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One of the discouragements that meet every true Christian before he has gone very far in the Christian life is persecution. God tells us in His Word that “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12) Sooner or later, everyone who surrenders absolutely to God and seeks to follow Jesus Christ in everything will find that this verse is true. We live in a God-hating world and in a compromising age. The world’s hatred of God in our day is out in the open. However, it is does not express itself in our land in the same way that it expressed itself in Palestine in the days of Jesus Christ, but the world hates God today as much as it ever did, and it hates the one who is loyal to Christ.
It may not imprison him or kill him but, in some way, it will persecute him. Persecution is inevitable for a loyal follower of Jesus Christ. Many a young Christian when he meets with persecution is surprised, discouraged, and not a few fall away. Many a one seems to run well for a few days but like those of whom Jesus spoke, “They have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word straightway they stumble” (Mark 4:17). However, if persecution is rightly received, it is no longer a hindrance to the Christian life, but a help to it.
Do not be discouraged when you are persecuted. No matter how fierce and hard the persecution may be, be thankful for it. Jesus says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:10–12). It is a great privilege to be persecuted for Christ and for the truth. Peter found this out and wrote to the Christians of his day, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. But rejoice, inasmuch, as you are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12–14).
Be sure that the persecution is really for Christ’s sake and not because of something, we brought on ourselves, or because of our stubbornness. There are many who bring upon themselves the displeasure of others because they are stubborn and bad-tempered, and then flatter themselves that they are being persecuted for Christ’s sake and for righteousness’ sake. Be considerate of the opinions of others and be considerate of the conduct of others. Be sure that you do not push your opinions upon others in an unwarrantable way, or make your conscience a rule of life for other people. However, never yield a speck of principle. Stand for what you believe to be the truth. Do it in love, but do it at any cost. In addition, if when you are standing for conviction and principle you are disliked for it and slandered for it and treated with all manner of unkindness because of it, do not be sad but rejoice. Do not speak evil of those who speak evil of you, “because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21, 23).
At this point, many a Christian makes a mistake. He stands loyally for the truth, but he receives the persecution that comes for the truth with harshness, he grows bitter, he gets to condemning everyone but himself. There is no blessing in bearing persecution in that way. Persecution should be borne meekly, lovingly, serenely. Do not talk about your own persecutions. Rejoice in them. Thank God for them, and go on obeying God. Moreover, do not forget to love and pray for them who persecute you (Matt. 5:44).
If at any time the persecution seems harder than you can bear, remember how abundant the reward is, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). Everyone must enter into the kingdom of God through much tribulation (Acts 14:22), but do not go back on that account. Always remember, however, fiercely the fire of persecution may burn, “That the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Remember, too, that your light affliction is but for the moment, and that it works out for you “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). Keep looking, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are but for a time, but the things which are not seen are for eternity (2 Cor. 4:18). When the apostles were persecuted, even to the point of imprisonment and stripes, they departed from the presence of the council that had ordered their terrible punishment, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, and they continued daily in the temple and every house teaching and preaching Jesus Christ (Acts 5:40–42).
The time may come when you think that you are being persecuted more than others are, but you do not know what others may have to endure. Even if it were true, that you were being persecuted more than anyone else, you ought not to complain but to humbly thank God that He has bestowed upon you such an honor. Keep your eyes fixed upon “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:2-3)