Persecution. It’s a hot topic right now. It seems it always has been. From Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to China’s Cultural Revolution, to present day Isis beheadings and an array of unspoken atrocities toward Christians. We are living in the end times, where wars and rumors of wars are taking place now. And living in the end times is actually an incredible place to be living! That’s what we pray for, isn’t it? That the imminent return of Jesus draws nearer; that his glorious return and kingdom reign take place among every ethnic people group on the planet.
Yes, that’s what we want. But the persecution that arises in the midst of end times living is something we would rather not have to deal with. Still, persecution is a promise from Jesus.
Did you catch that? Persecution is one of Jesus’ promises for us as Christians: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” – John 15:20
Persecution is very fresh after recently being interrogated yet again in China. In a few days I will be returning to the same city where everything went down—with my wife and daughter—to officiate the wedding of our local missionary who was beaten by the police.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12
Are you surprised when an onslaught of animosity toward your Christian faith occurs? Strange. Persecution is actually perfectly normal. It is part of our Christian walk. It is a blessed promise from the Son of God himself.
How would we expect anything less from the One who suffered so much for the sake of the world?
True, the words of Spurgeon ring in my mind more often than not as I ponder my response to Christian persecution: “If I were God and the world treated me as it treated him, I would kick that wretched thing to pieces!” That’s the natural human emotion that occurs. But we are called to live in a much broader more divine response to the opposition and ridicule—even beating and imprisonment—that we may face for being a Christian, namely, thankfulness.
We are called to live in a much broader more divine response toward persecution that we may face for being a Christian, namely, thankfulness.
Are you thankful when you receive persecution? I encourage you to be. You are blessed when you are, strangely enough, even more so than when you’re not.
A paradox. Something you might not want to admit, but it’s true. I have sensed it when Brother Yang sat on my couch in China, cigarette burns on his body, and he prayed an inspiring prayer:
“Thanks you, Jesus, that I was considered worthy to suffer with you in the missionary venture!” Tears streamed down his face as he prayed. Tears streamed down my cheeks as well. I recalled the words of Pastor Samuel Lamb, who had been imprisoned for his Christian faith for 21 years, who said, “More persecution, more growth. That is the history of the Church!”
In the midst of persecution, God, may your will be done and may you receive glory from your Church.
Image credit: Catherin Moon