Persecution is not something that we Americans, especially here in the Midwest area, are used to dealing with. We are the Bible belt here, who would ever be against us? Defined; to Persecute is to have ill will or hostility towards another because of their religious or political beliefs or race. To pursue, torment, pester or harass. Now doesn't that sound pleasant? In other countries persecution takes on a whole other form. Where people are stoned, shot, beaten, abused, ridiculed publicly, rejected and even stripped of their family name and rights. The form of persecution that we are experiencing in our situation is an aggressive verbal attack on our faith. This does not hurt us physically but it has taken a toll emotionally. To hear someone say horrible things about your faith is a pain that is only known on the inside. It creates doubt, which is a flesh eating disease of the spiritual nature. A seed of doubt can grow faith chocking ivy in only a matter of minutes. Ideas like "Am I a bad Christian?" "Am I interpreting the Bible wrong?" "Maybe I am just making this up and this isn't really how I am supposed to respond to this" AND on AND on. This seed of doubt is so dangerous and that is what persecution can bring, and I believe that is a great purpose for Satan to use persecution for. To make you cave, to create doubt, doubt in your faith and doubt in yourself. Most dangerous of all, doubt in God. What does the Bible say to help us understand more the topic of persecution?
The book of James says:
James 2:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The Hatred of the World18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,[c] but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
So, what does this tell us? PROCEED! Go forward. Take up your sword and shield and follow hard after Him! Through these experiences I have never felt so strongly that the world was against us. That I am not of this world. That I had to put on my armour, take up my sword, and seek and follow my Lord. The Lord God over all. Who was persecuted, threatened, spit upon, cursed at, beaten, nailed to a cross and killed by his persecutors. With me, standing in the crowd, shouting crucify him. He was persecuted for me, died for my sin. And now, the world who hated him will hate me. For when I stand for my faith, the world has a mirror that shows them their sin and that causes hate.
So my sweet friends, are you being challenged in your faith? Maybe not actively persecuted, but challenged? If you are not being challenged are you playing it too safe? Are you not going out of your comfort zone to proclaim the name of Christ and challenge yourself and those around you to do the same? I encourage you this week to stand strongly and firmly up for your God. To follow hard after Him and seek his will for you. No matter what road that may take you down, follow Him because he will lead you to paradise!