As God works in me to conform me to the image of his Son, the words prophetically describing Jesus in Isaiah 50:4–7 always both encourage and challenge me:
The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient
Nor did I turn back.
I gave My back to those who strike Me,
And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
For the Lord God helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
This passage describing the wisdom, beauty, and strength of Jesus encapsulates who I want to be as I engage people in the culture today and reminds me why I’m able to continue: “For the Lord God helps me.”
As Christians, we are hated by many, misrepresented, and slandered, but we continue to obediently listen and submit to God’s revealed words in the Bible and to encourage his weary disciples with the truths we’ve learned—without reviling in return and without turning back—for three great reasons.
First, Jesus is our model, and when we reflect him to the world in our response to those who oppose us, we honor him and reveal his grace to others. Sustaining the weary ones with our words, being obedient to God, not responding in kind to those who strike us, and persevering through humiliation all reveal the character of Jesus and our trust in God. When people see that we take Jesus seriously—when our lives demonstrate that we truly believe him to be real, praiseworthy and trustworthy—they take our claims about him more seriously.
Second, as I noted earlier, God helps us. We continue because we trust that God will give us the strength we need to be faithful to him. We need not fear any possible situation before us. We need not give up. The knowledge that God will sustain us in every situation enables us to press on (Phil 4:11–13).
Third, and this may be the most encouraging of all (the entire book of Revelation is devoted to this point), we know that, in the end, we will not be disgraced or ashamed; we will be vindicated. The truth will be known by all—not just the truth about us, but more importantly, the truth about God. He is the one who’s on “the right side of history,” and those who follow him will share in the celebration of his triumph.
Here’s what God said to his people a chapter later, in Isaiah 51:7–8:
Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings.
“For the moth will eat them like a garment,
And the grub will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation to all generations.
Ultimately, those who suffer now for following God will enjoy salvation forever, while those who are applauded now will suffer the consequences of doing wrong forever. We either suffer the reproach of man now or the reproach of God later (a point Peter makes in 1 Peter 3:8–4:19). Those are the two options, and we must choose. As Peter exhorts us:
To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Pet. 4:13)