified: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

We should not be fearful of the suffering to come, including persecution. Often our enemy, Satan, will try to make us fearful about what we might imagine is to come. We should not let our souls be unsettled in this way. Rather, we should hold fast to God’s promise that He will not allow us to tested beyond what we are able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). We can rest assured that no matter what situation God allows, He is there to grant us the grace we need to endure it. We simply need to trust Him.

Perhaps this would be a good time to pray something like the following: “Lord, by Your grace I am willing to suffer. I am willing to lose my soul’s satisfaction according to Your will. By Your grace, I am willing to accept every suffering circumstance You sovereignly allow in my life. I may pray for relief, but I will accept Your answer. I will seek You during my time of trial, and learn from You and follow You. I also know that to suffer for Your name, Jesus, is a great privilege and has a great reward. I trust in Your strength to be ready to suffer persecution when it comes my way. I want to stand up for You and Your righteousness. Thank You, Jesus, for Your hand on my life. I want to mature through all of the sufferings, and I desire to bring glory and honor to Your name. Amen.”

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)