When someone is persecuted, he is treated cruelly and unfairly. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we gain eternal life and enter Heaven. Forces of darkness disturb people and hinder them from holding their beliefs, and even cause persecution towards them. One may think they can live a better Christian life if there is no persecution, but without it, they may become lazy in their believing lives or lapse into lukewarm faith. Also, when fathers of faith in the Bible and Christians throughout the history were persecuted and martyred for the sake of righteousness, more people could hear the gospel.
- Until the Roman Empire became Christian
At the time of the dominance of the Roman Empire, countless believers were persecuted just because they believed in the Lord Jesus. They even became the prey of lions in the amphitheater. However, they didn’t feel any fear when hungry lions flew at them. They were dying while offering praises to God.
After a while, the Roman citizens became curious. ‘How could believers in Jesus Christ fearlessly die like that even while singing praises? Who is this Jesus Christ they believe in and the one who they kept faith with even at the risk of their lives?’ They began to pay attention to Christianity and many of them accepted the gospel. The Roman Emperor’s mother also came to have faith in Jesus Christ. Finally, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great officially recognized Christianity.
Because believers were persecuted for righteousness, became prey for lions, and shed their blood, the Roman Empire, which was ruling the known world at the time, officially adopted Christianity as the state religion, which caused the gospel to be spread quickly to the whole world. God repays martyrs with great rewards such that their blood is not spilled in vain and He blesses them to dwell in shining glory in Heaven.
- Cases of people who were persecuted for their believing lives
2 Timothy 3:12 reads, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” If we live our Christian lives as we see fit, we may not receive any persecutions. If we don’t drink alcohol to keep from straying from the Word of God and we keep the whole Sabbath, then we have probably undergone persecution. Through the persecutions, we can check our faith and moreover our faith becomes strengthened, so we should achieve victories in the truth with faith. Then, let’s look into what kinds of persecutions we may receive in our Christian lives.
Firstly, others’ jealousy and envy may cause persecutions when you are pursuing God’s works.
Some people distort the facts, spread malicious rumors, or do evil to you when you are doing something well because they feel jealousy. Others may think the rumors are true after hearing them without checking the truth and join in the slandering.
In the past, some who felt jealous of this church spread false rumors about us and disturbed the works of the church because our church had experienced great revival. They harshly persecuted our church which had done nothing wrong but we didn’t hate them and just prayed for them. We maintained righteous, practiced goodness, and committed everything to God with faith. Then, God solved all problems in good ways and repaid us with blessings.
God says in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Thus, we must not envy or hate brothers of faith. If one hates or has ill feeling against others, it just causes him or her to have hard times. If you love all people, peace will come into your heart and you can enjoy freedom in the truth.
Secondly, persecutions are sometimes allowed by God in His will.
In this case, God causes all things to work together for good. For instance, to help someone who lacks wisdom become wiser, God may allow him to receive persecution. This is because he can acquire God’s wisdom through the persecution. The worldly people may seem to prosper by using evil schemes, but the final consequence is destruction. On the contrary, those who follow the right way may appear to take a loss at the moment. However God gives them the wisdom of goodness so they can overcome any kind of evil wisdom and give great glory to God.
There is another case where God allows for persecutions. It is to make some people great vessels through the persecutions and give them blessings. David dropped Goliath, the enemy champion, and became a hero of Israel. But he also had to run away to avoid King Saul because of Saul’s jealousy. He fled from Saul for around 10 years. It was the process necessary for David so that God could make him a great vessel.
Additionally, some persecutions are allowed because there is God’s special plan in it. There was great persecution against the Early Church. With the exception of the apostles, most believers in the Lord had to avoid the persecutions and scattered out from Judea to Samaria and beyond. Through the scattering, known as the Diaspora, the gospel could be spread to all Judea and Samaria.
Although Apostle John was in exile in Patmos Island, he had deep communication with God there and wrote the Book of Revelation. Just like him, if we overcome persecutions God allows in His will, we can become greater vessels and manifest God’s will more greatly.
Thirdly, there are persecutions caused by one’s mistakes or wrongdoings.
Suppose a housewife doesn’t do a house chore and makes meals absentmindedly using the excuse of ‘working for God’. Her family might despise it. Or if a worker neglects his job in his company and works diligently for the church, his boss or co-workers may not like it. Then, they can’t show virtuous generosity though they are Christians, but rather they might be singled out and their shortcomings be pointed out by others.
In this way, some people bring persecutions, which they don’t have to receive, upon themselves because of their own faults. They may overhear from others, “Why did he act like that though he is a Christian?” They sometimes disgrace God. Therefore, we shouldn’t receive persecutions that may come to us when we do not fulfill our own duties but display a lack of wisdom.
- In order to overcome persecutions and receive blessings
If one is under persecutions in his believing life, he should realize the reason he is being persecuted and respond to the persecution in a wise way. If the persecution is caused by his faults, he has to remedy his shortcomings and then the persecution will go away. But if he is faced with persecutions, though he prays and fasts for the righteousness of God and acts upon His Word, he should just rely on God with joy and thanks.
After we accept the Lord, we must live lives that are separated from the world. We might sometimes be faced with persecutions from family or relatives and we may be put on bad terms with them. Then, how much we obey the Word of God and act in the truth is very important. When we don’t act in evil and act in goodness until the end, God causes all things to work together for good. If we cast away evil and clean our hearts, darkness will be driven away.
Then, what should we do when we meet with persecutions in many parts in the process of achieving the works of God? We must not trip over on them and must have peace in the truth. Even though someone severely persecutes you, while you are working for the kingdom of God, you must not pay evil with evil and should only pray for them and their blessing.
Jesus loved even enemies and forgave them. He interceded for those who were crucifying Him, saying to God, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” We should also forgive others in goodness and pray for those who persecute us. We must not pay evil with evil because of our own ill feeling.
Matthew 5:10-12 reads, “”Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Therefore, we should fulfill our duties so that we won’t receive persecutions caused by our own faults and pass persecutions for the kingdom of God with joy and thanks. I hope that by doing so you will enjoy heavenly rewards and glory.