Lessons in Church Planting – Suffering will come
In Acts 17 when Paul was at Thessalonica, while there was a wonderful work of God’s grace in the hearts of many of the people, there was another reaction in others, namely opposition to the message Paul preached that resulted in suffering. The unbelieving Jews became jealous and filled with envy turned against the believers. They basically incited a riot and they ultimately had Jason and some of the others who were serving as host to Paul and Silas brought before the political officials accusing them of turning the world upside down. They alleged they were proclaiming that there is another God other than Caesar and this resulted in real suffering and Paul and Silas had to escape at night time to Berea. On arriving they began the same type of work there in the synagogue when the Jews from Thessalonica followed them to Berea and continued to stir up strife and dissention against them. There was real suffering. Every Church planter must take this into account. Opposition and suffering for the Lord’s sake is something we must be prepared to face. But what we must do when that happens is to remember the precious promise of Romans 8,
“We know that in all things God works for the good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
We see this worked out in numerous places in Scripture. One example is when Paul was in prison in Rome. The Philippian Church were deeply distressed about this but Paul was able to write to them that his imprisonment had turned out to the furtherance of the gospel. Paul was in deep affliction, but God was using that for the spread of his kingdom. God can make providential use of our suffering even to advance his purposes and so it is not a question of whether or not suffering will happen, but it is a question of what form it will take. The Scriptures tell us plainly that all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution; it is a part of the package (2 Timothy 3:12). Particularly when we are involved in front line evangelism and church planting work and pushing back the boundaries of darkness, we can expect to have much suffering.