I know everyone is just waiting to hear about my pet peeves. So, unwilling to keep you in suspense any longer, here is one to whet your appetite for others that may (or may not) follow.
It really bugs me to sit in a Bible study and hear every verse about hardship, difficulty, etc turned into a political commentary on how tough it is here in the U.S. because food prices are going up, taxes are going up, this political leader doesn't do this and that political leader won't promise this and how, basically, it is all about us. I'm sorry, it just does.
When I read of Christians being crucified in Egypt, of believers in Nigeria being blown to bits while simply attending church, of Christ-followers in Syria coming out of situations that are so frightening they can't even talk about it, I think this is what Jesus was talking about when He admonished us through Hebrews 13:3 to remember the prisoners as if we were in prison with them, being ill-treated (tortured) right there with them since we are also still inhabiting our human tents of flesh as they are.
In other words, we should be able to identify with them and we should be praying for them. Almost every time I think to ask God to show me what is dear to His heart, He brings to mind the suffering church. Unfortunately, I don't think to ask Him that very often.... which is "shame on me" for being as insular in my thinking as anyone else, now that I think about it... =/
Suffering is relative and we all do it. No one (that I know of) gets off the planet without some suffering time. (As E.V. Hill used to tell his congregation, "If we don't get some suffering time in here on earth, when are we going to do it? We won't be able to do it in Heaven... So when are you going to suffer for the Lord?") Suffering for the Christian, like the non-Christian, is inevitable. For the Christian, however, it is not without purpose and can bring great rewards. But there are degrees of suffering and we here in the US have not hit the top of the persecution-o-meter when we realize a politician has lied to us (again...) and the cost of living is going up (again), etc.
So, still thinking randomly here and wandering all over the page - will there come a day when we'll be standing (hovering????) in a long line of sisters and brothers from different races, tongues and tribes, who will stand before the Lamb of God and hear, "Well done for being faithful, even unto death..." "Well done for carrying on even after burning oil was poured on your feet and still you carried the good news to others... well done." "Well done for refusing to renounce me through years of imprisonment.. Well done."
And will we hear those relatives of ours say, "It wasn't enough time to suffer for You, Jesus. I'd gladly do it again." "Lord, it was a privilege. The time in prison went by faster after You taught me to pray for my persecutors as well as for my brothers and sisters back in the West who are in bondage to luxury." "Lord, thanks for being with me in solitary confinement. When You released me back into the world, I missed our quiet days together, just You and I." "Lord, thanks for allowing hardship because that's when I realized I wasn't just shopping Christianity but I was living it." "Lord, thanks for giving me a platform from which to lead many people to You."
I'm not trying to minimize suffering here in the West; just sayin' that if you are in a Bible study group with me and we come across a verse about suffering hardships like a good soldier, please don't start moaning about the price of milk going up or gasoline going through the roof and/or about the crazy (insane, detrimental) things our government is doing. I don't like those things either and will moan right along with the best of you on those issues - promise! Just not in the context of verses about suffering for Jesus' sake.
By the way, if you have 10 minutes to spare, would you do something for me? Would you go to the website http://www.muslimjourneytohope.com/watch.asp and listen to testimony #32? The man speaks clearly even though he has a slight accent. If you don't recognize some of the religious terms he uses in the first minute of his talk, hang in there - you won't have any trouble with the rest of it. Plus he and the others on that website risked their lives to share their stories so you know what they have to say is valuable. I mean, who else are you going to listen to today (including me!) who can honestly say, "I just had to tell you about this awesome thing that Christ has done for me even if it kills me!!! Literally...."