Grace to Endure Persecution – Pt. 3
According to II Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [NKJV]. Based on this Scripture, persecution is inevitable for any believer who is genuinely serving the Lord. It should come as no surprise that the devil would try to challenge people who know the Word and proclaim the truth of the Gospel. After all, true believers who walk in the Power of God and know their Kingdom authority present a grave threat to the powers of darkness. If the devil, through persecution, can intimidate a passionate believer into silence, he will gladly do so. Since the Scriptures tell us plainly that persecution will come, why would we feel blindsided when we encounter it? Jesus warned His Disciples of coming persecutions so that their hearts would be prepared in advance.
Likewise, He wants our hearts to be prepared in advance so that we will stand in the face of any trial, however intense.
How can we have a heart that is prepared in advance for any trial? We find some insight in both Matthew 10 and Mark 13, where Jesus spoke to His Disciples concerning the coming persecution. In Mark 13:11, Jesus made a surprising statement to His Disciples when He said, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” [NKJV]. Have you ever imagined a scenario in which someone demanded that you either renounce your faith in Christ or die? Perhaps you have pictured yourself in such a situation. Likely you imagined yourself boldly and unashamedly professing Christ. In fact, in doing so, you are premeditating how you would respond if you found yourself in that position.
Here is a thought- provoking question: what makes you so sure that you would profess faith in Christ in the heat of the moment? Is it the depth of your love and commitment to Jesus? Remember that Peter confidently declared that he would follow Jesus to death if necessary, and then within a few short hours, Peter’s resolve failed and he denied Christ three times. The Scripture tells us in 1st Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” [NKJV]. Peter had confidence in his own ability to stand, but when Jesus was arrested, Peter realized that He was on shaky ground, trusting in his own commitment level to Jesus.
John, by stark contrast, followed Jesus all the way to the cross. How did John withstand? Recall that John referred to himself as ‘The Disciple whom Jesus loved.” Why is this significant? John’s confidence was in the Love and commitment that Jesus had for him. Your commitment to Jesus is subject to change and therefore, it is a shaky foundation that may give way under you when persecution intensifies. But His commitment to you is an immutable, ever-constant, firm foundation that will remain solid even when persecution tries to break you. Always remember that when persecution comes, your commitment to Jesus may falter, but His commitment to you will carry you until the end! Therefore, one essential key to preparing your heart is learning to stand on the firm foundation of His commitment to you, not placing confidence in your own commitment to Him, which may fluctuate.
Remember that preparing your heart in advance does not mean premeditating what you will say in the heat of the moment. Jesus taught that in the day of persecution, we must depend solely on the Holy Spirit for the correct words to speak.
If you want to have a heart that is prepared to withstand persecution, begin to sensitize your heart to the still, small Voice of the Holy Spirit now, until His Voice begins to drown out the voice of fear, doubt, and human reason.
When you encounter persecution, trust that He will be right there with you, speaking through you with wisdom that is beyond your natural understanding.
Though He is present with you in the midst of trials and persecution, it is not enough simply to know intellectually that He is with you. You must have a heart that is trained and predisposed to look immediately for Jesus. Do not start to wonder or imagine what might happen to you or what pain you might have to endure. Instead, develop “tunnel vision,” and look straight at Jesus, until you find yourself sheltered in His Arms and the pain becomes distant and insignificant compared to His Loving embrace.
Train your heart in advance to behold the unseen rather than that which is seen, just as the Apostle Paul described in II Corinthians 4:16-18.
Recall that the things that you can see are temporary, but the unseen is eternal. Moreover, the suffering is but a light affliction compared to the eternal weight of Glory.
Part of seeing the unseen includes looking to the reward. Have you ever considered the power of looking to the reward? Doing so will empower you to endure any hardship in the present, knowing that it is temporary. Many great men in the Scriptures stood strong through afflictions in this manner. According to Hebrews 11:24-26, Moses was able to endure the trials of Egypt because “he looked to the reward.” Paul persevered in the midst of his sufferings by considering the Glory that would follow, writing in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” [NKJV]. Not only did Moses and Paul withstand trials and suffering by looking to the reward, but Jesus, Himself, did the same when He was crucified.
According to Hebrews 12:2, Jesus endured the Cross because of the joy that was set before Him!
Based on this passage, then, Jesus was empowered to endure His sufferings by looking to the reward. The following passage, Hebrews 12:3, goes on to say, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” [NKJV]. Essentially, this passage is saying that if we consider the manner in which Jesus endured His sufferings at the Cross, we will thereby learn how to persevere in our temporary sufferings. Therefore, if we learn to look the reward, we will discover the key to endurance.
By implementing these principles, you will be more than prepared to withstand attacks and persecution. If Christ is in you, then there is greater strength for endurance within you than you can begin to imagine. Whatever uncertainties you encounter in this world, whether trials as light as simple rejection or as heavy as imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel, you can face them with anticipation rather than apprehension, because when all is said and done, the Lord Himself will be your strength. Amen.