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Suffering vs Persecution- You need to know the difference

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

Suffering and persecution are often wrongly thrown into the same bucket. Let’s be clear from the outset, Jesus took God’s wrath upon Himself as our sacrificial substitute. Christ suffered on the cross and became a curse for us, so we wouldn’t have to suffer poverty, sickness or spiritual death.

However, this is not to be confused with persecution which stems from people, and comes with the territory of being a Christian. Yet many believers falsely claim they are, ‘suffering for Jesus’ in some form of sickness, disease or poverty, as a badge of honor for godly living. They think their circumstances are unique and no-one has ever gone through what they have. They think their case is special; it isn’t.

We are admonished in scripture to pray for the sick, to help those in need and deliver the captives. We are commanded to oppose evil forces on this earth and occupy till Christ’s return (Lk 19:13).

Poverty, sickness and spiritual death fall under ‘the curse of the law,’ which Christ redeemed us from but if we willingly embrace these curses once more, we forfeit not only our godly inheritance but undermine Christ’s monumental sacrifice.

Christ was moved with compassion to die for you on the cross.

Compassion is motivated to act instead of gripe

Christ was moved with compassion to act, whereas sympathy pulls a chair alongside and joins the griping session. As Christ demonstrated, compassion is rooted in a concerted effort to oppose all forms of the ‘curse of the law.’ The curse of death manifested when Adam partook of the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:17).

The Pentateuch outlines that both sickness and poverty were curses for disobedience. The curses of sickness (Deut 28:15-22, 27-29, 35, 58-61) and poverty came upon God’s children if they disobeyed Him (Deut 28:17-27, 38-40).

Thank God we are no longer under the Old Testament law, yet poverty and sickness are still present in the earth and must be resisted. You don’t want to claim, to be ‘suffering for Jesus’ with the very same curses which Christ annulled on the cross. Knowledge is power and you must be knowledgeable of what is already in your possession. Click here to find out more.

Jesus was moved with compassion to destroy the works of darkness (i.e., poverty, sickness and oppression)

Leave poverty and sickness on the cross

To sequester poverty and sickness in this dispensation of Grace is to partake of the very thing Jesus detests and was willing to die for. It’s good to have a pity party now and again, but friend don’t stay at the party for too long. If you do, bitterness and resentment will soon fester, potentially leading to depression, if left unresolved. We have an enemy, seeking to devour anyone who’ll permit him to do so (1 Pet 5:8). Satan’s desire is for you to leave this earth as fast as possible and join him in Hell for eternity.

Even if we’ve received Christ as Savior, Satan and his cohorts are unrelenting in their opposition to our walk with God. We must endeavor to resist temptation in all its forms and give the enemy no place (Eph 4:27). If you are passive in the fight, you will lose ground.

If the enemy can convince you that godly people should be poor, sick and hurting, then friend, you’ve believed a lie! Believing this lie makes Christ’s sacrifice redundant. By becoming aware of our godly inheritance, we will become strong warriors for God (click here to find out more).

American Christians haven’t experienced much persecution…yet.

Persecution comes with the territory

We should never forget that persecution is a part of our Christian walk. Perhaps the faith movement has painted a rosy picture of ‘flowery beds of ease,’ which doesn’t line up with scripture. Kenneth E. Hagin never taught this, even if some of his followers have. In fact, persecution should be our badge of honor, not ‘suffering’ which I’ll define shortly.

Jesus warned his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they’ll persecute you” (Jn 15:20). It should come as no surprise that men revile or persecute us with false accusations for His sake (Mat 5:11). Jesus offers a heavenly reward for those who are persecuted for Him, admonishing us to rejoice and be glad when it happens (Mat 5:12). He never forgets those who’ve taken a stand for Him or His word. Even the one hundredfold blessing comes ‘with persecutions’ (Mk 10:30).

Saul of Tarsus (aka Paul the Apostle) was as a great persecutor of the church (1st Cor 15:9, Acts 22:4) prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul then reminded Timothy that, “all who…are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand]” (2 Tim 3:12) AMP.

On his many missionary journeys, Paul endured relentless persecution via beatings, stoning’s and imprisonment. We thank God for his courage. Some saints have even been martyred for Christ, and they shall receive the Crown of Life for doing so. Click here to find out more about your heavenly reward and other crowns which you may lay before Christ’s feet.

The Roman citizens enjoyed watching Christians being ripped apart by wild beasts as Caesar threw them bread (Coliseum of Rome). If this isn’t the definition of a ‘sick and twisted’ Saturday, I don’t know what is…

Is Persecution spiritual in origin?

Persecution has its genesis in the satanic kingdom as Satan hates anyone created in God’s image. Pernicious forces are perpetually arrayed against God and his saints, yet persecution ultimately arises ‘because of the word’s sake’ (Mk 4:17). A careful examination of Paul’s Thorn in the flesh, reveals a spiritual messenger from Satan sent to buffet him (2 Cor 12:7).

This was an evil spirit which stirred the religious crowd and brought harm because of the abundance of Paul’s revelations during his ministry. This satanic onslaught is yet another form of persecution although spiritual in origin. Paul was granted greater grace to offset this but you wouldn’t hear him go around moaning, “I’m just suffering for Jesus,” each time the crowd was satanically stirred. Paul knew he was in a spiritual conflict every time he preached.

oooohhh that blade is sharp girl, let me tell you!

The Word of God is a weapon

The word of God is a weapon that vies for the souls of men, seeking to gain root in our hearts. Our eternal destiny hinges upon the strength of this root within the soil of our heart. Persecution is one of the means by which Satan seeks to uproot the word sown. Rest assured friend, your persecution will be rewarded! But how are we commonly persecuted today? It usually comes in the form of slander, or mocking, when you share your faith. A living testimony for Christ is something the devil fears and he uses fear against us, in order to hinder our sharing the Gospel.

If friends, colleagues or family were ever to find out about the godly changes in your life, then Satan would lose territory. He keenly guards his territory. A testimony for Christ is a very powerful beacon in the darkness. When we refuse to conform to popular behavior, we will be persecuted (as Lot found out).

Persecution may also arise from the government when its overreach breaches the boundaries of our God given values. Something we have witnessed in recent years within these United States. If so, then it’s time to take a stand and let God be the judge. The government can’t take away rights that God gave in the first place.

How did Suffering enter the earth?

With regard to suffering, ‘affliction’ is the most appropriate synonym within the Elizabethan prose of the Authorized Version. Affliction entered the earth when Adam and Eve succumbed to the snare of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Sickness, disease and poverty are all present in the earth because of this calamitous indiscretion. Yet Christ redeemed us from this woeful triumvirate.

Scripture reveals that Christ took our suffering or affliction on the cross when He became a curse for us, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Gal 3:13) NLT.

Choose to overcome the curses of the law, by faith

Christ literally became a curse, so our curse is absolved by His sacrifice. The fruit of this curse is poverty, sickness and spiritual death. When we’re born again, spiritual death is overcome, but poverty and sickness must be appropriated ‘by faith.’ What value is our redemption if we remain ignorant of its spoils?

The Apostle James then goes on to ask, that if anyone is afflicted in a church setting (from sickness or mental anguish), have them call for the elders to pray, anointing them with oil, instead of spouting they’re ‘suffering for Jesus’ (Jam 5:14-16). The Book of Genesis reveals the creative order was unfortunately afflicted with four curses which are still prevalent today. Man, woman, Satan and the earth itself were cursed (Gen 3:16-19, Rom 8:18-21).

We have indeed been redeemed from the curse of the law (poverty, sickness and spiritual death), yet the curses in the earth still remain. Hence, accidents and natural disasters will be with us until Christ returns. Men (and women) still work from the sweat of their brow and women endure pain during childbirth. Even Satan is still in a cursed state until he’s thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).

Adam and Eve banished from the Garden of Eden…it’s your fault, no it was your fault, no…and the blame game has been raging ever since…you get the picture…Fig leaf anyone?

A definition of Affliction

The Baker Encyclopedia defines affliction, “as the characteristic of life in a spoiled creation.[1]” Creation was spoiled when sin entered this world and creation still groans for its redemption (Rom 8:22). Jesus also warned of trials, sorrows and ‘tribulations,’ which are a part of living in the cursed earth (Jn 16:33). Even when we enter God’s kingdom, we do so through much tribulation (Acts 14:22), as our spirit man is transformed from death to life and Satan throws a ‘hissy fit’ because of it.

Whilst we remain on earth, we do so on enemy territory as our true abode is Heaven. Conflict is in harmony with our earthly existence.

Don’t suffer needlessly

The next time you hear someone espouse they’re ‘suffering for Jesus,’ remind them, Jesus suffered enough on the cross, so they wouldn’t have to, “But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isa 53:5)- NLT.

Jesus endured the full measure of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual suffering for us. Not that He needed to, but He willingly chose to. He took the suffering we rightly deserved. Jesus was put to shame (Ps 69:19), dishonored, brokenhearted (Ps 69:20), given gall for meat, vinegar for drink and had no-one to pity or comfort Him.[2]

Jesus experienced the full spectrum of human suffering, and is able to relate to every facet of our earthly existence.  Jesus was shamed so we don’t need to feel the sting of shame. However, Jesus was not presented as a victim. He suffered and died willingly in accordance with God’s purpose (Matt. 20:28; Heb. 9:26). Any suffering we now partake of is in the form of persecution or suffering in the flesh, for the purpose of resisting temptation.

Christ suffered a gruesome death so we could live a victorious life

The sufferings of Jesus were for a specific purpose—the salvation of all who would believe.[3] Christ essentially had two conquests on the cross. They are as follows:

Number 1– He abolished and cancelled the law by blotting it out and nailing it to the cross (Col 2:14). It was tradition for ancient laws to be abrogated by nailing them to a post.

Number 2– He defeated the executors of the law by spoiling the devil and demon forces, making a show of them openly (Col 2:15).

In times of antiquity, conquerors would make a public display of their conquered enemies. This Christ did when He defeated Satan and rose from the grave! We now enforce that defeat as the triumphant church, keeping our foot on the devils’ face!

The notion that any Christian is ‘suffering for Jesus’ is tantamount to a teenage outburst and rooted in emotional immaturity. Some believers are wounded certainly, and it’s our responsibility to minister to them, not pull a chair alongside and join the griping session. It is their responsibility to devour the Epistles and discover the spoils, which they now possess because of what Christ did.

The victim who claims to be ‘suffering for Jesus,’ needs to establish their identity with Christ instead of their travails. Only by doing so, will they experience the ‘zoe’ life of abundance.

Jesus manifested His glory on the Mt. of Transfiguration. The same glory He chooses to share with you.

Get ready to share His Glory!

The NT reveals that if we share in Christ’s suffering, we will also share His glory (Rom 8:17-18). The Apostle Paul explicitly mentions, that if there be persecution, we will suffer it (1 Cor 4:12). This suffering arises from striving to live righteously in a world dominated by sin (2 Cor 1:5, Phil 1:29, 3:10).

Paul encourages Timothy that, ‘if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” The Greek word for suffer here is apomenō, (ἀπομένω -Strong’s #670) meaning, “to persevere, to stand firm against, to bear patiently against…”

Once again, the context of suffering within the New Testament dispensation of grace, encapsulates trials, persecution or hardship from living in a sin infested world, not by embracing sickness or poverty, which Christ redeemed us from. Satan will take advantage of anyone’s ignorance regarding their identity in Christ. Click here to find out more about your new identity.

In Christ’s demonstration of godly living, he suffered in the flesh to resist temptation and He is our shining example. Christ learned obedience having to undergo many hardships. As the Son of God, He was destined for immense persecution (Heb 5:8). As we suffer in the flesh (by resisting temptation), likewise we may cease from sin (1 Pet 4:1). The Apostle Peter articulates the suffering we endure as ‘the keeping of our souls’ (1 Pet 4:19). We must steward our souls, in keeping with God’s will by guarding our mind and emotions against the wiles of our adversary.

Resist affliction but suffer persecution

In closing, persecution comes from people, but affliction is a curse from which we’ve been redeemed. There is a vast chasm between them. Persecution cannot be avoided, but affliction can be resisted by faith. Expect persecution to come when you live a godly life but resist affliction at all costs!

We have the divine right to claim God’s promises of protection over our lives by faith. This can circumvent the cursed earth and mitigate accidents which are prone to happen in a fallen world. God’s word warns us of troubles and afflictions but assures deliverance from them (Ps 34:19).

We must trust and obey our Heavenly Father on a daily basis to enforce our God given authority, mitigate the curses in the earth and commandeer our full redemption from the curse of the law (poverty and sickness).

We have a part to play and if we do our part, God will surely do His. It’s time to shake off the victim mentality and be the victor that Christ called you to be!

Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, click here to find out more…

Author – Carl G.M. Joseph

Bibliography:

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Affliction,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 35.

[2] Finis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Topics (WORDsearch, 1991).

[3] W. Dan Parker, “Passion,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1250.

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