My daily Bible reading early this week was Matthew 16:21-28, the passage where Peter rebukes Jesus, telling Him, essentially, No, You're not going to die. Jesus responds with, "Get behind me, satan!"
Peter didn't want Jesus to suffer and die. He thought that wasn't right, wasn't fair, and shouldn't happen. The literal translation of verse 22 is, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall never be to You!"
It occurs to me that this is the attitude of many of us Americans toward the persecution and suffering of missionaries, and of Christians in general. We say:
"They don't deserve that!"
"If they're suffering so much, they must not be in God's will."
"They should get out of there and not put themselves in danger."
But Jesus has a rebuttal to Peter's well-intended plea: "You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but of man" (v. 22). Then He goes on to say that if we desire to truly follow Him, we are required to lay down our lives and our own interests -- to "die daily," as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:31. And not just say we're willing to...but actually do it when called.
Yesterday I read a passage in Acts 21 that echoed this same subject -- "When we heard [that Paul would be persecuted], we...began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am willing, not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, 'The will of the Lord be done.'" (v.12-14)
For Christians today, it might not always look like being nailed to a cross or burned at the stake or thrown in prison. Sometimes it looks like moving far from home, giving up worldly comforts, or enduring ridicule. But in truly following Jesus, some degree of sacrifice, and even persecution, will come. We will be required to lay down our life in some way -- "for the name of the Lord Jesus." And others will say it's not worth it...but it is. Following Him always is.