Persecution

HEBREWS 10:32-34 These people had their possessions looted, but they took it joyfully because they knew their salvation was far better.
JAMES 1:12 If we endure temptation then we, too, will gain that incorruptible crown.
MATTHEW 5:10-12 Jesus tells us that when men persecute and revile us we should rejoice and be glad, seeing not the outward affliction but the far greater reward laid up for us (2 CORINTHIANS 4:17-18).
He also warns that many of us will be killed or imprisoned: MATTHEW 23:34; LUKE 21:12-13. And He shows us why:
JOHN 15:20-27 They crucified Jesus because they didn’t like what He said. So if we preach only His words, we’ll be hated too. We’re not greater then He is – we shan’t get preferential treatment.
JOHN 16:33 We will have tribulation – but not to worry about it; just see that Jesus has gotten the victory for us – we have His peace.
MATTHEW 24:9-14.21-27 Terrible times are upon us - and worse is to come – Jesus is warning us beforehand so that we will not be caught off guard (verse 25).
MATTHEW 13:20-21 This is important, for many will nevertheless stumble when “hard times” come.
JOHN 16:1-4 It will come – it must.
ACTS 14:21-23 2 TIMOTHY 3:12 So far the various churches have had little or no persecution – but we must not expect this to last for ever. So let’s learn to see how God will work for our good in such things:
2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10 As with all “trials”, the more we see how useless our flesh is, the more powerful we become in God.
ROMANS 5:3-5 So we glory in tribulations!
ROMANS 8:35-37 In them we are more than conquerors through Jesus.
MATTHEW 10:16-39 A general summary of our position. We certainly shall run into persecutions and trials, but the Spirit will work with us to cause glory to return to Jesus. He tells us not to fear – He has our hair numbered, and will keep us – we know all things work together for good to us. So we carry on preaching the Gospel boldly, even if this means separating from our families, loosing our possessions or dying. If we try to hang on to these things we may loose our eternal life: better to let them go if God wishes to take them.
MARK 10:28-30 He promises great recompense, even in this life! – but the persecutions as well.
2 THESSALONIANS 1:3-7 Persecutions, and the patience with which we take them, are manifestations of God’s favour for us – so we should endure quietly, knowing that He will repay us with rest.
HEBREWS 4:1 But let’s make sure that we don’t miss out on it – so many Spirit-filled people do not become Spirit-led, and by doing their own works and following their own ways they bring about their own death.
DEUTERONOMY 4:23-24 People will not mortify their flesh, and they try to do something for God. But anything we can do is altogether vanity (PSALM 39:5), and our very best efforts are only a likeness – a pale imitation of what God wants to work in us. We are warned not to get zealous in our flesh and try to bring things about – this is ‘emulation’ (GALATIANS 5:20). In particular this applies to persecutions – it is so easy to bring these about, but for wrong reasons, perhaps at a time when God would have us continuing unhindered.
LUKE 6:20-23 It is when you are hated and reproached for Jesus’ sake that you should rejoice. But not if you are hated for your rudeness or thrown into prison for breaking a reasonable law.
MATTHEW 5:10-11 It is persecutions for righteousness’ sake that count, not those for our own unrighteous works.
People get carried away (emulations) and find themselves swiftly in trouble not for the Gospel’s sake, but because of their manner of ‘preaching’ it. Just the way you approach a person, or the way you dress, can cause offence, and we must die to ourselves so that these things can be eliminated, and those that stumble will stumble at the Word alone.
1 PETER 2:11-25 This will mean not breaking any law or by-law, lest people point the finger at us for that and miss the point of the Gospel message. If our walk is faulty, they will be able to criticize us with justice; if we are punished for our faults, that is nothing to be proud of! But if we suffer for Jesus’ sake, or for no reason at all (if your employer is in a bad mood?) then we must not argue back or stand up for our ‘rights’, but submit quietly, as Jesus did.
TITUS 3:1-9 We used to walk with the world, but Jesus has cleansed us from all that. But if we want to preach Him faithfully there must be nothing of ourselves projected (2 CORINTHIANS 4:5), so we ought to be subject to the lawful authorities, and not to say the wrong thing or speak for ourselves.
1 TIMOTHY 2:1-4 God wants all men to be saved, so we ought to walk in a way that will cause no offence (2 CORINTHIANS 9:19-23). In particular we ought to pray that as long as possible we will be able to go about our business in quietness and without contention. It is so easy to cause trouble and bring about strife, hatred and so on, just by speaking harshly or by offending unnecessarily. When one stumbles, it must be at the Word we have preached.
ROMANS 13:1-9 In particular we will not flout the law, for people will always accuse us if we do. The authorities are ordained by God and must be obeyed as far as possible (but see also ACTS 4:18-20 and ACTS 5:27-29 as an extreme case, showing that there is a limit to how far we can obey: the angel of the Lord commanded them not to: ACTS 5:19-20), But this does mean as far as possible – only when to obey men would be disobedience to God can we ignore them. This may be hard, but we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and love bears all things (1 CORINTHIANS 13:7). So as much as lies in us, we submit and live at peace (ROMANS 12:18). There is no place for pride or anger.
So we do not seek persecutions, nor do anything to bring them about save the preaching of God’s Word. And if they do arise, we don’t hang around to enjoy them and seek glory for ourselves: Jesus’ command is clear (MATTHEW 10:23), and this is the way Paul, for example, behaved (ACTS 9:1-2, ACTS 9:20-31). He could have stayed in Damascus and been killed, and won for himself a glorious martyrdom, but instead he chose a rather undignified exit and saved his skin (2 CORINTHIANS 11:30-33). Why? The world would call this cowardly! But Paul clearly explains:
PHILIPPIANS 1:23-26 Each one of us would personally be better off if we could die immediately and go to be with the Lord – but that misses the whole point why we are here, which is not to please ourselves or seek our own glory but to live for one another. If we are killed, then that is the end of our usefulness, but if we escape somewhere else, then the Gospel can be preached there as well. If we can’t escape, of course, then we will have the pleasure of dying for Jesus (verses 20-21), but in either case the glory is all His.
In summary we should see, that if we find ourselves persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, we should not be alarmed but rather rejoice. But we should not seek such things out, and if they do happen we should, as far as possible, keep out of the road or go somewhere else.
1 PETER 3:8-18 Make sure we are not rightly accused of doing something wrong – we should have the same testimony as Jesus; and if we are wrongly accused, we should take it meekly as He did.
1 PETER 4:10-10 Many things will come upon us – let’s not think it is strange, but rather let’s line ourselves up and let God look after the rest: 1 PETER 5:6-11.

Compiled by Pentecost Revival Centre, Ballarat, Australia, approx. 1968-1972