You can hardly turn on the radio, TV, or internet news anymore. Unless, that is, you want to be bombarded with bad news about Social Security, bad news about the economy, bad news about Afghanistan, bad news about teen pregnancies. . . . It makes me wonder, What if everything is as bad as people say? What if it’s going to get worse instead of better? What would happen to us? A lot could change for Christians in the coming years.
I’m told that the day is rapidly approaching when Christians won’t be able to teach what God says about homosexuality, abortion, same-sex marriage or any number of other issues without being threatened with fines or incarceration. So what if that day comes? One thing is for sure. It won’t be the first time Christians lived through persecution.
Even now, there are Christians in places all around the world who risk ridicule, harassment, imprisonment, and death because they live as light in a world of darkness. I wonder if they’re worried about the economy or tax laws or changes in the health care system. Maybe they are; I just don’t no. I’m not in their situation—not yet.
And I wonder what I would be concerned about if persecution ever comes to where I live and minister. Would I still be faithful? I think so. Would I change my priorities and spend less time thinking about the Dow Jones? Yep. I’m sure I would. So why wait?
That’s my challenge. I might as well prepare now so that when persecution comes, I’ll be ready for it. It will take discpline and spiritual maturity to keep the faith when it may mean losing our liberty, our lives, or even our families and friends. But we have God to lead us, and we have Scripture to encourage us along the way.
If you’re not sure where to turn in Scripture, give the New Testament book of Hebrews a try. It was written to a group of Christians who were thinking about giving up and taking what seemed like the path of least resistance through life. But the author of Hebrews reminds them that the persecution they may endure would only bring them closer to the God they served. Consider the following verses from Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
We can endure whatever the world throws at us, because we know that God has something better prepared for us. The darkness will not last forever. It cannot defeat the Light. And there will be a resurrection!
I pray that God will strengthen every man, woman, and child who will be persecuted because of their faith in Him. My prayer is that they will look to Jesus and keep the faith. For those of us who have yet to know what real persecution feels like, I pray that God will prepare us for the days that lie ahead and whatever they bring. When persecution comes, may the church spread like wildfire just as it did at its inception.