Your friend is a missionary in inland China. She writes that fellow missionaries in other cities are being killed, as are the Chinese Christians. They are hoping to get out alive, but fear grips their hearts every time they see rioters in the streets. Only a miracle can save them. Pray for their safety.
A young mother of 3 children is waiting, with dinner ready, for her husband to come home from work. It is Friday night. The kids are cowering in their rooms. Her heart is thumping with anticipation. Sadly, abuse is frequently visited upon this family.
A veteran employee has a meeting with his new boss, a young man who is very conscious of his position and who often takes advantage of those beneath him. Ethics are sometimes tossed to the wind in order to get ahead. What will his expectations demand this time?
A pastor has the reputation of being analytical of fellow servants of God. In his small flock he leads children of God to believe that critical thinking is an important sign of spirituality. Quite naturally this spirit impacts their worldview, as well as their testimony. They find a spirit of judgment and condemnation within their congregation and wonder why?
What does the Bible teach that would help in each of these situations? Jesus warned: “If they persecuted me they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). He spoke about the need to be rooted in our faith in order to be strong when persecution comes (Matthew 13:21). The Apostle Paul spoke from experience: “….everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Persecution originates with Satan. How will we endure? Two words are often linked in scripture – persecution and perseverance. Immediately following the account of persecutions endured by early Christians (Hebrews 11:37) we read “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1) James assures us that the “testing of your faith develops perseverance”(1:3). Jesus commends the faithful “You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name” (Revelation 2:3).
What is it that gives us strength to face the future, whether it is turbulent or peaceful? We often waste energy fearing what might happen. Rather we need to develop an attitude of gratitude. I’ve lived among folks who have very little of this world’s goods. They are uncertain where their next meal will come from and yet they give thanks when it did come and day by day found many things for which to praise God.
Take heart! Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution….?” (Romans 8:35) Jesus said we should consider ourselves “Blessed” (Matthew 5:11) when we are persecuted. This gives us an opportunity to “pray for those who persecute you” (5:44). He Himself gave us an example as He prayed from the cross “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Paul’s attitude was “When we are cursed we bless; when we are persecuted we endure it”(1 Corinthians 4:12).
Writing to the Thessalonian Church Paul told them he thanked God always for their testimony of faith. Who can you lift up in prayers of thanksgiving? Persecution doesn’t seem to fit a celebration of thanksgiving, but it does force us to look at what is most important in our lives…our steadfast God who draws us close to His loving heart, especially when things are tough! Looking at the future when Jesus will return, we might ask ourselves: How will we react in the face of persecution? Are we prepared for what must come?
by Marilyn Daniels