Sermon No: 122498-Persecution 2



SERMON TOPIC: Persecution 2

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 21 November 2021

Topic Groups: PERSECUTION, SUFFERING

Sermon synopsis: According to Open Doors in just the last year (2021 World Watch List reporting period), there have been:
Over 340 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination. (1 in 8 Christians.)
4,761 Christians killed for their faith
4,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
4,277 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned


PERSECUTION

FACTS ON PERSECUTION

According to Open Doors: in just the last year (2021 World Watch List reporting period), there have been:

Over 340 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination (1 in 8 Christians).

4,761 Christians killed for their faith.

4,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.

4,277 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

Brother Yun (aka Liu Zhenying), born 1958, is an exiled Chinese Christian house church leader, evangelist and author of “The Heavenly Man”. Yun says the following:

“I have a problem with the ‘prosperity’ teaching prevalent today, which tells us if we follow the Lord we’ll be safe and comfortable. This is completely contrary to Scripture as well as to our experiences in China. In addition to serving years in prison, I’ve been arrested about thirty different times for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To follow God is a call not only to live for him, but to die for him also.”

“The path of following the Lord Jesus Christ is not an easy one. Along the way lies suffering and hardship, but nothing we experience will ever compare to the suffering Jesus endured for us on the cross.” (Brother Yun)

JESUS WAS PERSECUTED

Jesus is described in Isaiah 53:3 as “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering”. He told his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. ” (John 15:18-20)

JESUS SAID WE MUST EXPECT PERSECUTION

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matt 5:10-12)

WE MUST EXPECT TO BE INSULTED AND SLANDERED

2 Tim 3:12 (ESV) Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

Those who believe that persecution is not the norm for Christians - have not read the New Testament.

1 Thess 2:14-15 (NIV) For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

Peter wrote his first epistle to persecuted believers who had been scattered throughout the world.

1 Pet 2:19-23 (NIV) For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

SUFFERING INEVITABLE

Paul tells the Philippians, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Phil 1:29-30).

Paul would die in Rome at the hands of Nero around 67 AD. According to ancient sources (Clement, Dionysius, Eusebius and Tertullian) he was beheaded (rather than crucified), a privilege afforded Roman citizens.

Christian friends buried him in the family tomb of a Christian Roman woman named Matrona Lucilla. Around 320 AD Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, built a church there commemorating Paul’s martyrdom.

In the 2nd and 3rd centuries Christians were used as scapegoats for everything and were routinely persecuted.

Tertullian writes sarcastically, “If the Tiber rises so high it floods the walls, or the Nile so low it doesn’t flood the fields, if the earth opens, or the heavens don’t, if there is famine, if there is plague, instantly the howl goes up, ‘The Christians to the lion!’ What, all of them? to a single lion?” (Apologeticum 40)

OUR RESPONSE TO PERSECUTION

Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). Not too long afterwards during the persecution of Nero, Peter himself would be crucified.

1) NO SURPRISE AT WHAT’S HAPPENING

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

James 1:2 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

Why?

It develops perseverance

James 1:3 (NIV) … because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were joyful in the face of persecution, public insult, imprisonment and wrongful confiscation of property.

Heb 10:33-34 (NIV) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

Together with Clement of Rome and Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch is considered to be one of the three most important of the Apostolic Fathers. It is said he converted to Christianity at a young age. Tradition identifies him, along with his friend Polycarp, as disciples of John the Apostle. Later in his life, Ignatius was chosen to serve as Bishop of Antioch. *

He later travelled to Rome, where he met his martyrdom. When sentenced to death by the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius responded: “I thank Thee O Lord, that Thou has vouchsafed thus to honour me. I am God’s grain, to be ground between the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become a holy loaf for the Lord.”

* SOURCE: https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Ignatius_of_Antioch

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

One of the oldest early Christian texts we have is “The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity.” It is a diary by Vibia Perpetua - a 22-year well-educated Christian noblewoman living in Carthage (North Africa) - describing her imprisonment in AD 203. It was completed after her death by an editor.

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

Perpetua and her servant, Felicitas were arrested in a new wave of persecution under Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. At the time of her arrest, Perpetua was nursing a baby.

When her pagan father visited and pleaded with her to deny that she was a Christian, Perpetua responded that it was impossible that she be called “anything other than what I am, a Christian”. 1

Those in the amphitheatre who had witnessed her martyrdom reported that Perpetua, came into the arena “joyfully as though they were on their way to Heaven.”

When Perpetua and her friends entered the stadium they were singing Psalms in such a joyful demeanourthat the crowd demanded that the Christians be scourged first. 1

1 https:// reformationsa.org/ index.php/ history/ 355-perpetua-courageous-christian-martyr

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

The early church was hated by the society and government of the Roman Empire for various reasons, such as the refusal of Christians to sacrifice to the gods. The Empire went through many phases of demanding that the Christians sacrifice — which meant denying their faith — or be killed. *

Polycarp of Smyrna was probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of John. As he was led into the arena to be executed, he was heard to pray: “Lord God, Father of our blessed Saviour, I thank Thee that I have been deemed worthy to receive the crown of martyrdom, and that I may die for Thee and Thy cause.”

* https:// christianhistoryinstitute.org/ study/ module/ polycarp

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

Polycarp was an old man, at least 86 and while on trial the proconsul was at first eager to spare him. In a 2nd century writing called “The Martyr- dom of Polycarp”, the author relates:

The Proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hearing that he was, he tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying, “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists!’” Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said, “Down with the Atheists!”

“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.”

“86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

“I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.” “Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.”

“If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.”

“You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.” *

* Polycarp’s Martyrdom (ca. 69-ca. 155) Translated by J.B. Lightfoot. Abridged and modernized by Stephen Tomkins.

Here are 2 more reasons to rejoice in trials and persecution.

Because of the great reward that we will share with the prophets, who endured similar treatment.

Matt 5:12 (NIV) “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Because of the honour of being identified with Christ.

1 Pet 4:16 (NIV) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

After the apostles are flogged, note their response.

Acts 5:40-41 (NIV) … They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Often we rationalize that we can praise God not because of the circumstance, but despite the circumstance.

However in the former example we see the apostles praising God not only despite the suffering, but because of the suffering. They are “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering”.

2) JOY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION

Because they had sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were incarcerated in a German concentration camp. When they were moved to Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified by the fact that their reeking, straw-bed platforms swarmed with fleas. How could they live in such a place?

It was Betsie who discovered God’s answer: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ 1

Corrie stared at Betsie; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God’s Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. “The fleas! This was too much. 1

1 http:// shorterdesigns.com/ prayercoach/ 2009/ 11/ 29/ thank-you-for-the-fleas-about-corrie-ten-boom/

‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. ‘It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.’

Women's barracks in a German Concentration Camp

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.” It turned out that Betsie was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but a blessing after all. The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and harassing them. They finally discovered that it was the fleas that kept those supervisors out.

Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment. Dozens of desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope-giving Word of God. Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met. 1

1 Ibid

3) LOVE & FORGIVENESS FOR PERSECUTORS

We are told to love and pray for our persecutors…

Matt 5:44 (NIV) “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

After being falsely accused and sentenced to death by crucifixion, Jesus prayed on the cross for his tormentors:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

3) LOVE & FORGIVENESS FOR PERSECUTORS

When in about 36 AD the deacon Stephen became the first Christian martyr, note his response to his executioners:

Acts 7:59-60 (NIV) While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

3) LOVE & FORGIVENESS FOR PERSECUTORS

Paul writes, “When we are cursed, we bless… when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” (1 Cor 4:12-13, NIV)

When Polycarp was arrested “He could have escaped but he refused saying, ‘God’s will be done.’” *

When he heard that they had come, he went down and spoke with them … Immediately he called for food and drink for them, and asked for an hour to pray uninterrupted. They agreed, and he stood and prayed, so full of the grace of God, that he could not stop for two hours. The men were astounded and many of them regretted coming to arrest such a godly and venerable an old man. *

* Polycarp’s Martyrdom

3) LOVE & FORGIVENESS FOR PERSECUTORS

Extreme hurt requires extreme forgiveness

A Christian widow from Iran said: “I only had hatred in my heart for my enemies who had murdered my husband. But one day a miracle happened. God taught me how I could love my enemies… I had been praying for this, even though on the deepest level I didn’t want it to happen. Gradually, through a process of ups and downs, God answered this prayer.” The only way we can get through extreme hurt is by forgiving people as Christ did.

* opendoorsusa.org/ christian-persecution/ theology-of-christian-persecution/

GOD’S PROMISES

1) THE PERSECUTED ARE BLESSED

God has promised a blessing to those who suffer for doing good:

1 Pet 3:13-14 (NIV) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.

1 Pet 4:13-14 (NIV) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

James 5:10-11 (NIV) Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered…

We are promised that our character will be developed through suffering.

James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Rom 5:3-4 (NIV) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

1) THE PERSECUTED ARE BLESSED

2) A GREAT REWARD

God has promised a great reward in heaven.

Luke 6:22-23 (NIV) “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”

Heb 10:33-35 (NIV) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

A crown of life is promised to those who persevere under trial:

James 1:12 (NIV) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The Church at Smyrna is told:

Rev 2:10 (ESV) Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

2) A GREAT REWARD

3) STRENGTH

The early Hebrew Christians were encouraged to continue to persevere when persecuted:

Heb 10:32,35-36 (NIV) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering… You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Paul writes, “when we are persecuted, we endure it…” (1 Cor 4:12, NIV)

3) STRENGTH

God has promised that he will give us strength to endure.

1 Cor 10:13 (NIV) No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Facing her death in the amphitheatre Perpetua encouraged the other Christians: “You must all stand fast in the Faith and not be weakened by what we have gone through.” 1

1 https:// reformationsa.org/ index.php/ history/ 355-perpetua-courageous-christian-martyr

Her bold testimony: “I am a Christian and cannot deny Christ” was repeated throughout the Empire. Her example of Christian resolve and Christian courage, choosing to suffer and die with a clear conscience, rather than deny her Saviour, inspired generations of Roman Christians to stand firm in the face of relentless persecution. 1

1 Ibid

3) STRENGTH

The council of Milan (355) condemned Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria - the chief opponent of the Arians. Eusebius, the bishop of Vercelli, Italy, was appalled at this treatment and rose to defend Athanasius. For his trouble he was brought to the attention of Emperor Valens who threatened him with the confiscation of all his goods, torture, banishment, or even death if he did not condemn Athanasius.

Eusebius replied, “He needs not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.”

3) STRENGTH

When we hear of Christians facing intense persecution and martyrdom in various parts of the world, we sometimes wonder how they can endure it. We may wonder whether or not we would stand strong in our faith if subjected to such horrific treatment. Corrie ten Boom was once ministering in a small African country where a new government had come to power. Just that week the new regime had begun to systematically put Christians to death.

As the people gathered at the little church where she was to speak that Sunday, fear and tension was written on every face. Corrie first read 1 Peter 4:12-14 (Phillips Translation):

“And now, dear friends of mine, I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience. You should be glad, because it means you are called to share Christ’s sufferings. One day, when He shows Himself in full splendour to men, you will be filled with the most tremendous joy.

If you are reproached for being Christ’s followers, that is a great privilege, for you can be sure that God’s Spirit of glory is resting upon you.” Closing her Bible, Corrie proceeded to relate a conversation that took place between she and her father when she was a little girl.

“Daddy,” she had said one day, “I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.” “Tell me,” her father wisely responded, “when you take a train trip from Haarlem to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?”

“No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.”

“That is right,” he replied, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our wise Father in heaven knows when you are going to need things too. Today you do not need the strength to be a martyr. But as soon as you are called upon for the honour of facing death for Jesus, He will supply the strength you need— just in time.”

3) STRENGTH

“I took great comfort in my father’s advice,” Corrie told her audience. “Later I had to suffer for Jesus in a [Nazi] concentration camp. He indeed gave me all the courage and power I needed.” “Tell us more, Tante Corrie,” one grizzled old member of the congregation spoke up. All were listening intently, seeking to store up truth that would strengthen them for the day of trial.

So she shared an incident that had taken place at Ravensbruck. A group of fellow prisoners had approached her, asking her to tell them some Bible stories. The camp guards called the Bible das Lugenbuch—the book of lies. Death by cruel punishment had been promised for any prisoner who was found possessing a Bible or talking about the Lord. Despite her awareness of those potential consequences, Corrie retrieved her Bible and started teaching from the Scripture.

Suddenly she was aware of a figure behind her. One of the prisoners silently mouthed the words, “Hide your Bible. It’s Lony.” Corrie knew Lony well. She was among the cruellest of all the women guards.

Artist’s depiction of Corrie and Betsie ten Boom reading God’s Word to fellow prisoners - http:// vancechristie.com

3) STRENGTH

Corrie, however, felt she had to obey God who had so clearly guided her to bring a Bible message to the prisoners that morning. Lony remained motionless behind her as she finished her teaching.

Corrie then said, “Let’s now sing a hymn of praise.” She could see the worried, anxious looks on the faces of the prisoners. Before it had been only her speaking but now they, too, were being asked to join her in singing. But Corrie believed God wanted them to be bold, even in the face of the enemy. So they sang.

When the hymn came to an end, Lony instructed, “Another song like that one.” She had enjoyed the singing and wanted to hear more. Heartened, the prisoners sang song after song. Afterwards Corrie even went to Lony and spoke to her about her need for Christ as her Saviour.

“Let me tell you what I learned from that experience,” she now told her African audience. “I knew that every word I said could mean death. Yet never before had I felt such peace and joy in my heart as while I was giving the Bible message in the presence of mine enemy. God gave me the grace and power I needed—the money for the train ticket arrived just the moment I was to step on the train.”

3) STRENGTH

When the meeting came to a close the nationals stood to leave. The fear and anxiety was gone from their faces. Once again they were joyful … and their hearts seemed filled with peace. Softly in the back of the room someone began singing an old gospel song:

There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way, To prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore

Corrie was later told that more than half the Christians who attended that service subsequently met a martyr’s death. 1

1 Receiving God’s Strength When Persecuted – Corrie Ten Boom - by Vance Christie

3) STRENGTH

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW PERSECUTION?

Our faith is proved to be genuine if it survives trial.

1 Pet 1:6-7 (NIV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuineand may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1) FIERY TRIALS TEST WHETHER OUR FAITH IS GENUINE

2) OVERCOMING IS GREATER THAN DELIVERANCE

Overcoming is greater than deliverance

Rom 12:21 (NKJV) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Suffering is difficult and the natural response is to ask God to remove it from our lives, but these trials often come with the opportunity to both grow our faith and bring glory to Jesus. Persecuted Christians often ask us to pray that they would stand strong in the midst of persecution—and not just for persecution to be taken away. *

* opendoorsusa.org/ christian-persecution/ theology-of-christian-persecution

3) WEAKNESS IS A PATH TO POWER

True empowerment does not come from human means, but through Christ alone. It often takes being at our weakest point to realize this. *

2 Cor 12:10 (NIV) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

An Egyptian Christian reflected on the way he was treated when he converted to Christ: “In great suffering you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life… Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality. In my weakest state, I had an incredible realization that Jesus loved me even right then.” *

* Ibid.

4) GOD’S GREATER PURPOSE

GOD KEEPS SECRETS

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Sometimes we don’t have all the answers.

There have been countless stories of persecuted Christians who have died without seeing the fruits of their labour. However, God knows all that has been and all that is to come. Our labour is not in vain, it is in His hands. *

* Ibid.

Writing to an audience who were being tempted to fall away because of persecution, the writer of Hebrews reminds them that our heroes of faith suffered:

Heb 11:35-38 (NIV) Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

4) GOD’S GREATER PURPOSE

In this context dealing with suffering, we are then pointed to Jesus as an example of overcoming in the face of suffering. The ‘witnesses’ referred to are those who had faith in the midst of suffering.

Heb 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus ...

The cross remains the greatest example of how God’s greater purpose was achieved through suffering.

Heb 12:2-3 (NIV) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Persecution has often served to spread the church, rather than destroy it.

In the 2nd century, Tertullian declared, “We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church… And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die, wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And when they find out, they join us.” 1

1 Apologeticum

“When the ambassador of Christ speaks the truth in love, and meets death with joy, a strange, miracle occurs: the eyes of unbelievers are opened, they are enabled to see the truth of God. Many, many groups of people on this planet have testified that the darkness which had been over them was dissipated only when a missionary was killed there…The death of the martyrs opens the eyes of unbelievers, and when they see the light, Satan’s power over them is gone… When the martyrs meet their death without fear, Satan’s last instrument is rendered powerless, and he is crushed and defeated.” ~ Josef Tson (President - Romanian Missionary Society)

While under house- arrest in Rome, Paul writes:

Phil 1:12-14 (NIV) Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

5) ALLOWS US TO “BE STILL”

Psalms 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God …

Many of Paul’s epistles were written while in prison or under house arrest.

Because of this persecution of the apostle, Christians for 2000 years have been blessed and discipled by his inspired writings.

5) ALLOWS US TO “BE STILL”

One Chinese church leader, who spent 23 years in prison, once said this to Christians who did not face persecution: “I was pushed into a cell, but you have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell, so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God.” *

THE CHALLENGE:

It is vital that we spend time with God, to grow in Him, so we are prepared to stand strong in the face of persecution.

* opendoorsusa.org/ christian-persecution/ theology-of-christian-persecution

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