Are You Prepared for Persecution?July 7, 2021 Save Article
You are living in the lengthening shadows of the last days. One of the marks of the last days, according to the Word of God, will be increasing persecution of the children of God, the true church. This may shock you, but you cannot be a genuine Christian and escape persecution.
Second Timothy 3:12 tells us flat out, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Not “some,” but “all.” Not “might,” but will.”
Bible-believing Christians may be the most widely persecuted people on Earth. Modern culture targets Christians with everything from limiting freedoms, to verbal abuse, to the organization of groups to oppose believers. In some nations, Christians are persecuted to the point of death.
You could avoid all that: you could just compromise—rub shoulders with this world and not suffer at all. Deny Him, and the world will like you a lot. In fact, most people will think you’re wonderful. Take a stand for Christ, march under His banner, and it will come down on you like a hammer. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t tried it.
“Persecute” comes from a word meaning “to pursue.” They’ll be tracking you, on your trail, watching you, trying to catch you doing something wrong.
If joy is the thermostat that controls your life, then persecution is the thermometer measuring your life.
Here’s what the Lord Jesus Christ said about persecution:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
When you’re persecuted for Jesus, Jesus is glorified. (See 1 Peter 4:14.) Just be sure you’re genuinely suffering for righteousness’ sake, not because of arrogance or other behavior that is not Christlike.
Why Are We Being Persecuted?
Jesus gave us three reasons.
1. The Life We Show (See Matthew 5:10.)
If you live a righteous life, people will persecute you. Why? Because you’re different. “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
We’re children of light; they’re children of darkness. We live by faith, they live by sight. We understand them, they don’t understand us. We’re salt; salt stings and irritates. We’re light; light reveals. The world doesn’t like what God’s light reveals.
What we believe starts at a different source, follows a different course, and heads toward a different conclusion.
If we’re righteous in an unrighteous world, we’re going against the tide, so it makes sense that the life we live is reason number one for Christians to be persecuted. If we’re really different, like the Lord Jesus, they will pursue us, looking for any blood in the water, circling like barracudas.
2. The Lies We Suffer (See Matthew 5:11.)
The world doesn’t play fair. The devil doesn’t fight fair. Do you think the world will only tell the truth about you? No, it will lie. How did the world crucify Jesus? By lying about Him and bringing false witnesses against Jesus into His trial. He warned us that if He suffered persecution, so would we, because the servant is no better than his Master. (See John 15:20.)
3. The Lord We Serve (See Matthew 5:11.)
Frankly, the world hates Jesus. Not the baby Jesus in the manger or the Jesus that performed miracles, walked on water, fed the multitudes, and healed the sick; the world loved that Jesus. But there’s a Jesus the world hates (See John 15:18-25.) because He came to rip the mask off of sin and testify against sin.
“The world hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).
The world hates the Jesus who says, “Pornography, abortion, racism, pride, sodomy—they’re wrong; it’s sin.”
If you go along, you’ll get along. If your life is no different, if you’re not following Jesus, you won’t be persecuted. But when with Jesus Christ you say, “This is right and this is wrong,” you will be persecuted.
What Will Persecution Be Like?
1. Personal Insult
They laughed Him to scorn. (See Luke 8:53.)
They were even mocking Him when He was on the cross, dying in agony and blood. You’ll be openly ridiculed, the butt of jokes. I’ve been ridiculed since high school for standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ. Some people can stand almost anything except to be laughed at.
2. Physical Intimidation
People across our world languish in prisons today because of Christ. More people have lost their lives for Jesus Christ in this century than in all prior centuries since His birth combined. People are suffering for Christ.
- China is a place of great persecution, yet business people in our nation are saying, “It would be great if we could just have more business with China.” Where is the politician, the president, someone who will speak up against the persecution and martyrdom of Christians in China? There are churches (not the state-run churches) that won’t register with the Communist regime and its pastors are put in prison, tortured, and forced to endure unimaginable horrors.
- In Sudan today, Christians often are sold into slavery, some for as cheaply as $15 a head, because they won’t submit to Islam.
- In Pakistan, non-Muslims may be forced to convert to Islam or face death. Worldwide, people are dying for the name of Christ. Most of us have not yet “resisted to the point of death” (See Hebrews 12:4.), but that day may come.
3. Social Injustice
Jesus described it further in Mark 13.
But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. …Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. (Mark 13:9-13)
Do you still want to be a Christian?
Social injustice can come from:
- the religious world. Jesus named “councils and synagogues.” (See Mark 13:9.)
- the academic world, where professors are dismissed and denied tenure. Graduate students are denied fellowships because of their Christian beliefs.
- the court system, making decisions opposing God’s plan for a fruitful, productive life.
- the home, where a Christian might suffer persecution for the name of Jesus Christ. (See Mark 13:12.)
- the government world. Jesus said, “rulers and kings for My name’s sake.” (See Mark 13:9.)
In California, the ACLU said that teaching monogamous marriage as an American value is an “unconstitutional establishment of religious doctrine in public schools.” If you teach that biblical marriage is a traditional American value, if you simply say, “There’s a fixed standard of right and wrong,” the world says you’re violating the Constitution. That’s where we’ve come.
How should you react to persecution?
See Matthew 5:10 again:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
A kingdom is where someone rules and reigns.
Reign with Jesus in life.
Remember who you are. This world isn’t your home. You live on a different level than those who live by the world’s standards. Don’t come down to their level. When someone harms you, don’t get even. You live on a heavenly level. You don’t return evil for good, but good for evil. When you do, you begin to reign in life. Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).
You’re children of the kingdom. You live in a different kingdom. You’re to reign in life.
I have a book in my library written many years ago by a Methodist pastor who’d been criticized because he wouldn’t cut corners. Here’s a quote from that book, and I want you to read this:
Oh! For the ability to walk with strong treads straight ahead and let them yap and snarl, growl and bark to their hearts’ content. We need men whom the acclaim or howling threat of the multitude does not move. Men who walk on amid criticism, condemnation, anathema, or cursing, content to know that in their very molding and making there’s something so royal as to defend them forever against such mouthing. Men who are too tall for stooping, men whose ears are too close to Heaven to hear the little growls from the throats of the wormlike things of Earth.
Remember who you are. You’re a part of the kingdom! Reign in life.
Rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:12).
When you’re persecuted for His sake, it’s evident you’re living a godly life in Christ Jesus. The apostles in Acts 5, were being persecuted, but “…they departed from the presence of the Council [of religious rulers], rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
When you’re persecuted like they were, think of your reward—"great is your reward in Heaven.” You don’t have to go around trying to win popularity contests. You’re going to reign with Him!
I’ll tell you something: if you displease Jesus, it really doesn’t matter who you please. And if you please Jesus, it really doesn’t matter whom you displease. Jesus will say: “Well done.”
Love as He loves.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
You’ll be like Jesus if you’ll do this. To “do good to them” doesn’t mean you merely have sympathy for them, but that you actually, literally, do them good. You can say to your enemies, “I’m going to treat you the way Jesus treated me.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
When you reign in life, rejoice in the Lord, and release love, you bring the greatest witness possible. I’m asking you to take a bold, clear, open stand for Jesus Christ.
You’re going to be persecuted. But when this world sees in you not arrogance but genuine love, willing to suffer for the name of Jesus, not to retaliate but to reign in life, to rejoice in the Lord and respond in love, friend, that’s different, and people are going to want the Jesus you have.