Jesus said to his disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18, 19).
Since the foundation of the world, wicked men have hated and sought to kill the righteous. Cain murdered his brother Able because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous; thus, we should not marvel that the world hates us today (1 John 3:12, 13). Joseph’s brothers hated him because of the partiality their father showed him and because of his dreams (Genesis 37:3-8). When Jehoshaphat refused to believe the counsel of the roughly 400 court prophets who said that Ahab would be successful in battle at Ramothgilead, he asked for a prophet of the Lord (1 Kings 22:6, 7). Ahab knew of one, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but Ahab hated him because he prophesied evil concerning him (1 Kings 22:8). Ahab hated Micaiah because he told the truth when others would not. It was not a defect in Micaiah but rather in Ahab’s character that Ahab was continually setting himself against the Lord’s will. Similarly, both Ahab and Jezebel hated the prophet Elijah and sought to kill him because he stood for truth (1 Kings 19:2). When he warned against joining the ranks of sinners, Solomon mentioned those who would lay in wait to kill the innocent (Proverbs 1:10).
The devil seeks to discourage us from living faithful lives. It is true that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). We are not alone in suffering. We must continue to resist being overcome by the evil in the world, knowing our brethren throughout the world suffer tremendous afflictions for the cause of Christ (1 Peter 5:9; cf. Romans 12:21). So let us not give up the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Remember when the world hates you that, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Suffering in itself is not virtuous, but suffering for the cause of Christ is. There are many who suffer for the crimes they have chosen to commit. If Christians suffer for following their Lord, then they are blessed. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:15, 16). Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11, 12). How difficult it is to follow the example of the apostles and rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:41). Let us not shrink back from our allegiance to Christ. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be delivered from the evil of the world (John 17:15). He taught us to do the same (Luke 11:4). But whatever happens, let us live in such a way that we can truly say as Paul did, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).