It’s strange how we tend to overlook certain phrases in scripture while emphasizing others. It happened to me the other day. I was reading James 1:27, a verse about pure religion. I’ve always noticed the part about orphans and widows, but overlooked the phrase about keeping myself from being polluted by the world. Lately, I’ve felt a bit polluted when watching the news. I need to be careful. We do the same thing with scriptures about persecution. The fact that we easily overlook them is a bit troubling.
They need help in how to respond to it appropriately. This is our responsibility as Disciple Making Movement catalysts, trainers, and spiritual leaders.
Back to ignoring parts of scripture. Another classic case for this is the part of the Great Commission that says we are to baptize. The go and make disciples phrase is emphasized while the baptizing part overlooked.
Turn your attention to the Sermon on the Mount. We emphasize the first seven beatitudes and overlook the eighth, “Blessed are those who are persecuted…” (Matthew 5:10).
The version of Jesus’ famous sermon, found in Luke six, says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23) NIV.
Notice the word when. It is not if, but when. Persecution is something we must expect and prepare for.
Nik Ripken, in his excellent book, Insanity of Obedience, tells of an interview with a Russian pastor about persecution.
“It is expected. Well, that’s the way persecution is for us. That’s the way God’s activity is for us. We don’t write much about these things—we don’t even talk much about these things—because these things are as normal as the sun coming up in the east.”
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:2 NIV.
Five Reasons to Face Persecution with Joy
1) Persecution matures us.
Hardships release maturity, wholeness and provision in our lives. In James, the author (likely the Apostle Peter) writes about this. James 1:2-3 says, “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.”
We all want maturity, completeness and to not lack anything. When trials come, vicious attacks from those who oppose us, we can rejoice. We embrace the path to maturity with hope knowing our loving Father will turn this around and bring good.
2) Persecution gives us a chance to be a witness.
The reality of our faith is never more on display then when others oppose us. Do we respond in love and forgiveness? The boldness with which we continue to grow in our devotion to God when persecuted, shows the authenticity of what we have found in Christ.
3) Persecution enables us to follow our Lord in new ways and become like Him.
Philippians 3:10 speaks of the “fellowship of His sufferings.” When attacked by those who reject our Lord’s message, we enter into a new place of identification with Christ as one who also suffered in this way. We must be willing to follow Jesus in everything, including the opposition of evil men.
4) Persecution waters the seed of the gospel.
While martyrdom is not to be sought, we must not fear it. Let me use a little literary freedom here. Consider the martyrdom of reputations, the martyrdom of comforts, and the martyrdom of security. When these things are put to death, new life grows within. As it says in John 12:24, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed…”
Persecution and suffering cause us to die to things in our lives that that don’t really matter. It reminds us of what is most important. This waters the seed of the gospel within and around us.
5) Persecution guarantees a heavenly reward.
Jesus told us to be glad when persecuted, keeping our eyes on the coming reward. “A great award awaits you in heaven…” He said. (Matt 5:12 NLT).
It is easy to become focused on life in the here and now. This life is temporary, only lasting a few years. Heaven is eternal. Those who are persecuted for His sake are guaranteed a great reward that will last forever.
Have you experienced persecution because of your faith and witness? How did you respond?
Take a moment to pray for the persecuted church around the world. Ask God for wisdom to prepare for the persecution Jesus promised would follow if we pursue His Kingdom purposes.
Share your thoughts about persecution on the DMM Frontier Missions Facebook group or in the comments below.