Romans 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
So what if a little “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” 1 comes our way? God promises suffering for his saints. There is no way around it.
Just in case you are at odds with the rest of the authors of the Bible and only want the “red letter edition”, let us consider the words of Christ himself:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 2
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 3
Right away, you know that choosing Christ as your God and Savior and Lord might put you at odds with your own flesh and blood. I have had normal visitation with my oldest son since his mother and I separated and divorced when he was about two years old. Today, he is 16 years old. And as much as I have tried to get him into church and share as much as I can with him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, he calls Christianity “a mythology”. My faith puts me at odds with my son who says it is impossible to know if there is life after death. This is the same young man who passionately wants to be in control of his own destiny (until death), make choices for himself, accepts the rewards and consequences of his own actions but for the life of him, cannot figure out why he has always felt like he is in shackles.
And that is just one example in my own life.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 4
We could forsake everything like Peter and the world will persecute us.
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. 5
Jesus Christ even promised the “laying on of hands”. My Charismatic friends, that is not the good kind but the the opposite of good–“bar fight with a bunch of drunk dudes at 2am in the morning” kind of laying of hands.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 6
The Gospel authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all testify that Christ said these words.
Tribulation, grievous trouble, severe trials, and suffering, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
Distress, great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction and trouble is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
Persecution, judgment, and execution based on one’s faith, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
Famine, the loss of basic necessities in order to live, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
Nakedness, that is, the loss of basic material possessions, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
Sword, terrible violence, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.
And it is so easy to be like David in Psalm 44: on the one hand, only God saves but then immediately yells to God, “you have made us sheep to be slaughtered.”
Because we have all let our own circumstances in life determine our faith in God or even more so than that, let the persecutions and the trials and sufferings of this present time dictate just how much love God has for his children. Remember when Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 7? He also said in the verse right before that we are indeed children of God and therefore heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 8
We can take a loss of a job, a loss of a spouse, a loss of marriage or family, a significant drop in income—whatever is your idol—and let that shape your views on God.
Or even one step further: I was the good kid growing up and I did all the right things. So why is my life a total mess right now? God, why didn’t you give me what I deserve? First, let us be careful that we only live a certain way in order to try to put God into our debt because Romans 4:4-5 says that is not going to happen. Second, we know that the world is completely broken since sin entered into it all the way back to Genesis 3.
More so than that: God gave us everything. Why do I know that? Because God gave us Christ Jesus, who:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 9
God gave us Christ to not only live for us and die for us but ascended to the cross in perfect obedience and joy.
Persecution? Trials? Suffering? All of this is to be expected.
But we are not lambs destined to be slaughtered, for Christ is the lamb that was slain.
And because Christ suffered and will receive the reward for His suffering, we are so much more than sheep to be slaughtered.