Bible Reading: John 15:18-16:4
As a young Christian I was not always wise in the way that I spoke or acted, but I was in love with Jesus. When I simply went to church there was not a major problem, but as soon as I began to talk about Jesus, and seek to share Him, the problems began. My stepfather began to oppose me with insidious remarks such as, “Don’t worry, it will soon wear off. He’s got religious mania.” Then he began to attack the Bible and try to persuade me that it was fairy tales and not trustworthy. One day he went into a trance, and under what I believe was demonic influence, began to prophesy of all the terrible things that would happen to me if I continued to follow Jesus. Finally, it was, “If you are going to continue going to church then you are no longer welcome at home. If you want to remain at home then you must stop going to church!” That was the moment when I was forced to make a choice! I told my stepfather that I would follow Jesus Christ the whole of my life – there was no turning back.
I had no idea that this and other early opposition was preparation for even more opposition as my wife and I later served in a fanatical Muslim community, where for a person to turn to Christ might mean death or at the very least some sort of deprivation. For example, a young Chinese boy came to Christ and was threatened by his teachers that that they would not put him forward for university unless he renounced Christ. He was a brilliant young student but he chose to put Christ first.
We should not be surprised when persecution and opposition come. Very early in His ministry Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:10]. Later Jesus said that we are to beware when all men speak well of us [Luke 6:26]. Persecution goes back to the beginning of time – Cain killed righteous Abel in Genesis chapter four [see also 1 John 3:12]. Much of the New Testament was written in the context of persecution. The Book of Acts speaks of persecution in the Early Church. Both James and Peter wrote their epistles against the backcloth of persecution. Heaven is full of martyrs who shed their blood for the sake of the gospel [Revelation 6:9-11].
We don’t go looking for persecution or want to have a persecution complex, but when we allow Christ to live His life through us there will be persecution and opposition. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]. How are we to handle this? James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials [James 1:2]. Peter speaks of enduring trials that test our faith and committing our souls to God [1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-19]. Jesus tells us to rejoice when people persecute us [Matthew 5:11-12], and to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us [Luke 6:27-28].
Have you ever you experienced persecution as a result of your Christian testimony? How were you able to handle it? How did it help you to grow in your Christian life?