“And they agreed with him, and when they had called the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:40–42

From the earliest days of the Church, believers have been called upon to stand and be counted for Christ, come what may. To the uninitiated sinner, this reality can be quite off-putting. Though he may be attracted to the Gospel and salvation, he may see the price of becoming a witness to Christ as too high a personal price to pay. The sinner will automatically shy away from suffering for Christ without the aid of the Holy Spirit’s quickening influences.

Even believers tend to fearfulness in the face of adversity. Our Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount drip with noble sentiments and, as long as they remain nothing but high-toned ideals, they are intellectually embraced by believers—like something that is far-afield of our personal experience. Nevertheless the words are certainly heroic. Matthew 5:5ff includes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” No one normally volunteers to be the “sacrificial lamb” when the outcome is in doubt.

It is far too easy to forget Paul’s words in his final epistle which explain that enduring for Christ, even suffering for Him, earns its eternal rewards. 2 Timothy 2:11ff declares, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” There is comfort in the fact that our God remains faithful, even when we are not. How much greater would it be to remain faithful to Him in light of His promises!

Paul was not immune to suffering for His Lord. His list of sufferings is quite extensive. 2 Corinthians 6:4ff relays, “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings….”

To face such trials seems daunting, almost repelling, to our comfort-craving inclinations while it seems commonplace among the saints of the early church. Our text in Acts 5 illustrates the single-minded spirit of the believers. Despite being leaned on heavily by the ecclesiastical power of their day, they continued to proclaim Christ boldly. It was only a few short chapters later in Acts that we learn of the first martyrs for the faith, yet their ardor is not dampened.

I am certain that our Lord’s words rang clearly in their memories and in their hearts. In John 15:18ff we also hear His words: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” It is a mercy that our Lord quickly follows up this warning with His promised enablement to endure victoriously. John 15:26f reads, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness….”

Paul advises a different attitude than we tend to have regarding suffering because, in the cause of Christ, suffering is par for the course. Therefore, we must take to heart his words in Romans 8:18f: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Back in 2 Corinthians 4:16ff he explains, “Therefore we do not lose heart, even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The tools God provides for believers to assure us of coping in suffering are significant in these passages. First, He gives life, which no man can take away—eternal life. Second, He gives His Spirit, the Great Comforter for your soul. Third, He gives His Word which fortifies your faith. Then, He promises inconceivable glory in eternity which will more than make up for any trial which we call suffering. Our early church brethren almost ran toward difficulty because the promises of Christ were real to them. They should be just as real to us! Trust and obey.