But they withdrew from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were deemed worthy to endure shame for His name’s sake (Acts 5:41).
Christ’s disciples were not strangers, they are an excellent example for us, we have a lot to learn from them. Especially the way they sacrificed their lives no matter what, and found a reason to inspire others and become joyful themselves. The Bible says a lot about the suffering of the disciples, but we see that the disciples were very happy about the suffering. How is this possible? How can you be happy in suffering and remain happy?
What happened or will happen when you suffer for the name of Christ?
We read in the Bible that we are blessed ?! But are we blessed (Matthew 5: 10-12 or 1 Pet. 3:14)? On the other hand, Paul describes that in weakness strength becomes full. He says: “Therefore, I will boast more of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” What is he talking about? He says that if I am weak, strength will come upon me, 2 Corinthians 12: 9. It comes in real life. If a problem arises, living power will come upon Paul. The same living force is present even in Paul. And in verse 10 he describes, “Therefore, I rejoice in weakness.” Paul’s weakness lifted his spirits as soon as he got into trouble for Christ; violence, trouble, harassment, and imprisonment. In short, he says, “If I am weak, I am strong.” What is Paul talking about? What was it that came to life and became perfect in Paul, lifted his spirit and made Paul powerful, or, as we first read in Acts 5:41, the apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to accept dishonor for His name’s sake. It was something very real.
Peter says (1 Peter 4:14): “If they revile you for the name of Christ, then you are blessed, for the Spirit of Glory, the Spirit of God rests on you. ” This is truly experienced.
When Stephen was imprisoned, the Bible describes this event as follows: “All those sitting in the High Council looked closely at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”, Acts 6:15. The spirit of glory breathed into Stephen, he was strong in weakness, so filled that during the execution he prayed: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ”(Acts 7:60).
Suffering was the cause of joy for the disciples. But this is not always the case, and it was not before. Jeremiah complained to God about his sad fate (Jeremiah 20: 7). He says: “Every day they laugh at me, everyone mocks me.”
Who made fun of him? Especially those with whom he communicated; but also believers. There is an interesting quote in Lamentations: “I forgot what happiness is.” Perhaps Jeremiah thought that the prophet’s ministry was accompanied by respect or glory – who knows? But God corrected him. Thus, people today may have a misconception or understanding of Christianity and respect. People should respect the disciples, but we know that Christians are ridiculed, mocked and humiliated in the name of Christ. There are two approaches to this. Just like Jeremiah, or like Stephen, or Paul, or James. James believes that temptation, including suffering, is the cause of joy, James 1: 2. Why are we not happy? Why is suffering not considered to bring joy?
By looking at these experiences of suffering, one can see the unified character that passes through these described people. This is a good relationship with God. Through union with Christ, they were also united in suffering. But Christ not only suffered, but also experienced joy. He also received in his humanity the joy that we experience today when the Spirit of God descends and comforts a Christian in times of suffering.
The Spirit of God also descends on us, so that God’s closeness allows us not only to survive temptations, but also to rejoice. This is also true in the opposite sense. If we have a good relationship with God but no suffering, we may not have the special joy that comes with suffering.
Peter says that Christians can “rejoice in unspeakable, wonderful joy in trials of faith in Christ.” 1 Peter 1: 8.
Christians who have suffered greatly because of their faith have often experienced this supernatural joy that overwhelmed by them. “Alone in my cell,” wrote evangelist Richard Wurmbrand, “cold, hungry and in rags, I danced every night for joy. Sometimes I was so overwhelmed with joy that I felt that I was about to explode if I did not release it. “
Richard Wurmbrand was born on March 24, 1909 into a Jewish family. His father died when he was nine years old. Richard came to Romania at the age of 15. In 1955, the Soviets occupied Romania and established a communist regime and he was drafted into the army. When the government took control of the churches, he laid the undergroundwork for the ministry, which led to his arrest on February 29, 1948. His wife was arrested in 1950 and held for three years in a forced labor camp in the Danube Canal. Richard was released from prison in 1956 after eight years in prison, three of which he spent in solitary confinement. He was warned not to continue preaching, but he didn’t care. He was re-arrested in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, where he was constantly beaten and tortured. Finally, in 1964, he was amnestied. Public attention was drawn to his testimony in which he took off his shirt in a TV show and showed deep scars on his back and body as a result of torture, which he endured 18 times. He became known as the “voice of the underground church” who did a great job of promoting the persecution of Christians by communist countries. He expressed his vision that Marx was Satan in his book “Marx and satan.” It was later renamed Voice of Martyrs to help persecuted Christians elsewhere, especially in Islamic countries. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent a total of fourteen years in prison under the communist regime in Romania. He has written several books: “Alone With God: new Sermons from Solitary Confinement,” “With God In Solitary Confinement,” “Tortured for Crist,” “If That Where Christ, Would You Give Him Your Blanket” and others.
What a powerful testimony to the Christian faith, where nothing can separate us from God and His grace.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have discovered and experienced that Jesus truly gives the promised joy in all its fullness, and that no one can take that joy away from them.
Many Christians never experience the joy of suffering. They don’t think it’s possible because they don’t know it. They became convinced that suffering is no good. When they became Christians, they still thought that there was no joy in suffering.
If we have received only a small part of the suffering that Christ experienced, then the joy will be moderate. But now, when we are beaten, tortured and worse things happen then God adds joy. It is at this moment that we rejoice in all kinds of problems in the name of Christ. In an extreme situation, Stephen’s face brightened.
Suffering is a special event, and God adds a lot of joy, just as much as you need to endure. With small troubles there is less comfort, but joy increases as suffering increases, so the closeness of God and the joy in faith increase.
The more you suffer, the more God is with you, and God will not allow anyone to suffer more than he can bear. The one who endures more will be more happy so everything is balanced.
Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 11: 23-33 and also in 2 Corinthians 7: 4. What does he say? He admits that the more trouble he got, the more he was comforted. I quote: “I am bountifully joyful in each of our troubles.” Bountifully, that is, that he was more armed than he ever needed. The principle of God in organizing things is for everyone according to his needs and above his prayers.
Paul acknowledges (2 Corinthians 8: 2) that many of the trials they (the Macedonians) endured brought them an abundance of joy, and that their bottomless poverty became a genuine wealth of goodness.
Paul said that the power of Christ came upon him in weakness (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10), and therefore he rejoices in weakness, in violence, in troubles, persecution and torment for Christ’s sake, because when he was weak he was mighty … He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to rejoice and fearlessly experience all trials with overwhelming joy. The power and love of Christ casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Suffering in the name of Christ and joy are not opposites.
On the one hand, we can shout with great joy that in suffering the power of God increases and gives strength, God fills us with supernatural joy – God is always with us, but on the other hand, we can shout – our reward is great in heaven! This is heaven (Matthew 5:12). Here we are persecuted and suffer, perhaps much less than Christ, but Heaven is waiting with a worthy reward. It’s really big. Be very happy about it!