Persecution

<<harassment>>

Persecution is specific aggression and cruelty directed against certain segments of the general population because of religion, nationality or politics, while tribulation is not of human origination and does not discriminate against any particular groups but is a generalized distress affecting all humanity in a widespread area.

The Christian life is not a sheltered, carefree existence. Because it opposes the world’s values we should expect spiritual opposition (1 Thes 3:3,4). This may take various forms – persecution may be verbal (ridicule); physical (abuse); social (shunned, or talked about); or economic (prevented from getting jobs or promotion). Satan’s goal is for us to reduce our fervour for God and give up, however it is those who continue faithful to the end who will be saved and reign with Him (Mt 24:13; 2 Tim 2:12).

The Bible declares persecution is one aspect of the cost of following Christ, “Everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (Mt 24:9; Mk 8:34, 10:29,30; Lk 14:27; 2 Tim 3:12). Jesus was persecuted and so will His followers be (Jn 15:18-20, 16:1-4). “Blessed are you when persecuted...bless and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44-48; Lk 23:34; Rom 12:14; 2 Cor 6:4-10).

Therefore, expect to be persecuted, maybe even by unbelievers within your own family, but stand firm during this sifting period, for even if you are destroyed in this life you will come to enjoy eternal life (Mk 13:12,13; Lk 21:12-19; Jn 16:1-3). 

The early believers didn’t pray for its removal but rather for help to withstand it and boldness to confront the opposition (Act 4:29-31). They saw it as an opportunity for their light to shine brighter. Stephen was the first of numerous martyrs who have given their lives for Christ, choosing to be killed rather than deny and renounce their faith (Act 6:15-7:60; Rev 6:9).

Lord, help me to pay the                price whatever it is 

Gain the right perspective by looking in faith beyond the present suffering, to ‘see’ the maturity and greater character being developed, confident of the ‘crown of life’ promised to all who love God enough to persevere under these trials (Heb 11:24-26, 12:2; Jas 1:2-4,12; 1Pet 1:6,7). Maintain the right focus – don’t allow the problems to have a greater influence in your mind and life than Jesus.

As in any trial, we need to draw on God’s enablement and grace, as our lives are being refined and made more useful to God.

Don’t fear those who can only destroyed the physical body, yet not touch your eternal destiny in Christ (Mt 10:28; Heb 13:6). Paul was stoned to the point of death, yet after prayer encouraged the disciples saying that we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God (Act 14:19-22).

The Bible says, “Rejoice in suffering...it can’t compare to the coming glory...God is for us, nothing can separate us from His love and purposes” (Rom 5:3,4, 8:18,31-39). Jesus, through suffering Himself, can relate to any trial we will experience (Heb 2:10, 4:15, 5:8).

Real persecution happens because we are Christians and not as the result of any character fault or failing. Don’t let it create self-pity or a martyr attitude, rather count it a privilege to identify with and suffer for Christ (Phil 1:29,30, 3:10,11; 1 Thes 1:6; 1 Pet 2:19-23, 3:14,17). As a rule, persecution doesn’t indicate you have done any wrong or you have moved out of the will of God. His love is still extended to you, and He is continually mindful of your situation because you are suffering for Him. After Peter and John were beaten, they rejoiced that God had counted them worthy to suffer for Him. They didn’t get angry at God or the ruling authorities for what they had suffered, continuing instead to preach and teach about Jesus – the thing that had resulted in the beating (Act 5:40,41).  Do not retaliate, rather have a right attitude to those who cause us distress, God will deal with them in His time (Rom 12:19; 2 Thes 1:6-10).

For those suffering, the Bible’s instruction is to continue to persevere, committing themselves to their faithful creator and continuing to do good, rejoicing that this suffering is producing Godly qualities in their lives. The Bible teaches not to doubt His love or be surprised at the painful trials you experience, nor be ashamed when you are insulted because of His name, instead rejoice that as you participate in Christ’s suffering you will be blessed (1 Pet 3:12-16). We are to stand with those who are experiencing spiritual attack (Rom 5:3-5; Heb 10:32-39; 1 Pet 4:12-19). Do I follow Jesus just for the blessings enjoyed, or do I also accept the hardships that press so hard against my spirit as an expression of His grace, preparing me for eternity?

Persecution purifies the church, stripping away everything superficial and those not fully committed to Christ. The more opposition and oppression the OT Hebrews were subjected to the more they

  Persecution purifies

multiplied; this was also the case in the NT with the fast growing and spreading church of Jerusalem (Ex 1:12; Act 8:1-8). The Book of Hebrews records the persecution that some of the OT saints were subjected to (Heb 11:35-38). Church growth almost always leads to persecution of some sort. Governments and leaders of traditional religious groups feel threatened and deliberately attempt to control or stop the growth of Christ's church.

There are widely varying estimates of the number of Christians martyred every day because of their faith in Christ, yet it is considered over 600 million Christians suffer daily from discrimination, torture and restriction in over 80 countries where the gospel is not welcome.

See also: aggression, bullying, cross (taking up), martyr, oppressed, spiritual warfare, suffering, test/testing, trials, tribulation, troubles.



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