The right perspective about persecution

child-627538_640Jeremiah 15:15: O LORD, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. (ESV)

Peter wrote that it is good if we suffer for the cause of Christ and not for bad behaviours (1Peter 2:20-23). When he and other apostles were flogged because they believed in Jesus, they rejoiced because they were counted worthy to have a shameful experience for his name.

Remember that the experience of Jesus from his arrest to his crucifixion was all about shame. He was taken like a common criminal. Standing before Pilate, the people rejected him and chose Barabbas a murderer. This was the Jesus who had performed miracles and is now bloodied and humiliated, mocked, kicked and flogged, to the glee of the Pharisees and even those who had admired him.

He was beaten and battered, he experienced pain in all dimensions, with his closest associates, the twelve apostles abandoning him. So seeing what Jesus went through when they ran away from him, after his resurrection, the disciples saw the opportunity that persecution presents and took advantage of it. The saw the opportunity to identify with Jesus in a special way, which they did not do before during his trial, especially Peter who denied him three times, to his own chagrin and regret.

Before then, Peter had boasted to Jesus and in the hearing of other apostles that even if he means dying for him, he will not deny him (Matthew 26:34-35).

When the church in Jerusalem experienced widespread persecution and they dispersed abroad it gave the opportunity for the potentials in the church to be unleashed. The persecution was, therefore, an opportunity.

Prior to that, they were all holed up in Jerusalem, enjoying the Christian experience. They had filled the land, but the plan of God was much more than that.

Jesus had told them that they should go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creature (Mark 16:15). At the point of the ascension of Jesus he said that they will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon them and they will be his witnesses in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). But they needed persecution to shake them up to fulfil that task.

Persecution grinds out the juice in us, just as crucifixion brought the blood from Jesus for the salvation of the world.

The Lord is totally aware of the suffering you have borne because of his name. He knows. He is omniscient. He recognises that you have made sacrifices for his name; that you are set out to be true to the name of his son. Writing to a church in the book of Revelation, Jesus said: I know your tribulation. He added that if they endure to the end, he will give them the crown of life (Revelation 2:8-11).

When Hagar was persecuted by her mistress and she chased her out of the house, she cried and God appeared to her, showing her that he knows what she is going through (Genesis 16). The truth is that she was not as alone as she thought she was, and God gave her an instruction to help deal with the situation so that it will not overwhelm her. She was told to submit to her mistress and leave the future to God.

Paul was in prison for the cause of Christ and Jesus appeared to him telling him that he should not be worried but he was going to appear in Rome and bear witness to his name there (Acts 23:10-11). Jesus told him to cheer up. God showed him he knew what he was going through and what his divine purpose was in the situation. That helped him to endure, as he realised that he was in the centre of the will of God.

Job spoke about his own trying experience, saying: “after he has tried me, I will come forth as gold,” showing his elevated perspective about his difficult situation (Job 23:10).

If you weep because of the persecution God bottles your tears, they are not wasted (Psalm 56:8). The idea of the book of remembrance was really brought to the fore in the story of Mordecai. He had assisted the king, saving his neck when he reported those who were planning to kill him. They were apprehended and were not able to carry out their evil plan.

After some time, a night came when the king was not able to sleep and he read what he has written down about Mordecai and arranged for a special honour to be done him (Esther 6).

God will not forget and he will give you special recognition. Because you stood for his name in difficult situations he will specially identify with you also. Peter wrote that special grace and glory of God rests on those who are persecuted for his name (1Peter 4:12-16).

But in persecution, there is the temptation to seek for revenge. But in the book of Romans we read that we should not do that (Romans 12:19).

Jesus said that we should repay not evil with evil rather we should be like our father in heaven who gives his rain to both the wicked and the righteousness. God said vengeance is his (Matthew 5:43-46). We should not play God.

When Stephen the first martyr in the bible was stoned to death, he asked God to forgive his killers, following in the ways of Jesus (Acts 7:59-60, Luke 23:34). You should not have the root of bitterness to grow in us if you are persecution because that will partially achieve the aim of the devil for orchestrating the persecution (Hebrews 12:14-15). If he did not stop you from following Christ, he will at least want to distract you.

That is why Paul asked for prayer, he asked people to pray that God will deliver him from unreasonable and wicked men (2Thessalonians 3:1-2). Jesus said we should pray that we would be delivered from evil (Luke 11:4).

What persecution is meant for by the devil is to limit you, make you afraid, it is to draw you back from following the will of God. The Pharisees threatened Jesus that Herod wants to kill him, and should get out of Jerusalem. He did not yield to them wishes (Luke 13:32).

The real reason they wanted him out was because they were afraid of his growing influence in the place where they had their religious “stronghold,” where the temple was. They do not want Jesus to spoil their show.

Paul wrote that we should be steadfast unmovable always abounding in the service of the Lord (1Corinthians 15:58). We should therefore be unmoved by persecution.

In the book of Acts the disciples were threatened with grievous punishments and asked to stop mentioning in the name of Jesus when they were still in Jerusalem, but he asked God to give them boldness so that they can continue to preach the word (Acts 4:21-33). They did not allow persecution to stop them, rather they fired on, fulfilling the will of God as they prayed that God’s supernatural ability will increase in them. Nothing less is expected of you.

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