Another of the major adversities that a faithful Christian will have to endure while living on Earth is some form of persecution. Persecution for the sake of the truth was foreseen even by Christ, in Matthew 10:24-25 and John 15:18-25:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his teacher, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household!”
“If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.'”
Therefore, we must recognize that persecution will occur when one wears the name of Christ.
We perhaps may be thankful that we do not have the fear in the United States of the forms of persecution that existed in Roman times and in some parts of the world even today, the persecution by fire and sword. We read throughout the New Testament concerning the persecutions endured by Christians: the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), the frequent beatings and imprisonments of Paul and his company, and many more. This does not, however, mean that we do not need to fear any form of persecution today.
Persecution today comes in the form of mockery, insult, familial strife (if other family members are not Christian), intense inquiry, and other forms of mental and emotional persecution designed to uproot the faith. Again, Jesus did warn us about these things in Matthew 10:21 and Matthew 10:35-36:
“And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child: and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death.”
“For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
It would perhaps be more bearable if persecution came only from outside sources. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even within so-called “Christianity,” there are often strong attempts by those who teach error to insult, mock, deride, and cajole someone who is willing to stand up for the truth against the errors being espoused. Again, these things are predicted in the Scriptures, in 1 Timothy 6:3-6:
If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.
In the face of such persecution, what ought we do? How shall we stand firm for the truth? Thankfully, God has provided us in His Word comfort and strength for His children to endure. Paul tells us the following in Romans 8:38-39:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We may take comfort that Christ’s love will never be blocked out by any man or human institution. Christ loves us, and will always love us.
James speaks of the following in James 1:2-4:
Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.
We see here that trials are actually good for us, strengthening us in the faith and providing us with patience. We are told more about being strengthened in Hebrews 12:3-11:
For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin: and ye have forgotten the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with sons,
“My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, Nor faint when thou art reproved of him; For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.
We must always keep in mind that sometimes persecution is sent to us so that we may have stronger faith and therefore being more pleasing to God.
The Romans had great difficulties with Christianity because the harder they worked to destroy it, the more it seemed to grow. The Romans did not realize that one of the strengths that mark a Christian is the willingness to endure persecution for Christ’s sake, even receiving spiritual benefits from the experience. We must take this lesson to heart and recognize that while persecution is by no means enjoyable in the flesh, it ought to strengthen our faith and bring us closer to God. Let us therefore determine to approach persecution with this frame of mind, and let us not lose our resolve to follow Christ because of some persecution for His name’s sake.