One of the discouragements that meets every true Christian before he has gone very far in the Christian life is persecution. God tells us in His Word that
"All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" [2 Tim. 3:12].
Sooner or later everyone who surrenders absolutely to God and seeks to follow Jesus Christ in everything will find that this verse is true. We live in a God-hating world and in a compromising age. The world's hatred of God in our day is veiled. It does not express itself in our land in the same way that it expressed itself in Palestine in the days of Jesus Christ, but the world hates God to-day as much as it ever did, and it hates the one who is loyal to Christ. The world may not imprison him or kill him but in some way it will persecute him. [Editor's Note: Many counties experience severe physical persecution and about 150,000 people are martyred every year for the cause of Christ.]
Persecution is inevitable for a loyal follower of Jesus Christ. Many a young Christian when he meets with persecution is surprised and discouraged and not a few fall away. Many a one seems to run well for a few days but like those of whom Jesus spoke,
"They have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word straightway they stumble" [Mark 4:17].
I have seen many an apparently promising Christian life brought to an end in this way. But if persecution is rightly received, it is no longer a hindrance to the Christian life but a help to it.
Do not be discouraged when you are persecuted. No matter how fierce and hard the persecution may be, be thankful for it. Jesus says,
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" [Matt. 5:10-12].
It is a great privilege to be persecuted for Christ and for the truth. Peter found this out and wrote to the Christians of his day:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch, as you are partakers of Christ's suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified" [1 Peter 4:12-14].
Be very sure that the persecution is really for Christ's sake and not because of come eccentricity of your own, or because of your own stubbornness. There are many who bring upon themselves the displeasure of others because they are stubborn and cranky and then flatter themselves that they are being persecuted for Christ's sale and for righteousness' sake.
Be considerate of the opinions of others and be considerate of the conduct of others. Be sure that you do not push your opinions upon others in an unwarrantable way, or may your conscience a rule of life for other people. But never yield a jot of principle. Stand for what you believe to be the truth. Do it in love, but do it at any cost. And if when you are standing for conviction and principle you are disliked for it and slandered for it and treated with all manner of unkindness because of it, do not be sad but rejoice. Do not speak evil of those who speak evil of you,
"because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps; who, when, He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously" [1 Peter 2:21, 23].
At this point many a Christian makes a mistake. He stands loyally for the truth, but he receives the persecution that comes for the truth with harshness, he grows bitter, he gets to condemning every one but himself. There is no blessing in bearing persecution in that way. Persecution should be borne meekly, lovingly, serenely. Don't talk about your own persecutions. Rejoice in them. Thank God for them, and go on obeying God. And don't forget to love and pray for them who persecute you [Matt. 5:44].
If at any time persecution seems harder than you can bear, remember how abundant the reward is,
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us" [2 Tim. 2:12].
Everyone must enter into the kingdom of God through much tribulation [Acts 14:22]., but do not go back on that account. Remember always however fiercely the fire of persecution may burn,
"That the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" [Rom. 8:18].
"Remember too that your light affliction is but for a moment, and that it works out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" [2 Cor. 4:17].
Keep looking, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are but for a time, but the things which are not seen are for eternity [2 Cor. 4:18]. When the apostles were persecuted, even unto imprisonment and stripes, they departed from the presence of the council that had ordered their terrible punishment, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, and they continued daily in the temple and every house teaching and preaching Jesus Christ [Acts 5:40-42].
The time may come when you think that you are being persecuted more than others, but you do not know what others may have to endure. Even if it were true, - that you were being persecuted more than anyone else, you ought not to complain but to humbly thank God that He has given you such an honour.
Keep your eyes fixed upon
"Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your mind" [Heb. 12:2-3].
I was once talking with an old black man who in the slave days had found His Saviour. The cruel master had him flogged again and agin for his loyalty to Christ but he said to me, "I simply thought of my Saviour dying on the cross in my place, and I rejoiced to suffer persecution for Him."
Feed Yourself Assignments
These assignments assume the student has completed the Feed Yourself course.
1. Memorize Heb. 12:2-3.
2. Look up in your Bible each Scripture reference mentioned in this lesson - even the ones that are quoted.
3. Read through the Gospels and underline everything Jesus said about tribulations and persecutions.