37 • The Reality of Suffering and Persecution of God’s Children
When Jesus was on earth, He told His followers that they would have to endure suffering for His name’s sake. He said: ‘If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you’ (John 15:20). Also, in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul, the soldier of God, said: ‘All who desire to live godly lives will suffer persecution.’ Christians must be ready to face opposition and rejection by those in respective cultures, and even from their friends and family. The Bible says in Acts 14:22 that it is through many tribulations that we must enter the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul writes from another perspective to the Philippians: ‘For unto you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29). For Paul, it was a privilege to suffer for Christ!
The Apostle Peter agreed—He wrote: ‘If you are insulted for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you’ (1 Peter 4:14). Romans 8:18 says: ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’ We know that if we are followers of God, people will oppose us, and we should not be surprised but be ready and prepared for this (Matthew 10:33-39).
As you read this in the 21st century, Christians all over the world are being killed, churches are being destroyed, people are being locked up in prison and tortured because they belong to Jesus and because they follow and love Him. In many countries, even in the West, people are vilified and losing their jobs, because they stand for what is right and for Jesus. As you witness about God and make disciples of all nations, many will not like it. People will insult you and may physically harm you and even kill you (Acts 7:54-59; Matthew 5:11, 12)! Throughout the history of God’s people there have been nations and peoples who have persecuted them and killed many of them: The Romans, Persians, Moguls, Chinese, Buddhists, Communists, and most severely the Muslims. Even Catholics persecuted and killed followers of Jesus a few centuries ago.
From God’s perspective it is a useless operation to even try to destroy God’s people and His Word. This attempt can be likened to a person who wants to quench a fire by pouring oil onto it. The more oil is poured onto it the bigger the flame gets. When unbelievers see that Christians refuse to deny Christ and are willing to suffer for His glory, then many unbelievers turn to Christ. The unquenchable faith of Christ’s followers shines brightest during suffering. Some wicked people think they are doing God a favor by persecuting Christians, but the devil has blinded them to the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). This may surprise you, but we must realize who is behind this persecution—our sworn enemies, the devil and his demons. 1 Peter 5:8 says we must be watchful because the devil is like a roaring lion walking about and waiting to devour God’s people. From an eternal perspective this lion has much roar but no teeth. Jesus said that you will be hated by all nations because you belong to God (Matthew 24:9).
Reality to consider: It might seem that God’s enemies are getting the upper hand by killing God’s people; but the ultimate victory is with God because He conquered death. So, when Christians suffer or die for Jesus’ sake, death becomes the entrance to eternal life with God (Acts 7:56, 59)! In the end God’s people will be victorious!
Read: John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22; 1 Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:14; Romans 8:18; Matthew 10:33-39; Acts 7:54-59; Matthew 5:11, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 24:9.