Day 2 of this series—after examining all the distractions to us and to the Church from the world, today we tackle Jesus’ promise of persecution and suffering for his believers. How are we to look at persecution and suffering, and how are we to behave through it? (hint: as always, keep your eyes on Jesus!)
These are dark days for those outside of God’s family. But what about the professing Church?
For starters, the Church is doing a great job at raising many younger people to learn how to embrace a secular humanist culture instead of standing in opposition to it. The Church in many ways believe that happiness comes from being “loved” by others instead of us loving and being loved by God.
We are failing to teach the full counsel of God and His Word–so many of our youth have no true root system and are plucked away from their superficial faith in God by authority figures in public education, government and media that hate God in their hearts.
The false prosperity preaching is infiltrating more churches and professing Christians are learning to expect God will never allow us to face times of trial and need. They’re learning to worship God for what He can do for us, instead of what He’s already done.
I encounter more and more professing Christians every day who cannot accurately explain the gospel that they claim to be saved by. This is not conducive to the Gospel of Christ going forth.
Jesus warns of persecution
Matthew 10:16-20 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Jesus gave us a parable teaching us how it would affect professing Christians: Mark 4:13-20 “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Paul told us true believers would not worry about persecution because they knew the eventual outcome:
Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
James and Peter told us suffering produces great faithfulness:
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
1 Peter 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Peter warned us to obey honorably around Gentiles and people who hate us so God would be glorified and help them turn to God:
1 Peter 2:11-13 “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Paul taught us how to protect our mind against becoming bitter and obsessed with the world that wants to demoralize and defeat us:
Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
We can choose to focus on all the bad things of the world around us—or choose to focus our thoughts on all the ways God has blessed us in spite of ourselves.