PERSECUTION IS RISING
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him
(James 1:12 NASB)
Not only is persecution on those who live godly lives increasing, but the battles are intensifying. Before we left Israel to continue the work of the Kingdom in the nations, the Lord warned us that we would witness “great darkness,” which would inevitably lead to more resistance. This word has indeed proved to be true, for we testify that lawlessness is increasing rapidly on a worldwide scale, (Mat 24:12). In fact, what was predicted by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote, ‘Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes…Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!’ (Is 5:18 & 20), is indeed coming to pass.
Man is being elevated to an extraordinary degree, while the Word of God, on the other hand, is abandoned, and thrown off as a restriction, (Ps 2:1-2). Consequently, ‘The earth is polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, (and) broke the everlasting covenant,’ (Is 24:5). [Insertion added by the author.] Pertaining to these days, the apostle Paul warned that the elevation of “self” will lead to “perilous times,” and under these circumstances, ‘all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ (2 Tim 3:12).
We should thus not be taken by surprise when we encounter resistance. In fact, it is very important that we should “gird our minds for action,” and we should be “sober in spirit,” for it will not become easier as the day passes into night, (1 Peter 1:13).
Our spiritual position in Christ is better established if we manage to accept the inevitable reality of hardship, for the struggle becomes more intense if we negate the principle of “resistance” in our faith walk. The apostle Peter states in the same epistle, ‘Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the suffering of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation,’ (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Suffering is an intricate part of ‘proving’ the quality of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-9; James 1:2-4). If we allow the Father, He will utilize the circumstances to prune us to bear more fruit (John 15:1-11); even so, as His legitimate children, He will discipline us to maturity, (Heb 12:4-13).
We are not above our Teacher; what was done to Him will be done to us, and He warned that the road ahead would be hard, (Mat 10:16-32). The apostle Peter states emphatically, ‘For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,’ (1 Peter 2:21).
Naturally, our sense for righteousness will seek justice, but we will not find it – NOT YET! Christ Jesus suffered to an extraordinary degree, yet He did not vindicate Himself – NOT YET! God is not unjust, so as to neglect His own. Indeed not. Our vindication will be from the Lord, yet not in our own estimation of time, but in His proper time – for vengeance belongs to the LORD, (Rom 12:14-21).
So how shall we proceed in dealing with resistance, suffering, and persecution? First and foremost, accept it! If we gird our minds with the knowledge that we are to encounter hardship on numerous fronts, our energy will not be consumed in “fighting the hardship,” but to overcome.
Jesus Christ our Lord is not only our example of suffering but in Him, we are also equipped to overcome. The author of Hebrews calls us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and to, “fix our eyes on Jesus,” for He is “the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb 12:1-2).
It is, in fact, a very simple equation. Jesus Christ is our example for suffering, yet He also leads us into victory in every battle. If we strive to deal with suffering in our own strength, we will soon grow weary and enter into a feeling of defeat. To overcome, we need to be grafted into the Vine (John 15:1-11), for it is His power and wisdom that grant us victory to overcome the world, (1 John 5:1-5). If we die to self, daily, we can rise up in the power of His resurrection, daily, and thus overcome every challenge, however dire the circumstance. We can depend on His Spirit for guidance and strength, for in Christ are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Col 2:2-3).
“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”