“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
There is a rapid increase of news reports around the world about persecution against followers of Jesus Christ, but this is not a recent development. The ancient prophets and saints faced various persecutions to the point that some were tortured and even gruesomely killed.
The first thing we need to note about persecution is to expect it and be ready for it. Jesus prepared His disciples, He told them, “… If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20 NKJV).
If He said this to His disciples, He is saying it to you also. You have to expect it and be ready. Apostle Paul reemphasized this, telling Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV).
Studying the Bible helps us to deal with persecution. The Scriptures help us strengthen our convictions by reminding us of what we believe and why we believe it, thereby preparing us to defend our faith in the face of opposition (Acts 7, 1 Peter 3:15). Through the Scriptures, we can also learn to receive strength and courage from saints of old who courageously faced persecution (Daniel 3:17-18; 6:10-28, Acts 7, 2 Corinthians 11:22-27).
We also learn from Scripture that our response to persecution should be to rejoice. Jesus said:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV)
As strange as it may sound, we rejoice because we count it a blessed privilege to suffer for the sake of our Lord and because we can build patience and character through it. This mindset enables us to boldly obey the instruction to love, and pray for those who persecute us (Romans 12:14,17-19, 1 Peter 3:9).
By doing so, we demonstrate to the world that we are children of God. In the midst of persecution, whether it’s on social media, from loved ones or strangers, at work or school, learn to love and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-45).
Dear believer, you have the capacity to stand against whatever persecution you are going through or that may come your way. Keep praying, trusting God, renewing your mind by God’s word, rejoicing, and loving.
Bible Reading Plan: Isaiah 1-4