Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trials when it comes upon you to test you…. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings. (1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I think you probably know that persecution shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus warned us that just as the world hated Him, the world will hate us (Matthew 5:9-12; 10:16-25).
I think you probably know that such suffering should not cause us to panic or despair. As Martin Luther says in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” if the world takes our life, goods, fame, child, or wife, what of it? God’s Kingdom is still ours! We will be raised from the dead! At the coming of Christ, all the evil done to us will be undone!
Still, I think you might be surprised by Peter’s encouragement to rejoice whenever we suffer persecution. Rejoice? Really? Is persecution really something we should celebrate?
Here’s the thing: whenever Christians are persecuted, they share the suffering of Jesus Christ. It is an honor to bear the same cross as our Lord did.
Furthermore, if you are being persecuted for the faith and you refuse to renounce the faith, then you can be sure that the Spirit of God rests upon you. You can be sure that your faith is true and that you are one of God’s people. Therefore, you can be sure that God will raise you from the dead and glorify you, just as He raised and glorified His Son. As Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Some Christians are worried that the American culture will grow more and more hostile toward the Church, until some of us are imprisoned and killed. Indeed, that can happen, but don’t despair. Rejoice! If you suffer and die, then it is a sign, confirming what you knew all along: You belong to Jesus and, just as He was raised and glorified, you will be raised and glorified! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
If death my portion be, It brings great gain to me; It speeds my life’s endeavor To live with Christ forever. He gives me joy in sorrow, Come death now or tomorrow. (In God, My Faithful God, LSB 745:3)