“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
Many pastors were surprised by 2020 and all that’s come since. And many of us are still reeling from the cultural turmoil as if something strange were happening.
Since 2020, I’ve attended many ministerial meetings where the conversation focused on the struggles we’ve all faced since the pandemic started. Time and again, our discussions circled how stressful and difficult these last couple of years have been for pastors. Sometimes it’s felt to me like a collective wound licking—we’re shocked at the hardships.
Brothers, if we’re blindsided by struggle, affliction, or persecution, that’s on us. The Word of God is clear that struggles will come. Though we do have true joy in Jesus, affliction is synonymous with being his disciple. Have we embraced the biblical call to take up our cross as we follow Christ (Luke 9:23)? If not, we’ve been deluding ourselves into thinking that the pastoral call would be a life of comfort, affluence, and ease. It’s easy to do.
Bold in Faith
I fear that we put too much energy into creating a safe and comfortable environment for our people. We spend time and money dressing up buildings, decorating kids’ areas, and designing cool graphics—but, as helpful as they may be, other things are more important. We need to be preparing our people for war. Scripture promises that persecution and struggle will come to believers this side of glory. Are we ready?
Our call as pastors is to stand amid affliction, persecution, and struggle as a voice of hope, illuminating the eternal promises of God for our people. We’re called to point them to the God who spoke creation into existence and who upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3). We’re called to faithfully teach the Word of the God who triumphs over evil, leading our people to hope in him alone. Scripture promises that persecution and struggle will come to believers this side of glory. Are we ready? Click To Tweet
There’s no doubt that 2020 and beyond have been crazy. Many things we built were threatened by COVID-19 and the cultural tension. But what God is building was not threatened. He was not caught off guard. And the struggles we’ve faced continue to be a means of his grace. It’s a mercy for our Father to expose the feebleness of our ministry, the parts of our churches that can’t even withstand a virus. We can live and preach the faith with boldness, knowing that our Lord’s character is fixed and his promises will stand. Nothing can destroy what Christ builds.
Bold in Suffering
Struggles and persecution are the church’s time to shine. They are an opportunity for our people to stop “going to church” and to “be the church”—to speak hope and life into a broken world, to shine as a city on a hill. And brothers, that begins with us.
We need to gird up the loins of our minds and lead our people through the desert with our eyes fixed on the glory of Jesus. We need to stand like Peter and John in the face of persecution and proclaim with boldness, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Boldness of faith is contagious. Bold pastors shape bold communities. COVID may never go away, but even if it does, new struggles will come. Our job is to prepare our people to suffer well even as we seek the Lord’s strength to do the same. We’re called to lead in fixing our eyes on Christ and his call. Even as we weep with those who weep, let’s not focus on praying only for the alleviation of suffering because, in the tender hands of our Father, no suffering is wasted. Let’s pray for our gospel hope to resound amid the furnace.Boldness of faith is contagious. Click To Tweet
This was the result of Peter and John’s boldness in the face of persecution from Jewish leaders: when they returned to the church and told them all that happened, the people didn’t pray for relief or comfort. Instead, following the example of their leaders, they were emboldened to speak and proclaim the gospel: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).
We’re surrounded by a great cloud of bold witnesses (Heb. 12:1–2). My prayer for our churches is that, like them, we would be a people so confident in the future promises of God, that when everything is stripped away, we feel loosened from the dead weight of carnal things and lightened by hope. May we look to glory amid the fire of suffering and be bold in the work of gospel proclamation.