Footsteps to Perfection
Here’s some harsh and hard, but indisputable truths. First, the culture war is over; we have lost; and our culture is becoming an ever-deepening cesspool. Second, our corrupt political system is irredeemable. The only solution for it is the revolutionary replacement of it, but there’s hardly a revolutionary to be found among us. Instead, the American people continue to elect cookie-cutter candidates who are stedfast sentinels of the status quo. This, in and of itself, according to Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results—is proof positive that our country has lost its cotton-pickin’ mind.
In spite of these unnerving and undeniable realities, America’s contemporary Christians continue to punch themselves out punching ballots in the ring of political activism, as though shadow-boxing at polling places is what Paul meant by fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Impervious to the uselessness of attempting to change a totally corrupt political system by one’s participation within it, America’s evangelicals keep finding themselves furthering political careers and the fortunes of political parties rather than the future of our country and the cause of Christ. What will it ever take to persuade today’s evangelicals to finally pitch their ballots and to bow their heads in prayer? Truly, the only constructive thing we can do in today’s decadent, insane, and politically corrupt America is to get on our knees in our prayer closets and prayer meetings, not in line at our polling places.
Along with wasting time and energy in the futility of political activism, many modern-day evangelicals are also hoodwinked into believing that they’ve been promised immunity from all end-time calamity. They are smugly sitting around expectantly waiting to be secretly snatched out of an end-time world, possessed with the spirit of antichrist, before the first prick of Biblically predicted persecution is felt. Yet, much to the chagrin of many contemporary Christians, what the Bible really teaches is that the church will suffer through end-time persecution, not be safely and secretly snatched out of it. In fact, the Bible teaches that it will be the impending and unprecedented persecution of the end times that will purge, purify, and prepare the church, the bride of Christ, for her Bridegroom’s Coming.
Far from teaching us that God safeguards us from common everyday suffering and will spare us from coming end-time suffering, Scripture actually assures us of both. Furthermore, Scripture teaches us that suffering is not only instrumental in our consecration and sanctification, but also preparatory to our glorification. Now we know why:
1. The Psalmist said it was good for him to have been afflicted (Psalm 119:71)
2. The Apostle Paul took pleasure in his persecution and infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:10)
3. The Apostle James taught us to count all trials as joys (James 1:2)
4. The Apostle Peter exhorted us to rejoice in every fiery ordeal as an opportunity to partake of Christ’s
sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-13)
5. And our Lord Himself told us to be happy and rejoice when we’re harassed and reviled (Matthew 5:11-
Although it is foreign to the ears, inconceivable to the minds, and beyond imagination to the hearts of most churchgoers today, the Bible teaches that problems, perils, and persecutions are all part of God’s plan to perfect His people in preparation for the consummation of their salvation. For instance, consider the following.
When they [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:21-22 ESV)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18 ESV)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV)
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 KJV)
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10 ESV)
As these verses prove, as well as a host of others, it is in the crucible of suffering that God perfects His saints and prepares them for glory. No greater proof text of this tremendous, but troubling truth, can be found in all of Scripture than Hebrews 2:10. Here, we are taught that Christ Himself, the author and founder of our salvation, was gloriously perfected through His own suffering, in order to lead all He saves to glorious perfection through their suffering. By answering God the Father’s call to suffer for our salvation, Christ, God the Son, has become, as the Apostle Peter teaches, the perfect example of procuring perfection through pain and suffering (1 Peter 2:21). Far from looking to be safeguarded from everyday suffering and spared from end-time suffering, the Apostle Peter teaches us to faithfully follow in the steps of Christ, who suffered for us, in our suffering for Him. Hereby, our perfect salvation, procured by Christ’s suffering for us, is perfected in us by our suffering for Him!