Last Thursday, there was a news report regarding the “killing of a Christian couple who were beaten and pushed into a burning kiln in eastern Pakistan.”(http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/06/world/asia/pakistan-couple-slain/index.html). The following day, CNN reported such comments as: “It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years. . .” Yet another report says: “(Christianity) remains the most persecuted faith in the world.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/05/world/europe/uk-prince-charlesreligion/index.html).
Upon reading such reports of unrelenting persecutions and killings of Christians around the world, my mind was filled with the words of Paul in Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
His Love Makes Persecuted Christians Conquerors
Indeed, Christians are conquerors. In fact, v.37 declares that Christians are “more than conquerors”. This is truly a comforting message to Christians, for they live in a hostile world. Though they would face extreme hostilities, their faith shall not be quenched because the Word of God assures them that they shall be “more than conquerors”!
Paul has in vv.35-36 written about the steadfastness of God’s love for believers in the face of hostility: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”. Yet, Christians will be enabled to overcome sin, Satan, the world, temptations, reproaches, afflictions, persecutions, and thereby continue in their faith. The devil will trouble their souls with temptations and trials. Many Christians will suffer great afflictions. But they shall abide in their faith, love and service through thick and thin. In fact, they shall be “more than conquerors”.
Just what did the apostle mean when he referred to Christians as “more than conquerors”? He meant that they are winning a sweeping, overwhelming victory. The emphasis made here by the apostle is that in the midst of all the myriads of hostile experiences – yes, even by means of them and with their “help” – Christians shall show that they are more than conquerors!
They overcome their innumerable troubles, not by their own strength, but through the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them. The ability to triumph over all adversity does not arise from any inherent superiority of believers, but rather, by the might of their loving Saviour, they will overcome their adversities. His love for them is the pledge of His help for them to be great overcomers.
Christ’s steadfast love will strengthen and enable us to endure affliction. Special favour of His love will strengthen us. We shall overcome all our afflictions, not by our natural powers, but by the special blessings of our Saviour’s love.
His Power Empowers His Afflicted
Yet another familiar verse comes to my mind that encourages every afflicted Christian: “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).
Paul was buffeted by the messenger of Satan and afflicted with what he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh”. The Lord, who found it necessary that the trouble should remain in Paul’s life, assured him of His grace which was sufficient to strengthen and equip him to serve the Lord effectively. The Lord’s assurance that His grace was sufficient to support and strengthen Paul in his trial, made
him a happy minister of the Gospel. So he joyfully confessed, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Because of the glorious promise of the Lord’s sufficient and strengthening grace, Paul refused to be perturbed by his trial. Instead of being preoccupied with the trial, he committed himself to delight in the grace of the Lord that was made available to him. He was in effect saying, “I count it my joy to be afflicted, if my trial will be the means to know the power of my great Redeemer.” Paul rejoiced that his weakness became the vehicle by which the Lord’s grace and power were most fully manifested to himself and to others. When the devil inflicted him with weakness and pain, the Lord “perfected his strength” in the midst of his weakness. It seems that Paul was saying that his weakness plus Christ’s power equals perfect power. Paul was not relying on his own strength, for he was full of weakness. He was most powerful when he was least reliant on his own resources and most reliant on the Lord’s grace and power.
Self-reliance, which is the result of pride, is detrimental to our spiritual joy. So it is to prevent the possibility of pride in Paul that the Lord permitted his trial. We should not, therefore, be bitter when afflictions are permitted in our lives. Only when we are totally emptied of ourselves, will our strength be perfected with Christ’s glorious power. Very often, the continuing weakness in Christians is necessary so that they might not confuse the power of God with their own power, and lose God’s power by attempting to rely on themselves.
Like Paul, in order that you may be vessels of Christ’s glorious power, be glad to suffer the trials He would permit. If you are in the midst of trials, rejoice that His power shall rest (pitch a tent) in you. His power will keep your faith intact, and let you magnify Him against Satan’s evil devices.