This teaching would not encourage church growth in our time! The Apostles told people to expect suffering, persecution, and giving up all they had in order to be a disciple of Christ. This is taught in our churches, but when the time comes to surrender even just our schedules, it seems often many are not willing to commit to Kingdom work.
The disciples committed even when it was not convenient. They were committed to the cause of Jesus Christ, and put His will first. Hardships did not deter them.
Paul actually taught this verse after being stoned and left for dead for preaching the Gospel. He lived as an example of sacrifice and walked in a love for seeing people saved through the message of Jesus Christ. Paul was not afraid to be bold and preach a message of Truth and Purity. He wasn’t concerned with numbers, he was concerned with people’s eternity.
Here are a few kinds of hardships that we can expect to face as Christians:
- Loneliness– God calls us to be separate from ungodly relationships that might bring temporary fulfillment. If we are willing, God will show us satisfying ways to fill our time and people who need our fellowship.
- Not putting roots down – living in peaceful uncertainty – God calls us to be ready to move at his word. There are times he calls us to cut strings and move forward. He expects us – like Elisha at the plow – to do so without looking back to our old, familiar way of life.
- Not being accepted by everyone – this is hard, especially in marriage and family relationships. It is important for Believers with unsaved loved ones to continually shine the light of Christ and walk in unconditional love, even when family members are aggressively against salvation. Our lives speak a greater message!
- Leaving behind expectations – God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our career path, our college choice, our ministry wishes, our ideas about how we want our lives to go – maybe be just that… our ideas! All things should be submitted and surrendered to God. When God redirects, we should be faithful to follow in His steps, and not constantly re-question, doubt and hold back.
- “Inconvenienced” to Love the widow, the orphan, and the needy – Many times, God will bring the neediest people your way. They may seem like an inconvenience to you, but this is raw ministry… remember when Jesus looked out on the crowd, he saw that they were harassed (ever met someone who is harassed??) and helpless (we all know people in need!) and the Bible said Jesus had compassion on them, and he met their needs! So, when Jesus brings someone your way, embrace the opportunity to serve them. It won’t be convenient, but it will be Christ-like!
- Persecution for the Truth – Paul preached a bold message of separation from the world. He said Believers should live in the world, but not follow the world’s standards. Chapter after chapter, Acts describes how the Apostles and Disciples prayed, preached and demonstrated God’s power. It generally always ended in some kind of physical persecution, yet they pressed forward…. I’m sensing a pattern here 🙂
We will face many hardships and much suffering as Believers; but we live for a future Kingdom that cannot be shaken!
When someone tells you they are enduring hardships, have compassion on them, help them with their needs, and remind them that Jesus himself endured many things. Let each hardship be an opportunity to glorify God!
What was your favorite verse from the chapter?
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