By Elder Samuel Chan
Last week, Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin shared on how to respond to persecutions. Coincidentally, at last week’s Chinese Ministry’s Sunday School Seminar, the speaker also shared about how to pass on the ancient spirit of martyrdom for today. Persecution does not seem to be particularly relevant to us, especially for Singapore's younger generation. Most parents nowadays are more open towards their children’s faith issues and will not have the same concerns about their belief in the Lord as compared to our parents who may react violently against us when we want to become a Christian. In Singapore, we will not be imprisoned or be subjected to physical punishment because of our faith. So, what does it mean for Christians in Singapore about being persecuted for their faith or suffering for Christ?
Let us try to learn from 1 Peter on what suffering for Christ means to Christians in Singapore.
In just five chapters of 1 Peter, Peter mentioned the word ‘suffering’ 12 times. In 1 Peter 1:11, he first mentioned that “… he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow." And why did Christ suffer? 1 Peter 3:18 says: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.…” Christ died for our sins, replacing our unrighteousness with His own righteousness with the ultimate goal of bringing us to God. Therefore, the essence of suffering is not to be opposed by others, but to do justice and good works and give others the opportunity to know God.
Why does doing justice or good works cause us to suffer? As 1 Peter 3:13-14 says: "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”” When it comes to our enthusiasm for doing good, no one will dislike it in most cases, but sometimes there are some who may not like it. For example, there is a brother in Christ, who works in a company that celebrates the Hungry Ghost Festival yearly. In previous years, he was not at the company during the Hungry Ghost Festival activities. This year he became a believer. He was around during his company’s Hungry Ghost Festival activities. His boss asked him to participate in the activities. If you were in a similar situation, how would you respond? Thank God that this new believer, despite the possible repercussions from his boss, bravely answered, "I am a Christian." His boss did not force him to participate.
Although suffering persecution or even martyrdom for the Lord is quite distant to us, many aspects of our daily lives are preparing our hearts to endure suffering for the Lord in terms of our physical emotions or choices, in order to triumph over sin. "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin." (1 Peter 4:1)
Are we prepared to wake up earlier in the morning so that we have adequate time to spend with God? Or would we want to spend more time to study God's Word and spend less time watching television or using our phones? Or do we still go to church on Sunday even though we are studying for our examination?
Do we dare say grace for the meal when we are with our pre-believing friends? Are we willing to go the extra mile to complete our tasks or to assist others without worrying about what other people will think about us?
We should not be worried if we suffer as a result of carrying out God's plan and doing good deeds since we belong to the Lord and He will take care of us. (See 1 Peter 4:19). And 1 Peter 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” As for the minor sufferings we endure for the Lord today, whether external or internal, we will receive the glory He will give us in the future. In the light of the Lord's love for us, who suffered and died for us, let us make a little "painful" decision in our life today so that we can enjoy His eternal glory. Amen.