A Pastoral Perspective on Persecution
Somewhere along the road, the “Americanization” of Christianity made us believe that following Jesus would be easy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Pursuing Christ is costly. It invites persecution. It commands sacrificial living. After all, Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, you’ll have it easy.” What He did say is:
“In this world, you will have trouble.” John 16:33a
In John 15, in the heart of the Upper Room Discourse, the Lord gives the disciples a disheartening truth: since the world persecuted Him, the disciples must expect persecution. This comes shortly after He tells them to remain in His love.
Yes, in the midst of intense persecution. Remain.
But how is it possible to remain in Him? How do we stay faithful to the Lord when the world gives us troubles? How can we honor God when we endure the awful plight of persecution? He gives us the answer at the end of the chapter: The Holy Spirit.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27 ESV
This is where our hope comes from. No matter what we face in life, we never face it alone. The Lord is always with us. He is good, and He will see us through. But don’t mistakenly think that this means you won’t face hardships. Living out your faith isn’t meant to be easy, at least not on this side of heaven. Yet, even in its difficulty, we can have joy in the process of loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. After all, He is with us. He faced the worst of the persecution for us when He was nailed to the cross. And even now, He wants to bear our toughest burdens for us:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
Peter, writing to young Christians on persevering in the faith, knew of the trials they would face. He knew that Satan and evil are unrelenting. He knew just how much they would need to put their hope in the Lord. The Lord is trustworthy. He is with us (Immanuel).
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV
As you enter your day, reflect on these helpful words above. Remember that your Christian life and journey isn’t meant to be easy. But absolutely never forget that wherever you go and whatever trials you face, the Holy Spirit of God is with you.