1 Peter 2:23 "While being reviled, He [Jesus] did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;"
THE PUNCHING BAG
Professional boxers spend years everyday hitting a punching bag. All that bag does is absorb punches. It's made to take a hit - thousands upon thousands of hits without ever hitting back even once! I remember some years ago the Lord encouraged me during a time where I was experiencing unusual persecution from others. The Lord gave me a word which really lifted me up: He said to me, "Be the punching bag." In other words, "Let others hit you, and you stay quiet - absorb the blows without returning evil for evil; and this will be beautiful to Me." The word in the midst of that experience changed my life, and it showed me an aspect of the beauty of Jesus that I'd never seen to that depth before.
"Be the punching bag" - In other words - if we are experiencing persecution, receive the blows as our Lord did - hit after hit, blow after blow (just like a punching bag) without reviling in return, and then we can praise God that we have the privilege of partaking in Christ's suffering because He was a punching bag for us first (verse 24).
WINNING AN ARGUMENT, LOSING A LOVED ONE
When we are in an argument with someone, it’s tempting while they are speaking harshly with us to start preparing (in our mind) so we can 'hit back' very hard with harsh words of our own after they're done speaking. "I will fire back and put them in their place, so they will be ashamed and have no response." It's like we're standing there slowly loading our gun of harsh words, one at a time like bullets into the barrel, and then when they stop speaking it’s our turn to fire away! Attitudes like this may win arguments, but they lose relationships. A brother like this may win an argument, but will lose a brother. A husband like this may win all the arguments, but will lose his wife.
This is what the world does, not a child of God. People who act like this are acting very similar to demons - they want to see other people hurt. No being in heaven wants to see someone hurt, never did an angel want to see someone hurt. But man can go to a level lower than even an animal. An animal kills another animal to get food. But demons exist to get pleasure out of pulling down people, they want to drag men to Hell with them where they themselves are going. And when we aim to pierce someone with harsh words and we are trying to tear them down in return, we are doing the same thing as the demons!
"Blessed are the peacemakers, they are the sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
Jesus was once with His disciples, who (after having people reject their ministry) asked the Lord, "Do you want us to call down fire on them to destroy them?! (Luke 9:54)" Our Lord replied, "You have no idea what kind of spirit you're of (v 55)." It definitely wasn't God's Spirit that they were in fellowship with at that moment. Children of God are like punching bags - they are willing to continually take hits (insults and rejection) and remain quiet without retaliating for the sake of peace.
THE MIGHTIEST PEOPLE ON EARTH
Proverbs 16:32 "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city."
A punching bag may look weak (receiving hit after hit), but it's actually very strong. It has to be in order to receive thousands of hits and remain unharmed. Someone who rules their inner spirit, their anger, and their tongue is very, very strong - mightier than every mighty man on earth! Very few people on earth are a king of a country, or are able to say that they’ve traveled to space, or that they are billionaires, for example. These belong to a very select group of people; some rare ones on earth. But there’s another very select and rare group, much greater than these - and that’s those who can rule their spirit. And they are greater than any select group of mighty men on earth! Samson could kill 1000 people, but what use was that when he couldn't rule the lusts within himself? His inner weakness was his end. One overcomer in Christ is greater than 1000 Samsons. There are many types of trials in life, but usually the most intense and the hardest involve other people who are sinning against us. I want to be in the rare group of people who by God's power can rule over my inner spirit in the midsts of these most difficult trials, and have complete control of my tongue and the fiery anger which most in the world are slaves to their whole life.
DON'T LOSE THE JOY
There's something better than freedom from anger in the midst of persecution, though. Emptiness of evil is good, but fullness of the Lord is better! In addition to freedom from inner turmoil, we also want to be filled with joy and peace, praising the Lord in our spirit, even in the midst of persecution. Psalm 37:1 says, "Do not fret because of evil doers" and then it goes on to say "Delight yourself in the Lord" (v4). Is someone doing a lot of evil towards you? Don’t fret! And then additionally, be totally careful not to lose the joy of the Lord no matter what. We lose the joy of the Lord so easily and too easily put up with it. Sometimes in really hard trials I've experienced, that’s what the Lord has spoken to me: "Right now it's critical: don’t lose the joy of the Lord. This is how you can stand." We often take the command so flippantly to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), and so easily let somebody else steal our joy. We have to fight for it. The Bible says we have to "Be diligent to enter God's rest" (Hebrews 4:11).
Joy and peace don't come by coincidence. We don’t get joy and rest in the Christian life by keeping a laid-back attitude, we have to diligently fight just like the Israelites did to enter into rest. The moment we decide to sit down and "wait it out" - wait for the trial to pass, wait for the joy to come.. then we've already lost the battle. We have to actively fight the enemies of sin inside ourselves and discouragement and guilt and whatever else is defeating us. How do we do that? It's not to bury ourselves in a bucket of ice cream, or distract ourselves with entertainment, or listen to nice emotional music like King Saul - these false comforts only makes things worse in the long run. Our sword in this fight is God’s Word, and His promises (Ephesians 6:17, 2 Pet 1:3-4). Is somebody at work angry with you? Well God is not! (Romans 5:9). Is somebody frowning at you? Well God is not, He's dancing over you! (Zephaniah 3:17). Is somebody threatening you? Well God is not! He has promised you a future and a hope! (Jeremiah 29:11). Is somebody not talking to you? Well God is! He said cry out to me in the day of trouble and I will answer you! (Psalm 50:15, Psalm 91:15). There's an answer in God's Word for every single attack on our joy and rest in the Lord, and every temptation to despair or take revenge in anger.
Another last thing is: don’t expect people to treat you right. We set ourselves up for failure if we place expectations on people.
Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in man.”
A man who can’t be happy unless people are acting how he wants or doing what he wants them to do is a man that will never have joy.
This is why the Bible doesn’t just say “Rejoice always”, it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” It has to be IN THE LORD alone, not when other people are treating us right.
We should be assuming people will treat us wrongly, sin toward us, neglect us, and be inconsiderate. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said, "Do people treat a servant any better than their master? If they persecuted Me, they'll persecute you. (John 15:20)" I used to think this verse applied just to persecution for our faith in Jesus, but I believe we can apply it to regular living too (such as a very mean manager at work, or someone intentionally left work for you to do which they should have done, or a selfish driver on the road, or your relatives are sternly criticizing you because of how you are raising your kids) - because Satan is often trying to persecute us through other people to get us to sin. He desires with all his might to make us sin, and he will use any means necessary (including other people) to do it. And if we repay evil with evil - then the devil has been doubly rewarded! Not only did he succeed in causing this other person to do evil, but he succeeded in causing us to do evil! This has been a great motivator to me to repay evil with good - to remember WHO exactly is behind the persecution. If we repay evil for evil, we are actually rewarding Satan for persecuting us. When I saw that I said, "Wow! That's terrible. I never want to repay evil for evil ever again." So we will do well to think of it as a bonus if somebody treats us right, but not to expect it. Instead - BE the punching bag - absorb the blows with all humility, saying "I am nothing, so I deserve nothing and I will expect nothing from anyone else - may You receive glory, Lord, from me remaining quiet. May you see this as beautiful. May it be a sweet smelling aroma to You."