If I’m being totally honest, the idea of suffering for the sake of the gospel makes me a little uncomfortable. I’d rather be safe. Comfortable. Happy. Prosperous. Respected. Admired. Can you relate? The reality is my avoidance means if persecution came I wouldn’t be ready. So, perhaps today would be a good day that we might want to consider what it would mean to prepare for persecution?
Many don’t prepare for persecution, they live it
As I was working on He Is Enough: Living the Fullness of Jesus, my new Bible study on Colossians, it occurred to me that right now, somewhere in the world, a brother or sister in Christ is suffering. And that’s not unusual. If anything, it’s been the norm for thousands of years. It’s to be expected.
Jesus told His disciples to expect to suffer for following Him, and Paul experienced this very thing as well (see Colossians 1:24). We are often buffered in our communities, but many brothers and sisters don’t spend their time preparing for persecution — rather, they live it daily.
A Personal Connection to Persecution
My own family members and church community experienced persecution for their faith under the Romanian communist regime in the 1970’s and 1980’s. These are the stories I grew up with and for decades I was haunted by by my nightmares. Nightmares of running away from captors and hiding from the secret police–but it wasn’t so much the imprisonment or physical torture that scared me as much as the fear of caving under pressure and denying Christ. I’d wake up with a start and realize that once again, it had been a dream.
You might not have a personal family history of persecution, but this topic is one we should all pay attention to. Here’s an excerpt from He Is Enough that explains this concept more:
The relative absence of persecution enjoyed by most of the Western church today is abnormal in the context of the past two thousand years of church history. Jesus tells us to expect us to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
While many of us today may enjoy freedom from religious persecution, we must prepare ourselves for the eventuality of suffering for the gospel of Jesus, not in fear and anxiety, but in steadfastness and perseverance. It’s important to note this: It’s not a matter of whether or not we will experience persecution, but rather a matter of how we can prepare now to stand steadfast when it comes.
This is a heavy topic, and perhaps your heart seems burdened right now. Take some time to talk with the Lord about your fears, your reactions, and your trepidations. What do you want to say to Him?
How might He be asking you to prepare here and now to face future opposition?
As I went through this exercise myself, I realized that my fears were rooted in my own ability or inability to cling to Christ. The nightmares haunted me because I was afraid I’d denounce Christ. But instead, Jesus was inviting me to rest in Him, assured that just as my eternal salvation rests in Christ alone, so my sanctification and eternal security are secure in Him as well. Not in my own abilities.
What a relief!
From that point on, I resolved to stop running away from the secret police in my nightmares, and instead to visualize myself falling to my knees, entrusting my life and my testimony to Jesus. And you know what happened? The nightmares gradually became less frequent and eventually stopped.
Practical Ways to Prepare for Persecution
God never calls us to live in fear, but He does call us to prepare for action so that we might stand firm and be faithful when we face opposition.
So how can we do that?
Here are some practical ways I mention in the book (page 73):
- Memorize Scripture. Lots of it. The time may come when your Bible is taken away, but no one can steal the words of God that you’ve hidden in your heart.
- Set aside a day each week to fast and pray, asking God to tear down idols that compete for your affection. Asking him to help you watch for and anticipate Jesus’ return.
- Read Christian biographies of men and women throughout history who have suffered for Christ’s sake.
- Subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs to educate yourself about persecution around the world and intercede for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering.
- Pray that God would give you His perspective on suffering for His sake (Acts 5:41; Phil 3:10-11).
I encourage you to pick one action step from the list above and do it today.
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