Last month we started a three- part series on reviewing the counterintuitive principles in scripture that guide us for how to live in increasing persecution of Christians. We recommended the book Prepare – Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture authored by Dr J. Paul Nyquist.
This worthwhile read includes 5 principles for looking at persecution:
- The persecution of believers is normal and not strange.
- Persecution means your blessed not cursed.
- Believers can expect to be exposed and not protected.
- God calls us to respond to our persecution with compassion rather than anger.
- We will be rewarded not forgotten.
This month we look at the second and third of those principles.
Persecution means your blessed not cursed.
The New Testament gives two ways persecution brings blessings. The first is that persecution allows us to know Christ more. Knowing Christ is life’s highest ambition. As we know Him, we share in his righteousness. As we suffer, we share in “the power of his resurrection”. We experience His strength. We understand what it means to be carried along in difficult circumstances in ways we can’t explain or comprehend. As we suffer, we know Him more and more.
Secondly, suffering produces spiritual fortitude perfecting our character. We are to greet trials with joy as it develops spiritual fortitude. Since we are sinners saved by grace, when we come to faith in Christ we each have plenty of pieces of our character missing.
We each have thousands of character points to be added or refined. God’s encouraging truth says that he has ways He accomplishes that work in our lives. One way – a key way – is through trials. When they come, if we stay under the trials – not dodging a painful situation or seeking an easy exit but pursuing the maximum spiritual benefit they offer – God uses them in the perfecting process. A rough edge of our character softens. A missing virtue is added. Slowly, but surely, God’s perfecting work takes shape in our lives. In God’s economy, persecution means we are blessed and not cursed.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Believers can expect to be exposed and not protected.
When we suffer unjustly we expect others to defend us. As a general principle, we should not rely on family or government to defend us when persecution comes because often they will not.
When we face unjust persecution in the future, we would like to believe a large crowd of people will encourage and protect us. We would like the government to defend us from unfair punishment. We hope our family would support us in painful circumstances. We are sure lifelong friends would stand boldly in our corner.
In some cases, that may well happen. But we can’t expect it all to happen. We can expect to be exposed not protected. Others deserting us will put intense pressure on us to defect from faith when persecution comes. We will so yearn to regain lost relationships, we will even ponder abandoning Jesus. The readers of the book of Hebrews considered this when they faced persecution. It is easy to criticize them from a distance, but we soon may find ourselves in their shoes. All alone.