Genesis 49-50 / Matthew 13:31-58
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25
What can be expected of people God selects to accomplish His work? As for safety, comfort and convenience, the life of Paul demonstrates the exact opposite may be experienced.
In Acts 13, Jewish leaders grew angry over Paul and Barnabas’ teachings about Jesus, so they stirred up the Jews and had the two missionaries thrown out of Pisidian Antioch. In Acts 14, some of these Jews followed them to Lystra and made the crowd so angry that they stoned Paul and left him for dead. In Acts 15, Paul challenged the leadership of the church and risked falling out of good standing to advocate for the new Gentile believers. Acts 17 sees Jews rioting in Thessalonica because of Paul’s preaching, and the end of Acts sees Paul sent off to Rome because of false accusations against him. Despite hardships and persecutions, wherever Paul went people came to believe in Jesus and churches were established.
Paul elaborates in some of his letters about the persecutions he suffered from the Jews, presenting them as evidence he was a true disciple of Christ. He summarizes his boasts of being whipped, beaten, flogged, stoned, imprisoned and shipwrecked for the sake of the Gospel. He writes, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
Many Christians believe God is out to make our lives easier. When faced with hardships and persecutions, they tend to think they are out of the will of God, but it is often the opposite that is true. The enemy is constantly seeking to shut down God’s work, meaning we may face the greatest opposition when we are doing exactly what God has called us to. This is why Paul argues his persecutions mark him as a true apostle.
We may need to ask ourselves, “Have I drawn a line in my Christian life in how far I am willing to go to serve God? Do I look to God for salvation and nothing else?” If this is our thinking, we will be saved, but we will never impact the world. Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This verse calls us to render whatever happens to us in the process of serving God as inconsequential. As long as we hold on to the comforts and conveniences of this life, we will be insecure and ineffective. The mark of a true disciple is one who is not deterred by persecution and hardship, but operates in the strength of Christ, placing His agenda above their own.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your presence within me is my strength to do Your work in the face of hardship and persecution. Thank You for being my rock that always sustains me.