Persecution doesn’t feel good at the time, but it’s actually a very good thing for the believer.
All the Godly
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), while at the same time, “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim3:13). I think Paul wanted Timothy to know that because he had likely experienced persecution. He knew what they did to Jesus, Stephen (the deacon), and James, and maybe he thought he’d be next! By Paul saying, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), he was saying that it’s going to be the norm for every believer. The surprising thing would be if a believer never experienced persecution. Persecution, while being painful, is a testament to your faith being seen or heard by the world. Paul knew what it felt like, writing that they were being “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:9). When persecuted, they were not forsaken; when struck down, they got back up. They could say, even though “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me” (Psalm 129:2).
Don’t be surprised to suffer for your faith, but rather be surprised if you’ve never suffered for it. One reason might be you’re not sharing your faith or maybe you’re not living your faith, and no one can see any difference in you than in those in the world. If that’s true, then it’s time to examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith, because good works are the fruit of salvation (Eph 2:20; James 2:14-26), even though they’re not the root of salvation (Acts 4:12; Eph 2:8-9). Cleary, persecution is to be expected. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:10-12). Jesus didn’t say “if others revile you and persecute you,” but “when others revile you and persecute you,” so it’s not a matter of if but when you are persecuted, but this persecution is for His account, not ours. The prophets didn’t suffer persecution for their own message, but that which comes from the Word of God. Our response shouldn’t be, “Please Lord, take this away,” but we should “rejoice and be glad.” We rejoice, not so much for the rewards, but we rejoice we’re being persecuted like the prophets of old. That’s pretty good company, but remember, it’s not them or us that people hate; it is the message. The postal carrier may bring the bills, but their debt is owed to their creditors, not the postal carrier, so it’s not the messenger they really hate but the message itself. This means we should not take it as personally, but even so, you must take it and not respond in kind.
Jesus reminded the disciples that “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” (John 15:20). This means we cannot avoid persecution. The Apostle Paul wanted to know Christ so desperately, that he was willing to enter into His sufferings, so “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10). The point being, “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17b), but it’s more than that. If your friend shares his suffering with you, you know him better; likewise, if you share your pain with your friend, she is going to know you better because of it. Suffering for Christ’s name’s sake is a great way to know Him better. This doesn’t mean we seek it out, but it does mean we see it as a blessing, so “let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19). Why? Because “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet 3:17).
Persecution is not a good thing when someone has a “martyr’s complex.” That is, they actually go out and look for persecution, but the Bible never teaches this. Even though every Christian cannot avoid persecution, it does not mean we should seek it out. That’s not what persecution really is. That’s just being obnoxious. There is no cause for sharing Christ and being antagonistic. Jesus never tried to cram His beliefs down anyone’s throat. He said that whosoever may come, can come. It doesn’t say, make people come. God the Father draws people to Himself, but only through Christ (John 6:44). The Prodigal Father didn’t put out an APB for his son and go looking for him. He waited and watched for the son to come to Him. Even now, while it is still called today (2 Cor 6:2), Jesus Christ says to you, and He says to all, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
The Apostle Peter’s encouraging words to every persecuted believer is, if you are persecuted for His name’s sake, “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13), and even better, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14). Don’t you want that? Of course, you don’t seek out persecution to have “the Spirit of glory and of God” resting upon you. If you do, then you’re not really being persecuted for His name’s sake but for your own sake, and that’s not acceptable to God. It’s not persecution if someone’s being “holier than thou,” or Bible-bashing people. That’s plain being obnoxious. And that’s not a good thing.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.