"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 1:6) What would a person have to do to be an imitator of Jesus and the Apostles? Let’s look at Paul’s example for more information.
Paul was stoned and left for dead, imprisoned multiple times, laughed at and called a fool. In 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul says he was “flogged more severely.” This particular suffering probably refers to scourging inflicted by the heathen. Their scourging would not be limited to forty stripes, save one, which the Jews restricted; hence “more severely.” And yet, the Thessalonians had experienced many of these same persecutions themselves.
But what if Christians routinely received this sort of oppression here in America? How many people do you suppose would nevertheless preach the Word of God? How many would speak out in the name of Jesus? Would you?
Praise God, we don’t have to experience those things here. The persecution of Christians in this country generally involves mocking. Perhaps in some cases a scolding, or at worst, demands that cakes be baked. I would argue that here, the worst “attacks” Christians receive are acts of boredom, people walking away or saying they’re not interested. Or maybe in cases of “extreme persecution,” someone loudly arguing, or a few here and there losing their livelihood.
We don’t have to fear scourging. Or imprisonment. Ninety nine percent of the time, we only fear a severe eye-rolling.
So what’s stopping you? Get in the long check-out line at the store and strike up a conversation. Find someone who looks bored and help them out with that boredom. Pray for people in doctors or hospitals waiting rooms. Be an imitator. It really is that simple!
Father, you and you alone are the Almighty God. The God who heals and comforts. We are dead in our sin without your loving mercy. Blessing and honor and praise to you, for all that you have done for us. May you give us the strength to follow you in obedience and faith. Amen.
Scripture references from NIV unless otherwise noted.
Based on Transformed Christ Followers Impact Their World for Christ on February 2nd, 2019 - Watch Sermon