Dealing with Opposition - Christian Suffering

It is already a prominent and well-known fact that believers will suffer in this life, or is it? Almost everyone who has read through this ministry will know that the church is highly indifferent to the reality of the Christian life. So most believers don’t know what it is like to go through tough times because they seldom face them since they are less of a threat to Satan’s cause. The evil one is more clever than we know and will concentrate most of his efforts on thwarting and destroying the pain-staking work and actions of those who are walking in faith and pursuing the truth as they should. Our enemy does this not because the assaults have anything to do with us personally (as if Satan loves to pick on specific individuals), but because these people live in highest obedience to his arch-enemy, God.

But we should be pretty familiar with this topic because we have spoken of it a fair bit already. We have also discussed how the Lord uses discipline to keep us safe from the world (see Overcoming Sin for more details). And as we have already stated, the Lord never tempts anyone but tests all of His own instead (James 1:13-18). Only Satan tempts believers. But the goal of this brief discussion is to offer a bit of encouragement and additional truths to help us stay on the road and not swerve off into the brush.

When we suffer from poor mistreatment from others, we should not develop a “martyr syndrome” where we take our eyes off the goal and fall into self-pity. Instead, we need to remember that it is not about us but entirely about our Lord and Savior. Now, that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy or like the process (we know we don’t) but that we should take pains to be joyful because we know the end will emerge better than the beginning (James 1:2-4). We know what awaits us at the end of this difficult life and that one day in eternity will be far greater than all the best days we experienced in this world. So when we endure tests and opposition, we accumulate an immense weight of glory and eternal rewards that far outweigh everything we had to undergo while still alive in this spiritual battlefield (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10).

Whatever the Lord allows us to endure, we must remember that it is for our good with a positive reason behind it. We must learn to wait patiently (Isaiah 40:31) and not give up by throwing our hands up in defeat. Nor should we ever fester anger toward our Savior and allow unrighteous indignation to embitter us toward our greatest advocate. The problem with this type of behavior is that it opens us up to all kinds of terrible spiritual attacks, ones that we shouldn’t necessarily have to endure. Our suffering is already great enough, so do we really want to add to it? Not only that, but each day has enough problems of its own. So why unnecessarily add to what is already there? There will be times where we can’t escape our circumstances because we have no choice but to face them head-on. But we must not forget that we aren’t alone because the One who allows them to occur is also the One who empowers us to get through them intact. “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And not only should we aggressively avoid getting angry at God, but we must resolve not to become embittered toward our enemies or whoever gives us trouble, whether those people are friends or foes. There is a lot of suffering that doesn’t involve people directly. But people can add to the equation just as Job’s friends did in his circumstances. People can and will aggravate us; that is just an unavoidable reality. The sad truth is that these individuals can be friends (as in Job’s case), relatives, and even family members. It doesn’t matter how close and related we are toward others because the Lord and His truth always come first. We just need to make sure we handle ourselves as we should. That doesn’t mean we don’t love the other person(s) and that we don’t say or do anything that needs to be said and done for their benefit. But there will be people we just can’t help or change who will continue to oppose us even if they have good intentions (as Job’s friends did). If they anger us, we must not allow our feelings and emotions to lead us into sin. We follow the Holy Spirit and not our flesh.

Our Lord set the ultimate example of dealing with opposition from other people. We must exercise self-control and not sin against others through what we say and how we act. The passage below demonstrates this very well.

Matthew 12:15-21 (NIV)

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. 21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”

We need to allow the Lord to be the judge and the One who will take vengeance on His enemies (Deuteronomy 32:35-38). The battle is His, and we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Samuel 17:47). Satan wants us to give in to our negative feelings to compromise our proper walk with the Lord and involve us in the same poor behavior of those who oppose us. If we give into the trap, we join in the same folly and error that the opposition commits. Our love for our enemies will demonstrate our desire to help them through how we engage them when they confront us. Suppose we see someone stuck in the mud. The logical thing to do is to throw a rope or something else to them so they can grab hold and climb out. Do we think that joining them by jumping into the mud pit with them will do any good? Not only did we not help that person, but we potentially made them worse by harming ourselves.

Satanic opposition (in whatever form) should never take us by surprise because we expect that stuff as Christians. 1 Peter 4:12-14 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be overjoyed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you.

However, verses fifteen to nineteen after the context above state, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Anytime we do wrong, we can only expect the Lord’s discipline to follow our sinful deeds (Hebrews 12:4-12). There is no worse time to pity oneself than after bringing all the pain and suffering on ourselves. We should never allow any suffering in our lives because of disobedience, which only adds to what we go through. But as Hebrews 12 states, all legitimate heirs of Christ receive discipline because all believers sin, and chastisement is a sign that we belong to God. Why would unbelievers receive a “spanking” if they are not God’s children?

Nevertheless, the Lord pardons all those who seek His forgiveness. After all, His blood covered all our sins, past, present, and future. Therefore, our Lord automatically forgives everything we forget to confess based on what He (not we) has done for us.

To sum up, nothing in this life lasts forever. Trials and tribulations of various lengths will come and go, whether they last for a few days, months, or even years. But we can be sure that the Spirit will always remain in us as long as we believe in guiding and directing our every thought, word, and deed. He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and will empower us to overcome all obstacles. Since we have such a great advocate, let’s rise to the challenge in the Lord’s strength by entrusting ourselves to a faithful Creator.

Matthew 12:1-4 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.