Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Promise of Persecution

Leonard Ravenhill once said, “You can’t develop character by reading books. You develop it from conflict.” While God is not the one who brings calamity into people’s lives, sometimes He allows challenging situations to manifest so we develop a greater trust in Him and become more Christ-like.

2 Timothy 3:12 promises, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If you are truly living for the Lord, then you should expect people to occasionally call you names like “religious fanatic”, “Bible thumper”, and “Jesus freak.” (My brother-in-law thanks people who call him the latter). Unfortunately some believers who are not grounded on the word of God will draw back when persecuted. Jesus talked about this in Mark 4:17, “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”

How should a Christian respond to persecution? Our natural human tendency is to answer likewise when people act ugly towards us. But Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” 

One minister I know often jokes about “Percy” (his nickname for persecution) being an employee on his payroll. The Apostle Paul wrote about taking pleasure in persecutions in 2 Corinthians 12:10. But that doesn’t mean we are to be Christian masochists and purposely look for opportunities to be persecuted. When I’m out street evangelizing, sometimes the Lord will instruct me NOT to talk to certain people. Some folks are so hardhearted; they won’t be receptive to the gospel no matter how you present it to them.

Unless the Lord instructs you to remain at a particular place for a season, persecution may be a sign that it’s time to leave. One day a man who had invited me to stay in his home for a season suddenly started criticizing my ministry. Rather than waste time defending myself, I went out and won more souls for the Lord. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The next day I moved out of this man’s house. As Mike Murdock says, “Go where you are celebrated instead of where you are tolerated.”

Other times, you might need to stay and confront the persecution. I once lived with a professing believer who had serious personal issues. He would often get drunk on beer and then hurled strange accusations against me. In response, I sang songs about the blood of Jesus and the man backed off. 

So the next time you are persecuted, keep in mind that the battle is never with flesh and blood but wicked spirits manifesting through people whose lives are not submitted to the Lord. As long as you are not opening doors to the devil, receiving persecution is probably a sign that you are doing something right.

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” - Matthew 5:12

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