Most of us like to think that we are people upon which others can depend. Even when we fail to meet our obligations, we are more likely to justify our behavior with excuses and explanations than we are to acknowledge the fact that we may not be as trustworthy as we like to think. We’re worthy of other people’s trust, we think, and they can count on us in good times and bad.
In the Scripture, we find that the disciples rejoiced in another type of faithfulness. Acts 5 tells us that they were glad “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Christ (Acts 5:41). In another words, they thought it was a privilege that God considered them worthy of contending with persecution, because they knew that as they suffered well, that they would be representing Jesus. Just like our Savior was a “Man of Sorrows” who was afflicted and condemned by this world, so the disciples were honored when they suffered the same way.
It’s a different paradigm than most of us are naturally inclined towards. We want to avoid suffering, and when we are faced with pain, we are more likely to ask “Why?” than we are to celebrate. Yet the disciples teach us by their response that those who suffer for God’s sake should be honored; it is a testament to their faithfulness and their love for Christ if they suffer well.
We would do well to recognize that all suffering isn’t persecution (we may also experience pain as the consequence to our sin, and some pain happens because of the fallen nature of our world). The distinguishing characteristic of persecution is whether we are suffering because of and for Christ. When we do experience such pain, we, like the disciples, should rejoice that we are counted worthy to represent Christ well even in difficult and unjust circumstances.