When thinking about what you want out of the new year, what comes to mind? Peace, love, prosperity? Success? Something along those lines, I’m sure. But what about a hard year? Is that at the top of your list? I think maybe it should be.
You see, 2015 turned out to be a pretty hard year for me, and at times I didn’t really understand why. I lost friendships, was hurt by those closest to me, was disappointed by those I held in high esteem, and was rejected by those I love. Month after month, I continued feeling heartbreak. And sometimes, I wanted to know why. But looking back, as we often do this time of year, I realized exactly why. I’d been trying to have a holy year.
Paul told Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Persecution doesn’t come to those who are living on the fence. Persecution doesn’t come to those who are concerned with being politically correct. Persecution comes to those who are doing their best to live a godly life; to live life on God’s terms. And why would that bring persecution? Because God’s terms aren’t politically correct. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and they disrupt this sinful world we’re apart of. They make people uncomfortable and even hostile. And so, if you want to have a hard year, live a holy life. Dedicate however much of 2016 you will be blessed to see to the Lord. Be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). Deny self and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). When you do, though, you need to be prepared. Because living a life for Christ doesn’t mean a life of peace. It means inviting persecution into your life from all sides. From family, from friends, from neighbors, from strangers. Living a life dedicated to God’s will and word means inviting hatred and disdain into your life.
But while all of that seems hard to swallow, it is worth it. Nothing we can ever go through in this life — even if our very lives are taken from us — compares with what Christ went through so that we could be His. No amount of persecution compares to His suffering in the Garden and at Golgotha. Nothing compares to our Savior leaving heaven — and the very presence of God the Father — and coming to this earth to live in the form of the ones He created…to be rejected by the very ones He created.
We should consider it a great honor to suffer for our Savior. We should be excited that we can glorify God in this way (1 Peter 4:16). We shouldn’t shy away from it. We shouldn’t try to avoid hard conversations or actions. We should, absolutely, seek to be Biblical peacemakers. But being a peacemaker doesn’t mean sweeping sin under the rug. Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean refusing to rebuke or call the wayward to repentance. We can’t extend peace in ways God doesn’t, and God isn’t at peace with sin. And so, we call sin sin. We pray fervently for those caught in its grip. We encourage. We exhort. We rebuke. We seek. And we don’t shy away. Because Christ suffered and died for these people. Our Savior and Creator was ruthlessly murdered for them. We cannot let them continue crucifying Him afresh. Not without warning. Not without extending help. And when that warning means disrupting our peace and happiness, so be it. Jesus is worth it. He is worth anything and everything we could ever give.
So if you want to have a faithful, pleasing 2016, pray for a hard year. Pray that you can be used to help bring others to Christ. If you are striving to live faithfully, to live godly, then you will suffer persecution. And that’s ok. More than ok. It’s exactly what God wants for you. To be made strong in trials. To be steadfast and overcome the evil one.
I pray that we can all have a hard new year. A holy new year. A year pleasing to our God. Ultimately, that’s all that matters, right? And praise be to Him that He has given us the church so that we can have brothers and sisters to lean on when years are hard and Satan is strong. God is so good to us. May we spend 2016 in faithful service to Him.