There is so much talk of persecution these days, and
since this Sunday, Nov 6th, is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted
Church (IDOP), I thought I would give y’all a few of my thoughts on this
topic. As I usually do, I try to keep
these short, but, oh well, y’all know me.
Those of us who are believers are often ridiculed by
fellow employees, friends, neighbors, or even family members when we talk about
Christ. Whenever that happens, we usually respond by getting defensive or try
to hide our Christianity. However, we read in the Bible that the Apostles, and
the early church, didn’t mind suffering for Christ. In fact, they actually
rejoiced that they were worthy of receiving affliction for Christ’s sake!
Jesus stated in Luke 21:12, “But before all this,
they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to
synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and
all on account of my name.”
And then the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that,
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be
First, what does it mean to be “persecuted?” From the Greek: dioko, “pursue, run after,
drive away” In the Septuagint, it is used to mean “pursuit by anyone whose
intentions are hostile.” It can include
anything from ridicule, being shunned, even the threat of physical persecution
for the cause of Christ. All because you
expressed your faith in Jesus.
As a Christian you were promised many things, and one of
these was persecution. Sadly, it’s not going to get any better. These are the
last days, and the Bible tells us that we will be hated because of Jesus.
Are you stressed because you’ve found that you have lost
friendships, your social life isn’t very social, or even disrupted family life? My friends, don’t be surprised if you’re
having struggles once you make your commitment to Christ. There was never a promise of an easier life
once you were saved; actually, it’s the opposite. Once you have been born
again, the devil will turn up the heat of persecution on you, seeing if you
will give up.
You see, a time of testing will happen. In 1 Peter 4:12 he writes, “Dear friends, do
not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something
strange were happening to you. But
rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be
overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
You may be asking yourselves, why can’t they be tolerant
and allow me to worship as I desire? Why
can they not just leave me alone? Quite
simply, the reason is Jesus. The
scriptures tell us that Jesus was hated and feared. And because you follow Jesus, you also will be
hated and feared. In John 7:7, we’re
told that, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that
what it does is evil.” Because of your
new life in Christ, you make the world look at itself and not like what it
sees. So the world will make life
difficult for you, and try to keep you down.
So, I guess the big question is “How should we react to
this persecution? Here are two ways in
which the Bible tells us how we should respond:
1) First, we
Matthew 5:44 says, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you…”
2) Embrace the
persecution, and accept it as a symptom of spiritual success. James actually tells us to “consider it pure
joy.” After all, if darkness rejects
you, then you must be of the light. Their persecution of you proves that you
are a son or daughter of God. We are
told to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face
trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces
perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and
complete, not lacking anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,
because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God
has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:2-4, 12)
You only have two choices to make in this life, choose to
be accepted and liked by this world, or you turn your back on it and choose
Christ. You can’t have both. If you think you are having both, then you are
fooled. You have unwittingly chosen the world.
And in choosing the Lord, the
blessings will be many times over what you are giving up. “But seek first his kingdom and his
righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
So now the question is, have you confessed Jesus to the
world? Do they know you are a Christian?
If you are not being persecuted, then you need to take a hard look. In Matthew 10:32 we are reminded that, “Whoever
acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in
heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father
in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
Being a believer will cost you everything. New Christians should know this. You should all count the cost, and see if you
are willing to go on to the end.
Please consider deeply the following scripture:
“Remember those earlier days after
you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of
suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to
insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who
were so treated. You suffered along with those in
prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you
knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly
rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you
have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and
will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will
live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:32-39)
Please take time out of your busy schedules this week to pray for the Middle East, and around the world, where thousands are suffering persecution, even losing their lives, for the name of Jesus Christ!
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Reproduced with permission from Russ Sharrock.