We are in Part 3 of our study on Persecution of the Church. In Part 1, we discussed the pattern of persecution in times past, as it sprouted and grew in different cultures and how we are quickly fitting into that pattern here and now. In Part 2, we discussed why people are becoming so "intolerant and resentful" of Christ and Christianity in our culture today, and why persecution gives the real Church a unique opportunity of sifting, growing and witnessing to the world like no other time. Today we will discuss how to prepare for, and endure the growing animosity and resistance towards our faith. As levels of persecution seems to be steadily on the rise in our culture—whether quickly, or over time—we will face increasing persecution in the days ahead.
It's a good thing to prepare for a possible storm before it ever comes, right? It's even a good thing to prepare when you see the storm approaching from afar. But it is futile and deadly to try to prepare after it has arrived. Now is the time for us to buckle down, board up and prepare for what is almost upon us—so that your house will be fitted and ready for the storm; so that you might offer shelter for those unprepared around you.
Before we can get into specifics about what we need to do, 3e first need to look at a couple of major issues which must be understood clearly or nothing else we do will be effective or even matter. In our sheltered culture—in our protected and self-focused environments in which we have grown up, whether you want to admit it or not—most of us have two gods in our lives that reign supreme. God—meaning they affect our every thought and action (even subconsciously); God—meaning we will always do what it takes to please them. Our first "god" is "comfort and safety". Many of us live in complete slavery to comfort and security. We constantly obsess over, and work too many hours to get and maintain perfect homes, perfect cars, creature comforts, entertainment, and a retirement of luxury. And if anything we might be called to involve ourselves in threatens any of these things, or diminishes any of these things, we are out of the game, no questions. Many of us obsess over good health and long lives, [this is good until it is taken to a fault], often staying uninvolved in anything that would risk our safety or health in any way. Regardless of others' needs or dangers, as long as we are safe, healthy and comfortable because “I” am the most important; “I” have to take care of me. Does Scripture say a good life is one that is just comfortable and safe? It is an obsession that can lead to much anxiety and fear and can make you actually miss real life—miss a meaningful life—in your sheltered, selfish existence. How many people could we help; how would our lives be different, if we weren't holding onto comfort and safety so tightly? How do you beat this "god of comfort and security" in the times ahead that may challenge both? God created everything you have the privilege of enjoying right now. All of the incredible things around us that we often even take for granted, are His Creation, and they belong to Him, not us. You and I are literally here with the breath of life in our lungs because He gave us this life. It is not ours alone. We are His Creation, and when we turned against Him and took all of His blessings as our own belongings, leaving Him out completely; selfishly living the life given to us; hurting others and Him along the way; we deserved to be done away with. But instead, God gave up every "comfort" He had in this Universe—leaving much more than we ever could imagine—and the One Who had every right to step onto this planet as King, gave up every belonging He had on earth as well. He threw away His reputation, His health, His very life. He chose to suffer the worst torture and rejection we could fathom. He chose to experience the total hell of complete abandonment by men and God the Father, to die alone, rejected and completely broken. To give you back the rights to everything you and I have taken from Him in selfishness and to be with Him in unfathomable love again. Knowing this, how can we hold onto anything in this world that is not even ours in the first place—thinking it is more valuable than the One Who made it for us—and then, died horribly to forgive us for wanting it more than Him. Anything we give up is a chance to show Him how much more valuable He is than anything He has given to us; a chance to show Him that we love Him for all He has done; and a chance to share in His pain and loss, because we don't want our Precious King to have suffered naked and alone, but to know we stand by His side no matter the cost. What would you give up to save a child? A spouse? Everything! Consider it already lost and don't fret or scramble to hold dearly to anything but Him. Philippians 3:8.
The second "god" most today serve is the god of emotions. We often simply refrain from doing whatever we fear or dread, even when we know it's right. And we very often do what we feel like doing—what feels good or benefits us—regardless of the laws, facts or consequences; regardless of who gets hurt, or what we destroy. Following your own feelings and desires, rather than choosing to do what is right or best for others is the weakest, easiest, most cowardly way to live, which often leads to a bitter, lonely world in the end. It takes strength, character and courage to choose to do right rather than to simply give in to our emotions. Jesus made sure that He felt every emotion known to mankind. Unbelievable fear (sweat Blood), anger, hurt, betrayal, temptation, total despair; and in love for us, above love for even Himself as God, He chose the right path rather than following His feelings. Real love is a choice based on the worth you give the one you love. When the time comes that we face loss, social rejection, legal action, or even violence for Christ's sake, we will have all kinds of emotions trying to make us take the easy route. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the actions we take even as we feel it. We have to be led by what we choose as worth—our convictions, rather than our emotions—and choose to love Him; choose to do right. And if you know that Christ is real—if you believe what He says: 1) there is nothing you can lose or give up that will not be returned many times over: Matthew 19:28-30; Romans 8:18. 2) even the ultimate sacrifice will be a step into the greatest event of your existence: Philippians 1:20-23. If we will gain more than we could ever give up, and we will have a life better than any imagined, what do we truly have to lose following Him?
Some will say “That all makes perfect sense, but how can I be sure that I will do the right thing when tough times come?” The simple and relieving answer is you can't do this alone. The Hebrew phrase "Maleh oti" means, "Fill me!" Listen to this moment Peter and John, for their faith, were brought before the very people who killed Jesus: Acts 4:5-8. Peter went on to tell them in courage through the spirit that he acted on the Power of Jesus whom they crucified, but God raised. Peter only had the courage and strength through the Spirit that lived in him. No2w, listen to Paul: Timothy 1:7-8. The way you prepare is by truly focusing on getting real and personal with Christ now. Learning to know and love Him so much; learning to trust Him and rely on His Spirit so much; that you naturally trust and rely on Him then. It's not what you can do, but who you rely upon. We will have strength then and now when we are just focused on Him, and not our own strength; nor the task at hand. With a mindset that we are willing to do all Christ did for us in return for Him, and we are ready to leave comfort and security; and we are ready to follow Truth over emotions; and we already accept everything as loss incurred; we can step into details of how to handle growing persecution.
Persecution For Dummies: 1) You should defend your family from harm. You are Christ to them. True love doesn't purposefully let loved ones hurt. But we are not called to hate those who hate us, but love instead. So, we cannot be overtaken with returned hatred and hostility. We must show haters a genuine care for their souls. (Let God show you their true lost and broken ways): Luke 6:27, 32, 35-36. You and I now have the chance to understand and live this in a new way. 2) Don't be a "pot stirrer" or a purposeful nuisance. We are not called to simply be friends with everyone and have peace at all costs. We have this notion today that being a Christian means being mousy and unnoticed; being passive and soft at all times. Nothing could be further from the truth: Luke 12:49-53; Luke 9:26. Never be ashamed or afraid to speak the truth about Christ or your beliefs, even, and especially, when they are against the flow. But do it in real care and acceptance of those in opposition. Show them the basis of love behind your beliefs, and then let the chips fall where they may. Even if you are hated or suffer loss because we don’t know where and when it will ring true. You can’t feel wrong or guilty if you are unliked or called evil for your beliefs. Their dislike of God’s Ways is to be expected. (Do they feel wrong or guilty about their selfish ways?) On the contrary, you should know you are doing something right because Jesus said many would hate you for living against the world: Luke 6:26. 3) Be the best, most obedient subjects of the government you can be, knowing that you obey God when you are obedient to government—until those laws try to force you to be unfaithful to God or His Word. When restrictions creep in slowly and craftily, trying to force small concessions or make us break faith in some way, you must respectfully, but boldly resist. At that point, even standing against the law if necessary, with a completely clear conscience and in a fearless manner. Because in this case, you are not being disobedient, you are simply listening to the Higher Governing Power: Daniel 3:16, 18; Acts 4:18-20. 4) More than ever before, do whatever is necessary to continue meeting with and supporting fellow believers in Christ. When Peter and John left the Governing Council of the Sanhedrin after being threatened that day—guess where they went directly to for support?: Acts 4:23-24. The writer of Hebrews (Paul?) said coming together was more and more important as the end draws near: Hebrews 10:24-25. Here, he says for reasons of exhortation and good works. You need fellowship with others who are holding faith against the same opposition to keep you strong! We may need financial, material or legal help, which would only come from a combined group of likeminded resources. We need to be one more than ever; committed brothers and sisters, not acquaintances. Forget petty differences and small theological arguments and stand shoulder to shoulder. And if laziness, indifference, or fear of Covid keeps you home when you go and do anything else you want during this time, you need to decide what your priorities are. What life is about? Because much bigger things are coming that will try to keep you away soon. Do you think you will stand together then if not now? 5) Be involved in every vote and every Pro-God movement you can involve yourself in for the Glory of God, and the protection of human life and rights. Stop letting the world take us by storm in their passions as we sit idly by and do nothing but pout; get involved. 6) Hide His Word in your heart and elsewhere. Make an all-out serious commitment to learn His Word well. Because there are so many in the church today that will lead you astray, and even make it sound honorable and right, in God's Name. You need to be able to discern Truth because you know deception is everywhere. You need to know when a church or a teaching is a pawn of the enemy. And I really don't care if some call me paranoid; we have seen unbelievable changes happen rapidly in recent months. Be prepared (physically). Have His Word tucked away somewhere safely now because we cannot dismiss any possibility of the future at this point. 7) Begin to pray with seriousness and expectation. God moves when His people are passionate and faithful. Expect Him to move in amazing ways when His people are fighting sacrificially for Him in a hurting, messed up world: Psalm 91:14-15. 8) Believers and Non-Believers alike, know this: the fact that Christians have become the most hated and persecuted group in the entire world as described in Scriptures for the Last Days; and that Israel has miraculously come back into her own land after 2000 years, against all odds, exactly as prophesied; and that every other major power on earth is poised exactly as Scriptures predicted; and that we have the technological ability to buy, sell, trade, be tracked and cut out of the economic system with a single number for the first time; and we have weapons that match the incredible power prophesied in Scriptures; and the world is ripe for a Peace Agreement in the turmoil of the Middle East…know that more than at any other time in history everything you know around you will be changed with the first sound of that shofar blowing. And for the believer in Christ, all will be done, we can finally rest, we win—unspeakable, awesome things await. But for the unbeliever—it will be too late, and all hell will literally begin to break out around you. Do not rest until you decide what you will be faithful to. Tomorrow may literally be too late. "La'olam lo tissog": never surrender—in other words: hold the line.
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