Joy in Suffering
Lord, I come into Your presence. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Blessed Trinity.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Tertullian, c. 155-240 AD).
One of the most astounding facts of history must be the preservation and growth of the Christian faith despite the vulnerability of its key champions at crucial times in its history. Paul’s experience under tyrannical emperors, who saw themselves as gods, is but one example (2 Cor. 11:23-27). Our brothers and sisters facing similar persecution today, be it under Islamic dictatorships or some atheistic regime, can take comfort in the fact that they are part of the church which God continues to build, and the gates of hell cannot triumph over it (Matt. 16:18).
Nevertheless, the times of the church’s greatest danger were probably when it had political power on its side, when it enjoyed periods of ease and luxury and when “the faith which once moved mountains was corrupted by the life of the plains” (source unknown). The pressures we are beginning to experience in the West today should serve to remind us that we are part of an enduring tradition. The unspeakable treasure is still being preserved in our “jars of clay” and we have a responsibility both to live out and to speak out what we believe (7,13).
Yet despite terrible suffering Paul refers to “light and momentary troubles” (17a)! The reason is that he knows where it all leads. At best, we can only attain to an extremely limited understanding of what he describes as an “eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (17b). When Jesus Christ sent out his disciples, they returned rejoicing at the success of their mission and the victories they experienced over the forces of darkness–but he pointed out that they had a much more wonderful reason to rejoice: the fact that their names were written down in heaven (Luke 10:20). This is a heritage we can never value too highly and which we must always keep in view.
In what ways is God today preserving and sustaining the church in spite of its vulnerability?
Lord God, I lift up to You my sisters and brothers in Christ who are suffering for their faith. Infuse them with Your courage and strength I pray.