Author: Ron Graham
In our previous lesson we observed that Christians are not immune from the tribulations and trials that beset mankind. However this is not the only insight that Christians need in order to better understand their sufferings. This lesson outlines three more important insights into our trials...
A common evil among mankind is that people may suffer dreadfully just because their beliefs, customs, and heritage differ from those who persecute them. Persecution against Jews is an example, along with other cases of racism and so-called ethnic cleansing.
Whilst true Christians would never be the perpetrators of such injustice, they may well be the target of it. Jesus warns us in the beatitudes that we may be persecuted and reviled because of our allegiance to him (Matthew 5:10-12). Even members of our own family can turn against us on account of Christ (Matthew 10:34-39). Worse still, members of the church, false brethren, may seek to cause us distress (Philippians 1:15-18).
Sometimes we have no suffering ourselves, yet we "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). Christians are sometimes called upon to be another's "companion in tribulation" (Revelation 1:9). Paul asked Timothy to unashamedly join with him in his suffering for the gospel (2Timothy 1:8). Paul was a prisoner at the time.
So whilst we may not be suffering directly ourselves, we may be helping those who are, and taking their hardship and pain to heart. We suffer through them and with them. If we are compassionate and aware, we will not have to seek those who need our fellowship in suffering. They will be just around the corner or just across the way.
Luke records a period in which "the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace. Being built up and going on in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Acts 9:31). There had been a great persecution. It had scattered the church far and wide. Now there was a time of respite and peace.
Likewise Paul, who suffered much tribulation, was not without his quiet and pleasant times. "I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need" (Philippians 4:11-14). John saw a vision in which "there was silence in heaven for half an hour" (Revelation 8:1). This represents a respite from tribulations. We should expect and enjoy such times of peace, just as we expect and endure times of trouble. Both in times of peace and times of trial, we should always remember that heaven is where there truly is "a rest for God's people" (Hebrews 4:9).