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In the United States, for a long time it was usual to think of persecution as something that happens in other countries. Many thought that persecution of Christians would not happen here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In the past several decades, however, this attitude began to change, and with the moral decay of America in an advanced stage it is right on our doorstep. It started with ridicule, harassment, lawsuits, and other forms of discrimination—just like it started out with the Jews in Nazi Germany. With the spiritual rot invading all levels of the land, however, the hostility towards Christians is becoming more visible. Its teeth are beginning to show.


Persecution is nothing new to the Church. It has gone on ever since the Church began. Many believers have been martyred throughout its history. We reached a new level of slaughter in the 20th and 21st centuries, though, when more Christians were killed for their faith than the entire 19 preceding centuries combined. In America the killing of believers so far has been mostly by crazed individuals. That is certainly going to change. Persecution in general is going to ramp up in this country in ways that many Americans have never dreamed of. What can we do?


We can look back at Biblical examples of strength in the face of persecution. First, in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts, the apostles Peter and John were targeted by the religious leaders of the day. For those who do not take this seriously, remember that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion was brought about by these same people. These Jewish religious leaders were upset because they felt that by healing a cripple, the apostles would draw followers away from the Jews and undermine their positions and prestige, not to mention the fact that as orthodox Old Testament believers they saw this new faith, then called “The Way”, as outright heresy. Peter and John were threatened, but these were not idle threats. Look at how these men of God responded:


Acts 4:15-21:  But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.

Second, the apostle Paul, who had faced many persecutions throughout his ministry, faced his biggest challenge of all at the end of his life. The Roman Empire throughout which he lived and traveled was thoroughly pagan, and there was increasing intolerance towards Christians which boiled over into full-blown persecution, including killings. The emperor Nero was an especially bloodthirsty persecutor of the saints, and by the government’s Christian-hating decree Paul was to be beheaded. Paul would not compromise or renounce his faith no matter what the cost. The old apostle’s courageous response to the formidable challenge he faced has inspired persecuted believers throughout Church history:

2 Timothy 4:6-8:  For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

What had prepared these bold Christians for any level of persecution, even martyrdom, was their devout, rock-solid relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter what the spiritual landscape of their lives looked like, even in times of little or no persecution they strove to draw close to the Lord and grow in the faith.  So what can we learn from them? The best preparation for persecution is becoming or being a disciple of Jesus Christ. When things get really tough, superficial believers are stripped away. They apostatize from the faith in order to escape or lessen their suffering, forfeiting their salvation in the process if they do not repent. Others think they are saved, only to realize in times of real persecution that they are not saved, and throw away what they have learned of the faith by siding with the enemy to avoid trouble. Remember Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 13 and take to heart Jesus’s admonition in Luke 14.

2 Corinthians 13:5:  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Luke 14:25-33:  Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

For clarification, Jesus’s underlying idea is to not have a love so fierce for anyone or anything else that you could not let go of any or all aspects of your life, even living itself, if it came to a choice between Him and security, common scenarios in persecution. So closeness with our Savior, a life filled with disciple’s qualities such as a fervent prayer and Scripture-reading life, is good insurance against abandoning the faith when persecution hits hard. Also needed is an eternal perspective, a belief that the world we see is not all there is, that there are rewards for us if we do not give up:

Mark 10:28-30:  Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:  Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

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