3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? Hebrews 12:3,7 NKJV)
As a Christian have you ever been in a hard or painful situation and pondered whether your circumstances were the result of persecution from people or chastisement from God. One morning you get up thinking; how could people be so mean to me? The next day you are wondering if your affliction is from God to deal with some unruly aspects of your heart. Oddly enough, it could be a little of both.
The commentator, Matthew Henry wrote; “Those afflictions that may be persecution as far as other people are concerned are fatherly rebukes and chastisements as far as God is concerned”. Often when we are wounded by the hateful actions of people, it brings to the surface the sinful residues found in the depths of our hearts. We are surprised by our responses. The persecution did not create our wrong or sinful attitudes; it just brings them to the surface. Although the actions towards us may be totally ungodly in nature, God uses them as avenues for divine correction. So Ken, you are saying that my persecutors are doing me a favor. Actually, in a strange way, I am. Unless the secret sins of the human heart are exposed they can never be dealt with properly, always attacking us from a camouflaged position.
What should our response be? The Bible instructs us. ….“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, … (v. 5). We must come to the realization that no matter how wrongly we are being treated that God has redemptive purposes in it. How did Jesus respond to persecution? He endured. Instead of hating those who falsely accused Him, He loved them. He forgave them rather than retaliate, as those around Him wanted Him to do. To embrace instead of despising our sufferings, it is imperative that we realize that they are for our own good. …but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (v.10 NASB). Without having fellowship with Christ’s sufferings, we will never share in His holiness. As the commentator once said; “People persecute the believers because they are religious; God rebukes because they are not more so”.
Pray with me. Lord, help me to endure your loving discipline. When I am hated, help me to love. When people are unforgiving, help me to forgive. Lord, without You I cannot do this. I need Your grace.
Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing