One of the more obvious observations of this passage is that our Lord felt it necessary to prepare His people for suffering. This is consistent with His teaching throughout the New Testament, that Christians are to know and expect suffering for Christ's sake. Receiving the "crown of life," humanly speaking, depends on it.
I am continually mindful of this in my role as a pastor and teacher in Christ's Church. Are my people prepared to suffer well? Am I? Especially with the recent reports out of Dearborn, MI, where four Christians have been arrested for "disorderly conduct." What conduct merited such a charge? Sharing the Gospel at a gathering of Muslims.
Todd Nettleton, of Voice of the Martyrs, has reported that they have video-taped proof of their conduct:
'No one was screamed at. No one was accused. There was not a disrespectful tone toward Islam. There were not verbal attacks against Islam, there were not verbal attacks against Mohammad,' says Nettleton. 'It was simply a theological discussion, which, in the United States, we should be free to do.' ("Religious Freedom: Does it Still Exist for the USA?")If the United States follows the trends in Western Europe and Canada (as we have in so many other socio-economic areas), we should only expect such persecution to increase. This is no cause for alarm, the freedom we Americans have enjoyed the last two hundred years or so has been a brief anomaly out of two millennia of Christian history.
Yet it is a cause for concern. I am concerned for the millions of professing Christians in America, particularly those in my congregation... are they prepared for the testing of tribulation? Generally speaking, most of our lives are filled with relative ease. We frequent social gatherings and have unending entertainment at our finger-tips (or our ear-buds). We have, in fact, grown so accustomed to gobs of leisure time that when you listen to most Christians complain it generally revolves around something that is hindering their leisure! Gathering each Lord's Day and during the week to pray and study God's Word costs most of us little more than gas and television-time.
How will we fair when evangelism means imprisonment? What will attendance-trends be like in the US when going to worship with the church puts you on some government list? (I am guessing we will have less "mega-churches"). Are we prepared for such a day in our souls? What are we teaching our children about following Christ... is Christianity a prerequisite for a successful American life or is it a call to die so that we may live with Him, our Lord and our joy?
Christ was and is very clear... be faithful unto death. Discipleship means believing, praying, serving, and expecting nothing less than that. I, for one, am praying that He will prepare all of us for such faithfulness.