Many of us believe we are living in the receding shadows of the end of the age. We see signs all about us. One of them is the persecution of Christians. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is on the threshold of heaven, ready to return, to receive His own.
So many Christians are folding up when they ought to be standing up. Those who are settled in the faith need to teach our children to be settled in the faith so they can stand on the solid rock of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus makes an amazing statement:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad…. Matthew 5:10-12a
Really, Lord? Blessed? We should rejoice? Yes, and He tells us why: “…for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
If you stand up for the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re going to be persecuted. “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). ALL and SHALL.
But there’s a way you can escape persecution. Don’t live godly. Just hobnob with the world and fail to take a stand or be distinctive, and you won’t suffer persecution.
However, persecution is the thermometer that registers your love and courage for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Life We Show
The world will persecute you if yours is a lifestyle of righteousness. What does it mean to “be righteous”? Be pure in heart, mourn, hunger and thirst after righteousness (5:3-9). The root word for persecute means to “divide or to separate.” The righteous person is divided, separated from this world. You must earn it by being different.
First Peter 2:9 says we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people. We’re different from the world. We start at a different source, follow a different course, and end at a different destination. We’re children of light; they’re children of darkness. We live by the Spirit; they live in sin. We live by faith; they live by sight. We understand them; they do not understand us.
If this does not describe you, you may stop reading now. You’re not going to be persecuted.
Matthew 5:13-14 says we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salt irritates when it’s rubbed into a wound. Light reveals and exposes. So the world says, “Get that salt out of here! Turn off that light!”
If you are being persecuted, make sure it is for being righteous, not for being odd. You’re to be different, but you’re not to be odd. You see, to have your Lord reward you, the persecution must be false and it must be for Jesus’ sake.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
1 Peter 4:14-16.
When you’re different, they will pursue you, watching you like a hawk, trying to find some flaw, some difference in you. And when they find it, it’ll make them feel better as they condemn you.
We see this in public life every day. Just let a public figure stick his neck above the crowd to espouse a biblical virtue, and the attack is instant. They will lie about you. The most righteous person who ever lived, Jesus Christ, was crucified on the testimony of false witnesses. Expect it.
The Lord We Serve
Understand, this world hates Jesus. Oh, not the baby in the manger or the One who healed the sick or fed the multitudes. It hates the Jesus who said He came “to destroy the works of the devil.”
Jesus came against the liquor, abortion, and pornography industries. He came against pride, racism and hatred. For that, the world hates Him. And it will hate you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own [just be worldly and the world will love you], but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Master.’ [Do you think you’re better than Jesus? Now listen to this:] If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. John 15:19-22.
Jesus came to condemn and expose their sin, and they hated Him. The world still hates Him and the things He stands against. The world hates you for the life you show and the Lord you serve.
You Will Undergo Personal Insults
You will find yourself the butt of jokes. We are looked down upon, reviled.
You May Undergo Physical Intimidation
People are in prison right now because they have stood against sin. Dr. James Dobson estimates that 160,000 Christians a year are martyred for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many others suffered unimaginable torture and deprivation.
In China, Christians who worship in churches that are not state-run face prison and even torture. In the Sudan right now, some Christians, often children, are sold into slavery, many of the little girls forced into prostitution. Others are forced to convert to Islam, and if you refuse, you will be put to death. Mark 13:9-13 describes the Tribulation, but we see foregleams of it today.
You May Face Social Injustice
- from the religious world. You may be defrocked and lose your church. Or you may be safe as long as you leave out the Lordship of Jesus Christ,
- from the governmental world.. “….ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake…” (Mark 13:9). This world system is loaded against Jesus. The ACLU has said that if you teach in a public school that a traditional marriage, a man and a woman, is an American value, that is unconstitutional. Friend, persecution is here.
- from your own family, perhaps. “Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father, the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” Mark 13:12
How Should We Respond in These Last Days to Persecution That Will Worsen?
Reign in life. The Scripture literally says of the persecuted, “…for theirs is in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). We have a kingdom. We reign with Christ in life. Remember who you are: a child of the king. And because we’re children of the kingdom, we should reign in life.
Rejoice in the Lord. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad…” Don’t sit in the corner feeling sorry for yourself, “…for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (v.12). Think of the company we resemble, the character we reveal, and the compensation we’ll receive.
Remain True to the Lord. Early in the book of Acts, Peter and John were thrown in jail and beaten for preaching Jesus. When they departed, the people in the council marveled that they were uneducated fishermen, “….and they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Under persecution they reacted in such a way that the people of the world said, “They are like the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Remember, as Stephen was being stoned to death, who was looking on? Saul—later to become Paul, the mightiest Christian missionary theologian the world has ever known—observed Stephen as he was persecuted to death. Saul was changed. What changed him? The way Stephen died. They could not intimidate Stephen, so they stoned him to death.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be stoned to death? Now, that’s persecution. Stephen, as he was dying, looked toward heaven and said, “Lord Jesus, don’t charge this terrible thing to their account. Have mercy upon them.” Saul never forgot that.
Later on the road to Damascus, Jesus spoke to Saul, saying, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” What was goading Saul? The testimony of the persecuted Stephen, whom he had seen martyred.
Release Love. This love is not mere sympathy; it’s doing good to them.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven…. Matthew 5:44
Be like God and love them. These people are blind. They don’t have life. They don’t understand. In fact, the Bible says in the last days those that kill us will think they do God a service (John 16:2). Into their blindness, the face of Stephen shined like an angel. He released love when he was persecuted. We need to treat our persecutors as God has treated us.
Come to grips with it: We are going to be persecuted. Remember, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). These are days of golden opportunity to share the Lord Jesus Christ. Prepare your children. First prepare yourself.
Ask the Lord Jesus, “Because You died for me, help me to live for You, and if necessary to die for You. May I die to this world before I die physically. Teach me, Lord, to be different. Don’t let the world intimidate me. Don’t let me live by political correctness. Help me to stand tall and not be afraid. Lord, may I be, as You have said, “in nothing terrified by my adversaries.”
In this message from James 5, Adrian Rogers shares invaluable insight into man and his money.