“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” These words spoken by Jesus 2,000 years ago are all too relevant for many believers in the world today. We have heard about the plight of our brothers & sisters in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and many other parts of the world controlled by those hostile to the gospel of Christ. Even the media has focussed large blocks of airtime on the dire circumstances of Christians being persecuted by the Islamic terror group ISIS in Iraq. While followers of Jesus here in the west have enjoyed relative peace and safety from persecution over the years, one must look at the realities of the world today and ask the following question: Would I be able to stand firm for Jesus in the face of persecution?
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; 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: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
Before we ponder the question…..I want to state that we must continue to pray for these Christians in Iraq. Food & water are scarce, shelter is minimal, and there are no viable prospects for escape at this time. Moreover, I pray these dear people will stand firm in the faith no matter what the days that follow may bring. By pondering the question at hand, I don’t want to diminish or take any attention away from the very real suffering these people are enduring. I simply want the realities many believers are facing in this world at this moment to wake us all up to the fact that….we aren’t guaranteed a smooth ride between here and heaven. A realistic look at the world today should wake any believer out of complacency. Christians are being persecuted in areas once considered relatively safe. Scripture clearly teaches that people who belong to Jesus won’t endure God’s wrath when it’s poured out on an un-repentant world. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that we won’t suffer for our faith. The word of God is full of examples of people who have suffered for their faith in the one true God. The prophets, apostles, early church, and many saints for the last 2,000 years have suffered for their faith. As I write this article, there are in all probability 100s of thousands of people who are suffering for their faith all over the world and especially in the Middle East, Africa, North Korea, and China.
With a few exceptions, the western hemisphere, Europe, and parts of Asia have been considered safe areas for Christians to practice their faith. There’s no doubt that the tide is turning. Western societies who once tolerated any religion continue to do so with one exception: Christianity.
There seems to be a building agitation toward Christians in the marketplace, political arena, and media. I’m not talking about being hated for being a trouble maker. Increasingly, you only need to a devout follower of Jesus to attract the ire of people. Christians are asked a simple question about personal beliefs regarding subjects like: traditional marriage, abortion, homosexuality, politics, ethics, or the economy. It seems no matter how kind, considerate, tactful, and sound the answer is, they are painted as a homophobe, bigot, hater, or simply out of touch with modern society. This is because no matter what subject is on the table, at the end of the day: A real Christian won’t compromise and bow to the increasing pressure of this dark world. Just as oil and water don’t mix, neither does a believer with this dark world. A bakery owner who happens to be a Christian won’t bake a “wedding” cake for a gay couple and he is fined. This isn’t an isolated event. All over the US. Christian business owners are under fire for not compromising their Christian beliefs. It happens in florist shops, bakeries, and photography studios. In the past, reasonable and civil adults could agree to disagree. We live in a day when disagreeing may cost you a job, business license, and tarnished reputation…all for following Jesus.
You probably won’t be persecuted for the following:
Saying all roads lead to heaven. Saying there are many ways to heaven. Saying God bless you. Going to a church that focusses on having an open mind rather than putting on the mind of Christ. If you are flying under the radar, laying low, and hoping to make the most of this life…rather than the one to come, you probably won’t face persecution. On the other hand, If you live a holy set apart, sold out, real, loving, bold life for Jesus, and if people are persecuted for being Christians………. you can expect it.
Why does this matter you ask? It matters more and more everyday. Thinking back on our question, what would happen here in the west if for any number of reasons Christianity started coming under increasing pressure. Allow me to paint the following scenario. While the following events are fictitious, it isn’t a stretch to see part or much of the following as a real possibility in the months and years to come.
Let’s fast forward to 2018:
I went to check on our church and see if the service was on or if it was cancelled again. You see, last month the board received a letter from the district court barring services until further notice. A year ago, our tax exempt status was revoked because our pastor would not bow to pressure that had forbidden him from stating that any form of marriage other than a man and woman was sinful. Now, the courts ruled that any speech that was deemed as less than tolerant toward any group, religion, or belief would be liable for inciting hatred. A few weeks ago our pastor boldly preached a sermon entitled: Jesus is the one true God. Within a week a legal complaint was filed in the district court charging that the church was inciting extremist views and slandering followers of Allah. Unless our pastor made a formal apology for his actions, attended sensitivity training, and committed to teaching tolerance and equality of all beliefs, our church would be forced to close for violating federal hate speech laws.
Last month I was fired from my job after 10 years of exemplary service. While my supervisor regretted the move, he explained that the board learned that a Christian had offered to pray for a subordinate employee who’s son was in the hospital. The employee became offended and reported the incident to corporate. I applied for unemployment benefits but was denied on the basis of the reason my firing: The company stated I was terminated because I created a hostile work environment and discriminated against a worker. Now we are about to go into foreclosure and loose our home. My lender won’t restructure the loan because the company was absorbed by the government and won’t work with us because we are members of a church that is considered a hate group.
I watched a news report that in neighboring cities, churches and homes belonging to “born agains” were being targeted for arson. I want to move to a safer part of the country but I hear the same thing is happening everywhere. Even if there was such a safe place, I can’t access my account funds because the assets have been frozen pending an investigation by authorities looking into citizens belonging to a fringe group. I don’t know where to turn…..come quickly Lord Jesus.
It could happen here and given the climate in society toward Christians….it doesn’t seem like some distant event, rather something that could occur in the near future.
The scenario I described above wasn’t meant to be entertaining or for wild conjecture. I want to ask the question again: Would I be able to stand for Jesus in the face of persecution? Friends, the Lord told us to take up our cross and follow Him. He told us about the beginning of sorrows, birth pains, and trials that would come upon the world in the last days. He told us we would have tribulation in this world. We are to be courageous because He has overcome the world. Please understand…..I have genuine fear when I see the images on television and realize what price believers are paying for their faith. I would rather ignore the warning signs all around that signal a general discontentment and distain of Christians that seems to be increasing in our society. You can’t ignore the fact that society seems to be calling for a tolerance of everything…….except biblical Christianity and Christians.
So what are we to do in these increasingly dark days when walking as a Christian makes you feel like an exile or alien? Here’s what the word of God says to us:
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 2:19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
We are to stand firm in the face of adversity. Not on our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord. Right now, we may look away from a vile billboard, refuse to laugh at the crude joke demeaning women, or attend church and remain faithful while life seems to be unraveling. That’s what we should do as believers. But when the standing firm against a dark culture becomes standing firm when our faith begins to cost us everything…..that is the kind of standing firm we must prepare for. I believe there are many Christians in our land who are humming along like this thing is just going to go on forever. Life is just fine, bills are paid, and my kids are in a great school district. That’s all well and good but friends, the other shoe may drop soon and you may find that your faith in Jesus is going to cost you more and more. Being real with God is paramount. Don’t settle for a watered down lukewarm Christianese lifestyle. Jesus should be the very center of your life. In Him we live, move, and have our being. We need to have the mind of Christ and not go through the motions.
I know a message about persecution won’t be preached at most churches today…but it should be. We need churches & pastors who aren’t itching the ears of the feel good faithful. Pastors, teachers, and faithful men of God everywhere are warning their flocks to live for Jesus and cast off “a form of godliness.” I don’t pretend to know what the coming years hold for believers here in the west and in North America in particular, but I do know that when persecution comes in whatever form it may, true followers of Jesus will be ready. We will be ready to endure any trial that comes our way. When we pray with total dependence on God, are saturated with His word, and walk in humble reverence to Him….we will be able to stand. Trials, hardship, suffering, and persecution will come, but Jesus promised to be with us always.
We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it is not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person …… the one who accepts the call of God in Christ Jesus. –Oswald Chambers
All for Him,
Please visit our resources page and link to Voice of the Martyrs to keep up to date on the persecuted church worldwide.