Have you ever thought of suffering as something to be attained? Something to get excited about? Something to rejoice over? Let me answer that for you: No, we don’t think like that. You know why? Because for most of us, especially those of us in America and other first world countries on this planet, we have held comfort as our highest value.
Think about it. What do we have when it’s hot outside. Air conditioning. What do we have when we’re hungry? Cheap food on every corner. What do we have when we want to go get that cheap, greasy food at midnight? A car full of gas. What do we have when we’re bored? Unending shows to binge watch on the streaming service of your choice. All of these things are, by design, intended to bring comfort to our lives. It’s one of the marvels of capitalism and the Western world.
So it’s quite strange that in Acts 5 we find Peter and John leaving the Council of the Sadduccees, after taking a significant beating from those leaders for merely preaching the name of Jesus, high-fiving one another. Yeah, that’s right, high-fiving one another like some middle school punks that just got a girl’s number for the first time, all giddy and bouncing around. As the text says, they left “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
This is so hard for us to grasp, me in particular. I mean, I think it’s pretty miserable to have to get in my car and drive all the way up to the store to get some Ghiradelli chocolate mints to go with my instant popcorn while I watch a sporting event from anywhere in the world on my 60″ HDTV. So the idea that I would not only take a beating – for nothing more than proclaiming the name of Jesus – but that I would leave with the fresh wounds of the whips slicing into my back rejoicing that someone saw fit to do that to me is, well, unfathomable.
So what was so different about those early Apostles’ faith and mine? What would give them the courage to preach Jesus in places where it was clearly not acceptable, and to do so with so much passion and conviction that they would be willing suffer for it…and keep doing it? What would give them the kahunas to challenge the religious leaders, to accuse them of killing Jesus, and to disobey their orders to stop preaching about Jesus in order to obey Jesus’ command to tell everyone about Him?
The only thing I can think of is that they were so convinced that Jesus – the Gospel, the Message and the Mission Jesus had given them – was truly all they needed. They didn’t seek comfort in that moment like we do. They didn’t need an awesome career like we aspire to have. They didn’t need a big house or a nice car like we want to have. They didn’t need anything, but Jesus.
This may be overly simplistic, but next time we find ourselves seeking comfort, remember that comfort will never impact people for eternity. Comfort won’t convince others how great Jesus is. Comfort won’t get us outside meeting our neighbors and seeking to serve others in hard places. It is only when we willingly put ourselves in uncomfortable situations for the sake of the name of Jesus that we will have an impact on those around us for eternity.
Now, it probably won’t mean that we have to take a beating like these guys did, but would we be willing to obey God’s call on our lives if it did? Would we obey God if it meant being mocked? Would we obey God if it meant losing opportunities or prestige or a position? As John Piper says it, “There has never been a powerful movement of the Gospel among any people groups in the world without suffering.” Pretty powerful statement, isn’t it?
And feel free to hold me accountable for this the next time you see me eating some popcorn and Ghiradelli chocolate mints sitting in front of my TV watching golf from Scotland. We all need a little reminding every now and then of what’s most important.