Being a real Christian is not easy. It is going to involve difficulty, opposition and even suffering

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 1 – What it means to be a disciple and how Christian character is formed

We need to abandon any illusions we may be under. Alongside all the joys and benefits of becoming a real Christian, seeking to live as a genuine, Bible-believing disciple will involve many forms of struggle. Every real Christian has enlisted as a soldier in a spiritual war and is going to be treated as such by all God’s enemies, both human and demonic.

They will certainly see you as their enemy, regardless of whether you see them as yours. If we do not realise those facts from the outset, then we are likely to give up and fall away at the first sign of hardship. We will do so, not because it is particularly severe as such, but because it is unexpected. The remedy for that is that we must be realistic enough to expect turbulence. Then we will not be surprised by it when it comes:

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; 16 yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.

1Peter 4:12-16 (RSV)

When apostle Paul was converted God revealed to Ananias how much Paul would have to suffer for the sake of Jesus. Ananias must have told Paul about this, because Luke knew of it, which is why it is in the book of Acts. The point is that God made it clear to Paul, from the outset, that life as a Christian was not going to be easy:

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Acts 9:15-16 (RSV)

What Ananias was told proved to be entirely accurate. Years later, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a list of just some of the things he had to endure:

24 Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (RSV)

Apostle Paul also spoke very plainly to the church in Philippi about what being a disciple really involves. He describes it as being involved in a conflict which involves opposition and suffering:

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Philippians 1:27-30 (ESV)

Paul also told Timothy how his own life had involved a lot of persecution and that the same will happen to everyone who wants to live a godly life:

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico′nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.

2 Timothy 3:10-13 (RSV)

The problem is that we have to live as Christians in a non-Christian world. It is crooked, wicked and often hostile to what we believe. But we are not only meant to live amongst such people; we are supposed to shine like lights for their benefit. Moreover, instead of grumbling or complaining about this, Paul instructs us to be glad and to rejoice at the opportunities given to us to be such a light:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:12-18 (ESV)
next page in book