Suffering for well doing

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.  For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” – 1 Peter 3:13-17

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Throughout history there have been many Christians who have suffered for doing good. Sometimes, doing the right thing can bring more problems in your life than just going with the flow. Many of us have personally experienced persecution simply because we were committed to doing what is right. Doing good does not alleviate persecution. “Christians do not escape persecution and difficulties by doing good; in fact the opposite may be closer to the truth: they are persecuted simply because they are eager to do good. But in the long run, such persecutions do not do them permanent harm, and do not affect adversely their faith and commitment to God, or their proper attitude towards others, especially to non-Christians.”[1] In order to endure persecution, there are three basic things that we should practice as believers in Christ. Those three things include: A happy heart, a ready mind, and a clean conscience.

A happy heart. In verse 13-14 we are encouraged to not be fearful of persecution. We should not worry about the possibility of persecution. Instead, we should rejoice in the midst of persecution, knowing that we are blessed. The word ‘happy’ in our text basically means to be blessed or to be fortunate. How is it that suffering persecution is a fortunate thing? How can it be a blessing to be persecuted? There are several reasons as to why we can consider persecution as a blessing.

Persecution enhances the Gospel. Often times, when Christians are persecuted, the Gospel prevails. In many places around the world where Christians are severely persecuted we find that there are more people coming to Christ than in any time in history. Our witness greatly increases when we suffer for doing what is right and when we have the right attitude when we suffer. Therefore, when we are attacked as Christians, we should rejoice, knowing that it gives us greater opportunities to share our faith with others.

Persecution strengthens our faith. When we go through times of persecution, our faith in Christ is made stronger. God uses the trials and tribulations of our lives in order to make us to be more like Jesus. Persecution is a part of our sanctification. God uses such things as persecution in order to conform us into the image of Christ. It is a blessing to be persecuted because we know that when we are persecuted, God is working in us to make us more like Jesus.

Persecution brings glory to God. Ultimately, God is glorified when we are persecuted. As God brings us through the persecution, His name is made known and He is glorified as we respond to the persecution in the right way.

As believers, we should rejoice in persecution and maintain a happy heart, knowing what a wonderful blessing it is to suffer for the cause of Christ.

A ready mind. In addition to having a happy heart, we should also have a ready mind. In verse 15, we are told that we are to be ready at all times to give an answer for our faith in Christ. We are to give such an answer in a spirit of humility and respect. In order to have a ready mind, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. This is done by growing closer to Him through our study of the Word and in prayer. As we study the Word on a daily basis and as we grow closer to Christ, we will become more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and we will know what to say and when to say it. Such a closeness with the Lord and sensitivity to the Spirit is made possible as we know and understand the Word more. This is why being a student of the Bible is so important. We must know what we believe and why we believe it.

A clean conscience. Verse 16-17 shows us that as we suffer persecution, we must also make sure that we have a clean conscience. We need to live such a life that is above reproach. We need to live in such a way that it puts to shame those who accuse us falsely and attacks us wrongfully. As long as we know that we are doing the right thing and living right, then what does it matter what the world thinks of us? We should do what is right no matter what they may say or think. When we live with a clean conscience, we will be more confident and bold in standing for what we believe. Having a clean conscience before God is far more important than going with the flow of society in order to avoid persecution.

It can be a very humbling thing to talk about suffering persecution. No one wants to be persecuted. However, we need to understand that whatever persecution we may endure, it is temporary. The reward for enduring through the persecution is certainly worth it all.

 

[1] Arichea, D. C., & Nida, E. A. (1980). A handbook on the first letter from Peter (pp. 103–104). New York: United Bible Societies.

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