Few weeks ago, I was privileged to meet and know this man of God, whose name I shall not mention for security concerns. He is a full time minister, with a part time profession that he works to meet the expenses of his own family and to support the other pastors in his ministry.
Once, his church had new visitors for three consecutive weeks who later insisted that he come to their house and pray. On accepting the invitation and after arriving at their home with two other brothers for prayer, they realized that it was a trap laid by a religious fundamental group called the RSS who, along with 25 others, beat up the three of them. The police was called in and the three were taken into custody on charges of ‘forced conversion’. They had to be in the prison for 3 days before getting tried and obtaining bail, after being ordered from the court to stop the church fellowship, along with more stringent restrictions.
When I heard the entire story, I was stumped. This was not happening somewhere in the dark by-lanes of any fundamentalist, right wing country. It was taking place right outside my door step, here in the glitzy, metropolitan city of Bangalore, India!
The enemy is still under the impression that persecution can quench the passion inside the church. What a fool is he to be believing that! But the question to us is this: Are we prepared to go through persecution? Is it required for us to be prepared? Why does God allow persecution?
Can we search through the scripture and the teachings of Jesus to see what God’s word says about persecution and how we should handle them?
Will it really happen (to me/us)?
Well, I believe this would be the first question you would have in mind, considering the fact that you might be living and ministering in a much safer and liberal environment than many others. The first thing you need to realize is that persecution is of different kinds, and is prevalent in all cultures and for different reasons. But it is the same enemy, the devil who is the persecutor of them all.
Jesus said, “Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted Me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to Me, they would listen to you.” (John 15:20) Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) Your persecution is a great testimony of the fact that you are serving your master Jesus Christ. If you are not getting persecuted in any form or way, you need to check. What is it that Jesus did and you are not doing today? Are you really following Jesus in everything? So the question is really not, ‘Will it happen?’ It should, instead, be ‘When will it happen?’
Why does God allow it?
Well, for one, I cannot answer this question from all perspectives. But the stories in the Bible are clear on how persecution of God’s children hurts God more than it hurt us.“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting! (Acts 9:5) That is from a brief excerpt from Saul’s meeting with Jesus. Though Saul was persecuting the Christians, Jesus says He was the one that Saul was actually persecuting.
Now, having said that God is aware of and involved in our pain and agony during persecution, here are few reasons why God does allow persecution in our lives.
1. Persecution bring glory to God. (Job’s life – Job 38-40)
2. Persecution at times serves as discipline for God’s children. (David’s Census – 2 Samuel 24)
3. Persecution pushes us to our destinies. (NT Church – Acts 8)
Is there any comfort?
Now that we know that persecution is gonna be part and parcel of a real Christian’s life, what is our source of hope that we can cling to? Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Yes it is true that we will be persecuted in the wold, but the one who has overcome the world will be our guide and strength.
If you read the book of Acts, you would find numerous occurrences of persecution where God would supernaturally open up jail doors, break prison barriers, melt people’s hearts to favor His children. Other times, you would find God sending angels to be with His children during times of persecution that they might get encouraged. In fact, Stephen saw the entire heaven open and Jesus standing up to receive him into glory. God makes sure to send His comfort through His own beautiful and mysterious ways when we are being persecuted.
Avenging or forgiving?
Now the real question for us is, how do we respond to persecution? Should we retaliate when the enemy tries to attack us? Should we pull them to the court? Should we be protective and careful and avoid similar circumstances with wisdom? Well, there is no definite answer for this, since it varies from case to case. There are some places where you would have to seek the help of the law of the land, like Apostle Paul did. There are other times, when God would give you the grace and the strength required to handle such persecution on your own.
The issue really is, should we carry a bitter vengeful spirit or should we just forgive and move on? I am sure we would say, ‘Forgive and move on’, without waiting to doubt it. However, it’s easier to say it than to actually do it when caught up in such a circumstance. Hence, it is essential that you be prepared to intentionally embrace every persecutor that comes your way with the same love and forgiveness that Christ made available to you.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14)
Persecution breeds revival
The one reason why I am preparing myself, my family and my church for times of persecution is because, I believe we are headed towards the greatest revival of all times. And Revival, in general, is always preceded by persecution. The Resurrection is always preceded by the crucification. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But it’s death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)
Every time there has been a persecution of the church, there has been a sweeping harvest of new souls and a fresh breath of prayer and awakening within the church. That’s been the case from the Old Testament Israelite days and continues in the same format in the New Testament Church as well. There is no question of whether a revival is coming. Hence there is no question to whether a persecution is coming! The question of the hour is, Are we ready?
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35,37)
Please feel free to leave your comments below. Do you have a difference of opinion or view in this matter? We would love to hear your thoughts.