Witness - Your Endurance of Hardship

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, November 14, 2013 0 comments

As I sit here and write this piece, it is Veterans’ Day 2013. While I have the day off work to honor and remember them, there are many who are actually the ones serving our country around the world that do not get this day off. Some of them are in very difficult circumstances. They might include harsh weather conditions, hostile enemies, and deplorable living quarters. The difficult circumstances often do include being separated from their loved ones. It is during these times of hardship that the character and perseverance of our service men and women are most obvious. Our government awards the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor based on how individuals respond in the most daunting of circumstances. While all veterans are to be honored and most have the same strong character as those award recipients, it is hardship that presents the opportunity for it to be shown publicly.

Also as I sit here today, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini. You may have heard about his story. He and his family live in Boise, Idaho, where Saeed is a pastor. However, he’s been jailed for his faith in Iran for over a year since he went back to visit and share the gospel. According to the Washington Examiner, Pastor Saeed’s family confirmed he has recently been transferred to the infamous Rajai Shahr prison. About this prison, Dutch diplomat Loes Bijnen said, “Political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists, and drug addicts who don’t hesitate to attack their cell mates”. Bijnen also added, “They have nothing to lose (because) many of them are condemned to death anyway, (so) murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence”. While we pray for Pastor Saeed’s release and safe return to his family, you better believe that many are taking notice to how he responds to his hardship. Many, including Bijnen, clearly feel that putting a “political prisoner” in the same place as violent criminals is unfair and cruel. But maybe God has allowed it because there are murderers, rapists, and drug addicts who desperately need to see the example of how a follower of Jesus endures hardship.

The same is true for each and every one of you who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. If you read Katie’s post on Monday, you saw that we get our English word “martyr” from the New Testament’s Greek word for “witness”. That Greek word can also mean “testimony, evidence, or reputation”. While we traditionally think of “martyr” as one who is killed, Webster’s secondary definition is “somebody who makes sacrifices or suffers greatly in order to advance a cause or principle”. My point is that even if you are never asked to sacrifice your life, you still have a very powerful witness for Christ when you endure any kind of suffering. In Hebrews 12:1, the writer encourages the early Christians, and us, to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” because “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”. He is referring back to the stories of which he just reminded them in the previous chapter.

In Hebrews 11, the author takes his readers through a recap of all of the stories of faith they know from their history in which people endured hardship by trusting in God and his sovereign will. Most of these stories are ones you and I can read in the Old Testament, but there are others who are not named who were tortured, jailed, mocked, flogged, stoned, sawed in two, and put to death by the sword (vv. 35-37). While their ultimate witness was their refusal to deny the faith even up to their deaths, they also persevered through many hardships that did not kill them. You and I can witness in the same way. Did you know that we have an advantage that they did not have? “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40). While their faith was in the yet-to-come cross of Jesus, we have the advantage of knowing that God’s promise already came true!

So what is the hardship in your life that requires endurance? Pay no attention to the hardship of your neighbor, because God has a specific “race” for YOU to run. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever help others in their quest to persevere. It means that suffering is not a contest. We don’t have to try to make it happen to a certain level so that God accepts us. Jesus tells his disciples shortly before his arrest that they WILL have trouble in this world (John 16:33). In other words, it’s impossible to follow Christ and not have trouble. For you, it may be waiting patiently for that promotion, that degree, or that spouse. It may be losing one of those three things. It may be having to deal with some form of persecution, or suffering through your parents’ divorce or some other family crisis. Remember that absolutely EVERYTHING that God gives us in this world will disappear, because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). With that as your hope, you can absolutely endure any hardship God allows in your life. In doing so, you’ll be a witness to everyone around you.