“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:12.
Pause for a moment with me and consider that verse from God’s Holy Word. It is quite a statement to read, and it leaves very little doubt in the heart of the Child of God. We will without question, if we life godly lives in Christ Jesus, suffer persecution.
When one considers the whole area of the church and persecution, it is so easy to let our minds think of the past, and the future, but very little time is spent considering the present.
Perhaps you remember the history of the early church, and how it was continuously persecuted by the Caesar’s of the Roman Empire. Or perhaps your mind wanders to the future and you dwell for a few minutes on the final suffering the church will have to suffer at the hands of the world through the reign of the anti-christ.
The Word of God, once more speaks of the church and persecution. Read for example, Revelation 6:9-11. Now by reading these verses, and other in Scripture, it becomes clear that the church always must contend with persecution. Not in the past or future only, but also right now.
The point I wish to make is simply this. Do we, you and I, suffer persecution now at the hands of the world? If we confess that we belong to Christ and are His church, then we should.
But in a recent sermon, it was pointed out to me that we are not always so eager to bear the brunt of the persecution that this world can dish out.
All of us quite honestly would make the confession that by God’s grace, if we were found with a choice between forsaking the Word of God or forsaking the world, that we would leave the world behind. If we would, for example, come to our church next Sunday, and find the local police force there telling us that we could no longer worship there, and if we continued to do so we would face death, then as Christians our choice would be to serve and worship God even though we would die for it. And looking off into the future we can see such a situation arising as the reign of anti-christ looms ever closer on the horizon.
But doesn’t it strike you as strange, that we can make that kind of confession and yet today we are not so eager to stand up and be ridiculed for Jesus’ sake.
You may be ready to die for Jesus in the future, but what about a classmate taking God’s name in vain today. Do you tell him that what he has done is sin? It’s so easy to keep silent when we know that the consequence may be scorn or ridicule from our friends.
Perhaps you are faced with the problem of material gain, as opposed to spiritual. Does a job in this world have to be the best paying, or one with plenty of room for advancement? Even if that particular job means forsaking God’s church in order to gain a few dollars. Or are we willing to suffer economically for Christ’s sake. Perhaps that means a job with not quite as much money as you could get somewhere else.
By now we have all matured enough to know that life is always a struggle for the spiritually sensitive believer. Looking into our own hearts we realize the weakness and sin that is there. Ideally we would jump at any chance to bear the persecution of this world. But in reality we know that it is just not so.
When we look at the whole of Scripture, a very clear picture of the church’s persecution unfolds before us. In the Old Testament, such heroes of faith as Abel, Lot, Job, and Daniel stand out. Such is also true in the New Testament, as men like the Apostles and the church of Smyrna come before our minds.
These men were all without a doubt children of God, and they endured. They labored for the reward of eternal life. And we as the church of today are in the same situation.
God has placed before us the responsibility of letting our faith show itself before the church and the world. And that calling is no small task, as we all are so very well aware.
There is always a danger that we as the church, will be afraid to stand before the world and declare that we are indeed Children of the Light. This fear can often lead to a compromise with the world. Instead of maintaining the Christian position, we befriend the world, and we tend to unite with the world. This attitude says we must try to make Christianity attractive to the world by making Christianity like the world, and the result is that the world soon takes over. However, we must be distinct from the world.
The warning is obvious, we must be ready, not in the future, but now, to face the world for Christ’s sake. It is our blessed heritage. The church of all ages has had to endure persecution and as the end fast approaches, we know that the same is true of the church today. Remember the words of Rev. 2:10 – “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.’’