Standing Strong Through the Storm
THE PROCESS OF PERSECUTION-1: OPPOSITION
Consider [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3
Whenever we ask audiences in free societies to word-associate “persecution,” most responses are what we refer to as the “big three”: torture, imprisonment and martyrdom. Many would agree that persecution is much more than the “big three” which are often only experienced in the final stage of the process of persecution.
Jesus repeatedly warned his followers that if the world hated Him, it would hate them also (John 15:18). In Luke 6:22, Jesus reminds his disciples that this opposition is a blessing. Not a blessing I ever hear many Christians praying for.
So the very basic and first step in this process is awareness that as a follower of Jesus, you can expect opposition, just as Jesus Himself experienced (Hebrews 12:3). He indicated that it will come from the world and possibly even from your own family and friends.
So do we walk around with a persecution complex, chip on our shoulder attitude, because of this? Absolutely not. The good news is that Jesus says we can live a life of joy in the midst of these troubles because He has overcome the world and so can we (John 16:33).
And this opposition is in every country and culture, not just those where severe persecution is being experienced. A few years ago Jim Cunningham and I wrote a little booklet about experiencing mild persecution right here in North America entitled Red Skies @ Dawn available at Open Doors offices. It is a dialogue between two young couples. Here’s a relevant excerpt:
Sam responded. “Ultimately Satan, our real enemy, wants to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ, wherever it’s located. And Jesus Himself is the stumbling block to those who don’t believe. When we say He is the only way, we are labeled as exclusivists and on this basis we are then considered intolerant.”
Yvonne added, “I heard a program host on the radio the other day and he was obviously upset by this. When someone told him that Jesus is the only way to God, he shouted that we evangelicals are the scum of the earth!”
“Whoa,” Sanjit reacted. “That’s a little heavy, isn’t it?”
Yvonne continued, “Well, he went on to say that it wasn’t the belief to which he objected so much but he objected to the arrogance of any person claiming ‘my way or the highway’ and writing off the rest of the human race to eternal damnation.”
All of this discussion clearly points out, “Sam concluded, “we are facing—and will face even more—attacks because of Jesus in us. Persecution may not be just for those brothers and sisters across the seas in places like East Africa and China, but perhaps even for us.”
RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice that in the face of general opposition to Jesus in me, I can be an overcomer like Jesus.
PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to be aware of any opposition without it negatively affecting my witness.