Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet. 4:12)

CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN PERSECUTED since Pentecost. A spate of beheadings in the Middle East and violence aimed at churches here at home offer a grim reminder that the powers of darkness hate the body of Christ, and will use any agenda—political or otherwise—in an attempt to discourage and demoralize the flock. However, that goal has been unfulfilled as Christians continue to profess their faith in the face of threats and gather publicly in the wake of shootings and arsons

“This territory belongs to God,” one pastor declared to the congregation that had gathered inside a room where bullet holes marked the walls. “Bible study will continue, but because of what happened, we will never be the same.”

The apostle Peter told us that one of the purposes of fiery ordeals is to test us. The surviving believers in Iraq, in Charleston, South Carolina, and elsewhere have passed that test by grieving, forgiving, and looking to God together. We are not to be surprised when these types of horrible things happen because Jesus was clear about our expectations in this regard. If the world hates Him, they’re going to hate anyone who identifies with Him.

So don’t be surprised if you suffer for the sake of Jesus. No matter what happens, God will always use the circumstances to make you more like Christ.

Keep your expectations in line with Jesus’ teaching.

Doug Schmidt is a freelance writer and editor, and serves on the staff of his church as the director of small groups.