Christian persecution is not something new to us in the 21st Century. Throughout church history, believers have suffered persecution. “They have been beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. They have suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace. They have been hounded, harassed, and murdered."*
Persecution Should Not Surprise Us
Persecution should come as no surprise to Christians. In John 15:19, we learn that we will be hated by the world: “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.”
Also, in 2 Timothy 3:12 and 1 Peter 4:13, we learn that we “will" — not “might” — face persecution. So if we are following the Lord, we will face persecution in some way, shape, or form; it is inevitable because we are rubbing against the world’s ideas. We are telling them what they want, what they believe, and what they do is not ok, even if we are not explicitly stating it. By the simple fact that we aren’t doing, wanting, or believing, what they believe is enough to cause the world to hate us. People love their sin (Jer. 14:10). They want it to be approved of, even celebrated. When someone, or a group of people, is not willing to do that, persecution arises.
What is Persecution?
Persecution occurs anytime we are attacked for our beliefs. Attacks may include anything from the loss of a job, to a verbal or physical assault, to being driven from our home, or even killed for what we believe. Persecution takes many forms. But it is nothing new. It has been happening from the beginning – Cain killed Abel because God looked on him in favor – and it will continue until Jesus returns.
The Advantage of Knowing
Knowing persecution is coming, actually works to our advantage because it allows us to prepare for it now. Prepare is something we must do. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be blindsided or sucker-punched by persecution. Instead, we should be prepared.
How Should We Prepare For Persecution?
(1) Meditate on the Promises of God
Reading and meditating on God’s promises, particularly those that deal with His return (Matt. 16:27; 24:4-5; 11; 23-27; 24:30-31; 24:37-39; Mark 8:38; Luke 17:28-30; 21:34-36; Jn, 14:1-3; 1 Jn 1:7-9; 1 Jn, 3:2), should help us see that persecution is not the end. Jesus will return. He will be victorious (Ps. 2; Dan. 2:44; 7; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16). We will be vindicated for our beliefs (Rev. 6:9-11). We will live in a perfect world free of persecution (Rev. 19; 21). Knowing and understanding these things are huge, if we are to face persecution with hope.
(2) Learn More About God and His Plan
We need to know that our God is not oblivious to persecution, as if He is sleeping in the heavens, while Christians are getting their heads cut off on earth. He knows what happens in this world, because He is intimately involved (Matt. 6:25-34).
We also need to know that our God is not powerless to defeat our enemies. Nor does persecution happen outside of God’s plan. He has a plan and purpose for everything that happens in this world (Ps. 139; 15-16; Dan. 7; Jn. 17:1-8). As such, He is able to work all things together for good, according to His will (Rom. 8:28). We may not understand or even know the purpose of our suffering, but God does.
As Christians, we must trust that God knows best and His will is perfect (Is, 43:3). We can trust God because of who He is. Scripture tells us our God is All-Powerful (Jer. 10:10), All-Sovereign (Is, 64:8; Acts 1:7), Omniscient (Matt. 6:25-34), Holy (Lev. 22:2; Is. 43:15; Matt. 6:9), Righteous (1 Pet. 1:17), Just (1 Pet. 1:17), Compassionate (Matt. 7:11), Loving (Ex. 34:6), and much more. Since our God possesses these attributes, we can trust His will, even if we can’t understand it.
(3) Seek Support
Christians are born again into community. At the moment of salvation, we become apart of a body – the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). As members of the body of Christ, we are called to seek and give support and comfort to one another in times of persecution (2 Cor. 1:4), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and encourage and build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11), as we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2).
Don’t let persecution sucker-punch you. Instead, prepare for it now, because it is coming.
* George Grant, A History of Persecution, Table Talk Magazine August 2015, 11.