Both are promised us: "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye may have peace," said Jesus. (John 16:33.) Do you have any tribulation? Yes? Then make sure that it does not arise from natural causes. Possibly you are being paid back in your own coin—possibly you deserve the tribulation which you receive. If so, be diligent to repent and reform. Let none of you suffer as an evil doer; yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you FALSELY, for my sake," said Jesus. "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." So then, if we suffer for the cause of Christ and His word, we should thank God and take courage, and remember that by the sharing in His sufferings, our future reward is secured. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him, said Paul.
Sufferings in the present time, for the truth's sake, we are to reckon a part of our wages, and all who think they are running for the heavenly prize of our high calling, should look for these wages as a proof that they are so running as to obtain that prize. (1 Cor. 9:24.) Do you experience but little or none of the sufferings of Christ now? Do you begin to count the time of suffering over, and are you building your hopes on the fact that in times past you suffered a little for Christ's sake? That is a serious mistake; it is one of the devices of your adversary to put to sleep the saints of God, saying peace, peace, while we are yet in the enemy's country. It is the fatal error with which he has lulled the nominal church to sleep, from whose condition we have just escaped. Jesus and Paul ran and suffered to the very end of the race, and Jesus said that the disciple or follower is not above his Lord and teacher; that if they called the master the prince of devils, they would call the disciples devils. "Whosoever will live Godly shall suffer."
Then, beloved, if you do not suffer you have good cause for fear that you are not living up to your covenant—that you are not confessing Him and His word before men by word or act as you should do. If this is the case you are not overcoming the world, but are being overcome and silenced by the world. Of such, Jesus said: He that is ashamed of me and my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him will I be ashamed before my Father and before the holy angels. The present generation (church) is adulterous in that it is mixed up with and united to the world, while claiming to be betrothed to Christ. Under such circumstances it requires grace and strength to rebuke the Harlot mother or daughters, and to declare boldly for the true Bridegroom's rights and his words. But all who are thus ashamed of Him cannot be a part of His Bride. He is not ashamed of her. Yes, if faithful, you may expect it. "In the world ye shall have tribulation"; and you may expect it to come as it has always done—through the world's church—the nominal systems. Thus Jesus and the apostles and the early reformers all found it, and thus some of us find it to-day.
But it is not tribulation only, which we are to get, though that is all we expect of the world. No, Jesus says, in him we may have peace. We may have both the tribulation and the peace at the same time. We get a peace which so overbalances the tribulations, that we may say, we reckon the present afflictions and scorns of the world as light indeed, when weighed with the hopes of coming glory on which our peace is builded.
Do any of the faithful in tribulation for Christ's sake yet lack the peace? It is because you lack faith to lay hold of the promises—the exceeding great and precious promises made to those who take up their cross and follow in His footsteps—suffering with him. To such we would say:
"Soul, then know thy full salvation;
Rise o'er sin, and fear and care;
Joy to find in every station
Something still to do or bear.
Think what spirit dwells within thee;
Think what Father's smiles are thine;
Think that Jesus died to win thee;
Child of Heaven, cans't thou repine?"
But if you have peace without the suffering, while all men speak well of you, BEWARE! That is the peace of a sleep in which one dreams that he is filled and crowned and awakes to find himself empty. That is the peace of a dead calm on the ocean:
Unless you get your vessel into the winds, and be tossed about on a tempestuous sea, you may never reach the port for which you set out. Hence we say to some, Beware! to other, Take courage! and to all we repeat the words of Jesus: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."