Afflicted Disciples

Our natural tendency is to avoid conflict. Understandably, we prefer lives characterized by peace, acceptance, prosperity, and devoid of difficulties and afflictions. The New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Nevertheless, it also teaches us to expect trials and persecution in this life because of our testimony before the world.

Jesus confirmed that in this world his disciples would have “tribulation,” but they could be of good cheer, “for I have overcome the world.” Indeed, he exhorted them to rejoice whenever they were accounted worthy to suffer for his sake, a radically different message. Rejoicing in suffering contradicts human “wisdom,” experience, and nature - (John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Mountain Storm - Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
[Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash]

His disciples are reassured of victory because Jesus “
overcame” the world. He is the pioneer who blazed the trail for his people. Similarly, in the Book of Revelation, the Risen Son of Man exhorted the “Assemblies of Asia” to “overcome, just as I overcame.” He did so through perseverance in suffering and death, and thus he qualified to reign on his Father’s Throne – (Revelation 3:21).

The English noun translated as “tribulation” represents the Greek term thlipsis, the same word used for the “Great Tribulation” in Revelation. It referred to pressure, a “pressing together,” hence it denoted the sense of “affliction, tribulation” - (John 16:33, Matthew 24:21, Revelation 1:8-9, 7:9-17).

His followers must expect resistance to the Gospel. “You will be hated by all men for my name's sake: but he that endures to the end will be saved.” However, suffering for his sake is a “blessing… for great is your reward in heaven” - (Matthew 5:11-12, 10:22, 24:4-9).

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul praised the young congregation because its members “became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in many tribulations [thlipsis], and with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” so much so, they became “examples” to the assemblies in “Macedonia and Achaia.”

In his praise, Paul included the same paradox found in the words of Jesus – joy in tribulation. Likewise, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, he boasted of the congregation’s steadfastness as its members endured faithfully through “all their persecutions and tribulations”- (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, 2 Thessalonians 1:4).


Paul praised the Thessalonians for remaining faithful in tribulation, and he expanded on this idea in his Letter:

  • We were well-pleased to be left in Athens alone; and sent Timothythat he might confirm and console you over your faith, that no one might be shrinking back in these TRIBULATIONS [thlipsis]. For you yourselves know that FOR THIS WE ARE APPOINTED. For even when we were with you, we told you beforehand, we are going to suffer TRIBULATION [thlibô] - (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16, 3:1-3).

His words assume that suffering for the Gospel is an expected experience. The clause “suffer tribulation” translates the Greek verb related to the noun thlipsis or “tribulation,” namely, thlibô.

The followers of Jesus are appointed to this very thing just as he foretold them - Rewards and compensation in this and the next life, but also persecution and affliction - (Mark 10:29-30).

How should we react when afflictions and tribulations come? Paul encouraged his congregations to rejoice in suffering. We are to “exult in our tribulations because they bring about endurance, and our endurance a testing, and our testing hope.” God “comforts us in every tribulation, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any tribulation.” Tribulations “prepare us for an everlasting weight of glory beyond all comparison” - (Romans 8:35-39, 12:12, 2 Corinthians 1:4, 4:17).

Similarly, Peter declared it thankworthy to suffer for our “conscience towards God.” There is no glory if one suffers for sin, but if a man suffers patiently for the Gospel and righteous conduct it is praiseworthy.

His disciples “have been called for this” very thing. To suffer persecution for the Gospel is to “follow in the footsteps” of the same Jesus who “left us an example” in his self-sacrificial death. The disciple who is found worthy to “suffer for righteousness” is blessed, and this is “according to the will of God” - (1 Peter 2:19-23, 3:14-18, 4:15-19).

Stormy Road Ahead - Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash
[Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash]

We must emulate him in our conduct toward our persecutors, especially by showing mercy and praying for them. In this way, we become “
perfect” or “complete” like his Father in Heaven, the same merciful God who sends his rain “on the just and the unjust” - (Matthew 5:44-48).

Tribulation” is integral to following the “Lamb wherever he goes.” Suffering for his sake is not punishment or aberration, but grounds for rejoicing. Being found “worthy” to suffer for his Kingdom is the greatest “blessing” and honor any disciple can receive.

Thus, we should not be surprised by the “fiery trial” that comes upon us, especially when we suffer for our testimony. Enduring persecution for Jesus is part and parcel of what it means to take up the Cross and follow him.  After all, as Paul declared, All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

  • The Cost of Discipleship - (To become a disciple one must be willing to follow the same path that Jesus did even if doing so leads to the disciple’s death)
  • Imitating Jesus - (Christ's willing submission to death on the Roman cross set the pattern for his followers, both for their conduct and attitude)



Ekklésia - Assembly of God

Going on to Perfection