In 2.2, we discovered there’s no way around persecution for every true believer. We also learned persecution leaves the believer with two options: either compromise or do God’s will in the situation. And Sometimes, persecution is used by God to prepare us for the next level of faith with Him.
With this understanding, how should we confront persecution?
This is an important question in the life of every true believer. It’s of absolute necessity to distinguish between suffering for Christ and suffering unnecessarily. In other words, there’s suffering which won’t do us any good and which we can avoid. Speaking through Peter, the Holy Spirit says, ‘‘But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters’’ (1 Peter 4:15, NKJV).
This type of suffering, though beneficial if handled God’s way, can be avoided. What’s the use of intentionally committing murder and spending twenty years in prison when you could have had a better impact on your life and those of others as an obedient free person?
Yet, the same passage says, ‘‘Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified…Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter’’ (1 Peter 4:12-14, 16, NKJV).
God clearly makes the distinction between suffering for Him and suffering unnecessarily. We should also learn to make the distinction between suffering for doing wrong things and suffering because of persecution. Suffering for doing wrong things requires another approach which was dealt with in Series 1. But suffering for doing good things is God’s will. The following steps are helpful to bring you out of persecution.
It’s good to know when you’re persecuted and when you’re not. This understanding enables you to approach the situation with Godly logic. It gives you the desire to seek God’s will in the situation. The Psalmist says, ‘‘Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wondrous works’’ (Psalm 119:26-27, NKJV)
Peter says, ‘‘rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy’’ (1 Peter 4:13). This should be the desire of every true believer. You see, a believer who desires physical comfort, material and financial prosperity yet neglects to suffer as a child of God has missed the point and can’t have a real impact in the Body of Christ and in the world.
Again Peter says, ‘‘For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully’’ (1 Peter 2:19). Why? Well, he continues saying, ‘‘When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps’’ (1 Peter 2:20-21, NKJV).
But it is also because God uses the persecution to promote the ways of His kingdom and to enrich us with overwhelming spiritual blessings. Jesus says, ‘‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’’ (Matthew 5:44-46, NKJV).
When suffering for doing bad things, you don’t take things patiently. Peter asks; ‘‘For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?’’ (1 Peter 2:20). Those who suffer as rebels need to repent, seek God’s mercy and learn His ways before expecting a divine miraculous intervention to take them to the next level of faith with God.
But those who are persecuted need to rejoice for partaking in Christ’s sufferings, expect spiritual growth and vigilantly look forward to displaying God’s glory and immediately winning souls depending on the situation. You’ll see clear examples in the next post when we deal with the benefits of persecution.
Persecution, as you’ll see in 2.4, is a perfect opportunity to access the dark world, win souls and most especially find deliverance while being projected by God to a higher dimension of faith and walk with Him.
So expect persecution in your life as a follower of Christ. And when you’re persecuted, don’t get out of control. You’re perfectly in God’s will. God wants to use the situation to impact light into the kingdom of darkness around you. Your role is to rejoice, be patient, pray for wisdom in the situation and walk through the door God opens to demonstrate His glory.
‘‘But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:14-18).
We’ll explore the benefits of persecution in the next post.
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