“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
~ Matthew 5:10-12
It’s been a little over a week now since evil came against the people of God here in the US in a shocking and visible fashion. Across the country on November 5th, people arrived home from worshiping in the Lord’s houses to discover that 26 of our brothers and sisters in Christ were slain and 20 injured while worshiping at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. There was numbness, there was sorrow. Then came the anger and recriminations. There followed, as inevitably does, the cries for gun control, against gun control, for better mental health options, against blaming poor mental health. There were prayers lifted, and cries that prayer is not effective and not enough if we don’t DO something about the problem. Chaos boiled, as it always does. Those devastated at waking up in a world where brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends were suddenly, violently ripped from their present lives mourned. The rest of us flailed helplessly for a way to stem the fear and trembling at the recognition that that could just as easily have been us.
Into that chaos, in bits and pieces, the Holy Spirit whispered His reminders. The first piece I saw on Monday that wasn’t the standard argument was from Erik Erickson over at the Resurgent, reminding us all that there actually is a spiritual battle going on in the world, and that the enemy of the Lord has his own minions to wreak havoc. On Wednesday, Dan Calabrese over at Herman Cain gave the stark reminder that evil is real, and we have made accommodation with it, and it is therefore in the driver’s seat here in our nation. My favorite, the one that spoke the hope of Christ, not just the conviction of the Spirit, was this piece by Lori Roeleveld called “On The Day They Shoot Me Down In My Pew”. This made my heart rejoice because it spoke a message that has been in my soul for God’s people here for a long time.
Persecuted for Christ
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
~ 1 Peter 4:12-14
As believers, we have a hope that rests not in the idea that nothing bad will befall us, but in something else. We follow a God who did not remain idle and distant while Satan stole His children for all eternity. Instead, He sent the Son, part of the mysterious Trinity, essence and fullness of God wrapped in the flesh and fullness of man, to save us from the enemy by reconciling us to God for all eternity. But, the image of that Son, contrary to so much interpretation and misunderstanding today, is not one of a triumphal, happy, contented, and safe life.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost and damned. He stepped out of heaven and into the earth to reach people where they were because they could not come to the Father without that. Where we are, my friends, is not a safe and secure place. It is a place where our enemy is actively seeking to devour us. It is a place where the world is actively seeking to entrap us. It is a world where demons still walk because men have compromised with the devil to please their flesh. He came anyway.
When He called us, He gave us warning to be prepared.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
~ John 15:18-20
The Father did not spare the Son. We who call Him Lord must understand that while we are beloved children of the Father in heaven, by virtue of the adoption made available to us through Christ, we are something else as well. We are the willing ambassadors for Christ, speaking His truth in the same dark and dangerous world He entered. The enemy is actively seeking to devour us. The world is actively seeking to discredit, imprison, and entrap us. It is a world where demons walk, and are growing stronger in this present time. The one we follow was hung on a cross in service of His mission. According to Paul’s writings to Timothy, Scripture promises us that “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Responding to Persecution
I said two years ago today, in “What is the Answer?” that we as the church must prepare. Perhaps the greatest preparation we need right now, as Satan grows more bold on our own shores, is to understand what it looks like for a follower of Christ to respond to being persecuted. Is the answer to rage against the evil, and complain about guns or mental health services? Is it simply to pray for those who are hurting? Is it to quietly tut-tut and thank God it was not us? How do we, as ambassadors for Christ, respond to these things that our natural flesh recoils from in horror and outrage? In a nation where many have been praying for revival, I have a few thoughts to offer. Revival among the brethren means a stepping up of the enemy attacks. For victory to come, there must be battle, so we must look to Scripture to discover why even as we mourn, these events should cause us to praise the Lord as He answers prayers.
The crowd joined the attack against Paul and Silas. The judges ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped and beaten with rods. They were whipped without mercy. Then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put Paul and Silas deep inside the prison. He fastened their feet so they couldn’t get away.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up. He saw that the prison doors were open. He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself. He thought the prisoners had escaped. “Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!”
The jailer called out for some lights. He rushed in, shaking with fear. He fell down in front of Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
~ Acts 16:16-30
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
~ Mark 13:11
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
~ 1 Peter 4:16
And lastly from Scripture, the rest of that promise from the one we call Lord.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
~ John 16:33
From a more contemporary perspective, let us take a lesson from the saints in Sutherland, who did this one week after evil broke through into their lives.
Pray always, and glorify the Lord.