I have never been counted myself among the persecuted Church.
Globally, I recognize that I have brothers and sisters in Christ practicing their faith in secret, boldly proclaiming the Gospel despite consequences, and even being tortured and killed for holding fast to the confession of our faith.
But here, in my little apartment in America, I am not persecuted on this level.
When I was young, I assumed I would have to go far and away to be a real Christian. I dreamed of boldly stepping on the mission field, somewhere dramatic and dangerous. My aunt told my cousin and I bedtime stories when we were little about our homes in Africa and our lives working in medical missions, boldly proclaiming the Gospel despite persecution.
None of that happened. So instead, I prepared myself for a comfortable life and the occasional academic persecution for my “old-fashioned” faith in the God of the Bible.
Academic persecution, while frustrating, seems silly to label “persecution” next to the stories in Hebrews 11 or from our own Christian history of those who have given their last breath for the Gospel.
But does that mean I, an American woman who is called to live out my life here, lose this blessings?
Or is there another type of persecution I am missing.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12, ESV
While I don’t want to trivialize the physical persecution many in our faith experience, I do want to look at the spiritual persecution in the Bible and how we can boldly withstand all that the devil and his minions would throw our way.
Job knew what it meant to be persecuted for righteousness sake.
In the first chapter of Job, God boasts of Job’s faithfulness and, to try and test that, Satan attacks Job with all He has. But despite it all, despising losing land, wealth, children, and his health, Job stood firm.
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:22, ESV
Job set an example for standing against spiritual persecution. And reading his story reminded me that, while I might not face physical persecution, I do need to be ready to resist the attacks launches against those who are righteous.
Persecution is a horrific thing to endure. But, Jesus made it clear that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the persecuted.
We are blessed when we stand firm in what we believe.
When we don’t give way to public or political pressure but hold to the promises of Christ above all else, we are blessed. Job stood firm not only in the attacks from Satan, but when his friends told him to curse God and die.
Before she was burned alive, Joan of Arc reportedly said, “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” Her courage should be an example for us all in standing firmly where God has led us.
In persectuion, we’re blessed because we’re focused on the eternal
Like those in Hebrews 11 who withstood persecution, we need to cling to the hope we have in the future and the temporal nature of this life. We cling, not to what we hold in our hands, but to the promise we hold in our hearts of the future.
Persecution associates us with the prophets and ultimately, Christ Himself
The people who have boldly proclaimed God’s news have a history of being reviled and tortured.
While the world may see persecution as a sign of God’s dismay or our failure, Job’s friends certainly saw it this way, Scripture tells us that’s simply not the case.While the world may see persecution as a sign of God’s dismay or our failure, Job’s friends certainly saw it this way, Scripture tells us that’s simply not the case. Click To Tweet
Christ was persecuted. And many of the prophets who call the people back to God and foretold His coming and God’s redemption were also persecuted. But it wasn’t because God had abandoned them, it was because God was working through them.
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell – Matthew 10:26-28, ESV
We need to stand firm. Whether we face physical persecution, whether we are taunted for your beliefs, or challenged in the realm of spiritual warfare, stand firm.We need to stand firm. Whether we face physical persecution, whether we are taunted for your beliefs, or challenged in the realm of spiritual warfare, stand firm. Click To Tweet
God is good in the midst of our worldly troubles. When we face persecution, we need to root ourselves in the future He has promised and provided for us. Because Christ said that those who were persecuted were blessed because the Kingdom of Heaven was theirs and because persecution unites us with Christ and the prophets in a way that our comfortable lives don’t.
So rejoice, and be blessed. And remember to pray both for strength to endure persecution and for the persecuted, physically and spiritually, Church around the world.