In Acts 5, we read of the Sanhedrin forbidding Peter and the apostles to preach the Gospel. However, the apostles, despite the risk to their lives, refused. Providentially, through Gamaliel’s intercession, they were not killed. Instead the Sanhedrin decided to whip the apostles and then release them. What was the apostles’ response after the flogging? “They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (of Jesus)” Acts 5:41. Even after being whipped badly, they continued their task of proclaiming the Gospel as v42 tells us. To them the Gospel was worth suffering and dying for.
I remember an extraordinary woman whose story I read years ago. Many have heard of Wang Ming Dao, unofficial architect of the house church movement in China during the middle part of the 20th Century from the 50s onwards. Despite oppression and persecution, the house churches in China grew, led by men such as him and others. His wife was Deborah Wang or Auntie Wang as friends called her. When Wang Ming Dao was sentenced to prison for so-called “anti-revolutionary activities”, his wife also followed him into prison. For twenty years, she was in a Northern Chinese prison where winters were extremely cold. Despite insufficient food and winter clothes, seeing her husband only three times in that twenty years, she never complained and never lost her Christian faith. After their release, their home continued to be used by their Christian friends. Even after her husband died, her spiritual strength never diminished and she said, “I will not be lonely; I was not lonely before.” What a remarkable woman! She too rejoiced because she had been found worthy of disgrace for Jesus.
You may not have to suffer for your Christian faith like the apostles or Deborah Wang, but you can be sure that the world will always examine Christians hyper-critically. You may not be jailed or beaten but you can be sure that you will also be ridiculed and disliked as you faithfully live for Christ. That’s normal since sticks and stones are only thrown at trees bearing fruit. That is what God warned us of in 2 Tim3:12 where Paul writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.” So when you live out your faith by refusing to cheat on your homework or stand up against the school bullies or refuse to victimise the weaker ones as some of your school mates do, you will make some people unhappy. When you refuse to pilfer the company goods like your colleagues do, lie for your boss or work on Sundays, you will upset your boss or colleagues. When you do these things, you can be sure that people will not be happy and they will look for ways to make your life difficult. Be encouraged, the lesson we learn from Easter, which we will celebrate next week, is that we have a risen Saviour. His commendation is far more important than any hostility or adversity that we have to bear here. This life on earth is not all there is. We have a far better one awaiting us in Heaven. It is there where, if we have walked in obedience and lived our lives for our Lord, we will hear his commendation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come now and share your master’s happiness.”
May the Lord’s grace empower and bless us to witness and live for Him as so many others before us have done for our Lord and Master Jesus.