Last month we looked at the second of a three-part series on reviewing the counterintuitive principles in scripture that guide us for how to live in times of 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 final two of these principles.
God calls us to respond to our persecution with compassion rather than anger.
Christ left us a model to follow. He commands us to love our enemies. Paul encourages us to bless our enemies.
Romans 12:14 says “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Peter reinforces the teaching of Jesus and Paul in 1 Peter 3:14-17:
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
In these passages, we see three commands to help us face hostility in a godly manner:
- Be strong (do not fear their threats)
- Be ready (always be prepared to make a defense)
- Be faithful (better to suffer for good than do evil)
Our attitude in responding is critical. We need to check our arrogance and anger at the door. God wants us to be His witnesses – not His prosecuting attorneys. Meekness and humility must undergird every word we speak.
We should all be reminded of the regular persecution found in the book of Acts. Persecution starts in Chapter 4 and goes through the closing words in Chapter 28. The opposition included beatings, arrests, stonings, riots and martyrdom. If we look carefully, we see five major theological themes on persecution in Acts.
- Persecution is part of God’s plan.
- Persecution is the rejection of God’s agents.
- The persecuted stand in continuity with God’s prophets.
- Persecution is an integral consequence of following Jesus.
- Persecution is the occasion of divine triumph.
The most powerful apologetic is the faithful lives of God’s people, demonstrating love, hope and faith amid a hostile world.
We will be rewarded not forgotten.
The New Testament overflows with teaching on eternal rewards. At the judgment – or bema – seat, each man’s work will be fully and fairly evaluated by Christ himself to reveal its value.
Scripture mentions a variety of rewards. Some bestow privilege such as authority in the millennial Kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30). Others bring honor, such as the crowns mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament (1 Peter 5:1-4). Because these are given by our glorious redeemer, all rewards are worthy of our pursuit.
We also see that in the Beatitudes portion of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “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 5:11-12
The promise of reward from God comes with a condition. He promises to significantly reward us, but the promise carries a requirement of perseverance through persecution. We will be rewarded if we faithfully endure. Rewards received at the judgement seat far exceed the level of our suffering, for our generous God gives out of His riches.