Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
-1 Peter 4:12-13
Somewhere along the way we in the West bought into this idea that to be a Christian meant to live your best life now without any harm or suffering. I will not point out specific teachers of this lie, but there are many out there and many of their churches are flourishing due to the falseness in their message. But recently I heard an Indian pastor preach from 1 Peter 4:12-19 on suffering as a Christian and I intently listened to this man because he lives in one of the top persecuted countries in the world and because he started his sermon with a personal testimony.
This pastor told of how when he started following Jesus initially there was no persecution. His life was radically transformed, but to his family and friends Jesus was just one god amongst many gods and took no real issue with him following Jesus. This is a very common attitude in India and is generally like that whether in the city or the village. But within a year this man's family had noticed that he was exclusively following Jesus and living a radically different life than his Hindu upbringing. During this time he started to be verbally and physically abused. This forced him to develop a theology of suffering and turn to this passage in 1 Peter to take comfort.
As I watch the world in the West from afar I see many things that alarm me about my home country, and although different than what most of us in Christ are used to, I cannot help but wonder if we are prepared to rejoice in godly suffering. I think we are far off from physical beatings in the West but I would say that many are already receiving verbal abuse for their faith. Just this week I have been reading different articles referring to how the US is becoming tolerable of everything except for those in Christ and the things of the Bible. Yes, this saddens me, but in hearing this passage exhorted this week I could not help but think that we should not be surprised by the changing tide against the God of the Bible and his followers.
This Indian pastor spoke so clearly and honestly to his congregation. He said, "If you are in this room and a follower of Christ or considering following Christ, you need to know that you are not choosing an easy life, but one that will most likely be marked by fiery trials and suffering as you take up your cross and follow Jesus."
Do we seek this change? No. Do we desire fiery trials and suffering? No. But we need to recognize that for followers of Christ around the world this is normative and when it does happen we need to be ready to rejoice in godly suffering.