Pearls from Pain

God has a way of making something painful into something precious, even for the lowly oyster. When this simple shellfish experiences pain and discomfort from a foreign grain of sand within its shell, it begins to secrete a substance to coat the minute, prickly particle. Layer after layer surrounds the grain of sand until all its sharp edges are smoothed over. What was once painful for the oyster is transformed into a lustrous pearl, a precious, valuable jewel.
As a harmful grain of sand results in a gleaming pearl, so the pain of persecution produces benefits in a Christian. It is a known fact that in countries where believers in Christ are persecuted for their faith, their numbers are increasing rapidly. Outward oppression causes people to look for hope in the inner spiritual realm, and no other belief system fulfills hope like the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who are persecuted for their faith are equipped to deal with suffering by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:1-5, the apostle Paul lists seven major blessings that every believer possesses through faith in Christ. These blessings surround the believer with increasing layers of protection against despair in persecution.
The first blessing is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Outer persecution cannot touch the spiritual peace resulting from a right standing with God. Through the work of Christ the soul is brought to rest close to God’s heart, no longer an enemy but a friend. War may be raging on the outside, however the inner man is at peace with God in his spirit.
Access into a standing of grace, is a blessed position of favor with God. Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible for believers with a low standing in this world to have a preferred status before God, not because of their own merits, but by His grace. Persecuted believers can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. They know their present troubled circumstances will someday give way to joyful perfection with God in eternal glory.
 Rejoicing in suffering is a blessing which baffles those who persecute believers. It is one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith that joy can coexist with affliction. Joy is present because a believer knows his suffering is not meaningless when God’s purpose is to produce character in him.
Godly character is a beneficial by-product of suffering. Like the layers surrounding a sand particle inside a pearl, God uses affliction to develop strengthening traits to help a believer stand in the face of persecution. Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  With each layer a persecuted believer gains confidence that having begun a good work in him, God will see it through to completion.(Phil. 1:6)
The culmination of these blessings is the assurance of a hope which will not disappoint. Rather than unfounded optimism, the believer’s hope is the rock solid assurance of his future destiny with God. Those who suffer persecution stand strong on this assurance because the Holy Spirit affirms God’s love in their hearts. Persecution, even to the point of martyrdom, cannot destroy the hope of the believer. Like a string of  pearls, believers strengthened through persecution are God’s precious jewels.

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