“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalms 34:19-20).
Apostle Paul warns the Galatians’ church to guard against those who preach a different gospel. According to Paul, no one, be it the apostles or angels from heaven, has the authority to preach a different gospel from the one of our Lord Jesus Christ or to pervert. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Regrettably, it seems the Galatians’ men whom Paul charged the Galatians’ church to guard against for preaching a different gospel have resurfaced today particularly in the modern church, and Malawi is no exception. In their deliberate twisting of the scripture in order to achieve their hidden agenda, these modern “Galatians men” preach that the righteous or believers are immune to all forms of suffering, hardships, persecutions or trials since all suffering was nailed to the cross in Jesus death. To such “pervertors” of the Gospel, if the righteous experience any form of suffering or trials, then it is because of their lack of faith or their failure to walk a life worth their calling. Otherwise, it is impossible for the righteous to suffer, they argue.
Certainly, some forms of suffering the righteous or believers experience may be due to their disobedience of God’s word. In a letter addressed to believers, the elect or the righteous ones of God through faith in Christ Jesus(1 Peter 1:1-2), Apostle Peter attests to this notion by saying, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any kind of criminal, or even as a meddler…It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 4:15& 1 Peter 3:17). Peter here acknowledges that it is possible for the righteous to land themselves in an avoidable suffering due to their disobedience of God’s word- or not walking a life worth their calling as in the above given illustrations of murderer, thief, meddler or criminal.
However, the fact that some believers suffer hardships or persecutions because of their disobedience to God’s word does not warrant us to conclude that every believer who undergoes suffering is reaping the fruits of his or her disobedience to God’s voice. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ clearly shows us that it is possible for the righteous to suffer in the absence of sin. In such cases, the righteous suffer simply because of bearing the name of “followers of Christ” or “Christians”.
Our Lord Jesus Christ himself predicted this type of suffering by stating: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you in this way because of my name” (John 15:20-21). He, however, urged His followers to take heart for He had overcome the world (John 16:33). In his first epistle addressed to all believers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Apostle Peter also stresses that if believers are to suffer then it shouldn’t be because of doing evil or disobeying God’s word but rather because of bearing that title. He then urges them not to be ashamed whenever they suffer because of being Christians but instead they should praise God that they bear that name” (I Peter 4:16).
Such sentiments are echoed by James, the brother of the Lord, who urges believers to consider it pure joy whenever they face trials of many kinds because the testing of their faith would eventually produce perseverance so that they may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). While urging the young Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, Apostle Paul maintains “that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12; 2:3).
In all these above illustrations, we clearly see that the righteous are not immune to suffering, and that their anticipated suffering is not necessarily due to their disobedience of God’s word or their lack of faith in God but rather as a result of their new identity as followers of Christ or Christians. Nevertheless, the righteous enjoy God’s promises and privileges in all their difficult times. The LORD provides them a way of escape from their trials; answers them when they call to Him; and rewards them with long life (Psalms 91:14-16&Romans 8:35-39).
Most importantly, the LORD Almighty delivers them out of all their hardships, suffering or persecution. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34:19).