Sometimes we here talk about not so good things and tend to get a little heavy in our conversations. Face it, most people, even most Christians don’t want to consider the fact that persecution exists and that it could very well come here just as others are experiencing different degrees of it all over the globe.
Being in such a nation as ours, and to a certain extent, in the west, we have had privileges and a standard of living many in the world will never know. We’ve also experienced very little by way of outright attacks on Christians, at least physically harmful. Sure, lawsuits and slander, mocking and hateful comments happen and are becoming more frequent as the clash of world views and ideologies gears up, but who ever said being a follower of Jesus is easy, never read much of what He warned his disciples.
Yesterday Lawngren’s article touched off a few good comments, and as usual made me think of something I’d never really considered before.
What is all included with the life that Jesus paid for us?
Some of us when discussing persecution, and what would we do should it come here, have wondered out loud, would we be able to stand firm and suffer it? But even if it’s not persecution, how do some of us react to things when they pile on? Hurtful things, heart breaking things, those kind of things that just seem to kick you where you’re down already and leaves you broadsided, blindsided and breathless?
The answers for us can always be found in Scripture. Some people might scoff or question that fact, even many Christians who tend to treat the Bible as a decoration… but it’s true.
Reading different responses to trials gives us peace knowing that God has His way of making Himself known and gives us a glimpse of why the apostles were able to count it all joy even in persecution and trials.
What is it that gives people strength to get through such incredible circumstances? Thinking about these things reminds me of some of the stories from Foxes’ Book of Martyrs and other accounts of unimaginable brutality that many of the early Christians suffered into death.
Peter, who once denied Jesus three times was crucified… upside down. Andrew, his brother, was crucified. Thomas the doubter is said to have been pierced by spears when he was preaching in India. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that James, son of Alpheus was stoned and then clubbed to death.
John, the beloved of Jesus is said to have been boiled in oil, and after surviving that, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he recorded his visions in the book of Revelation.
Later, Polycarp, a 2nd-century Christian bishop of Smyrna is said to have converted many from Gnosticism to Christianity and burned at the stake for his love of Christ. It’s been attributed to him as saying, “Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved Me?….I bless Thee for deigning me worthy of this day and this hour that I may be among Thy martyrs and drink the cup of my Lord Jesus Christ.“
We’ve seen enough horrific pictures of what martyrs in our day have endured, and also seen how much at peace many who face death for their faith seem to be. How can that be?
We know the brutal, inhuman torture and death that Jesus suffered for the sins of us all- and He did suffer it willingly for our sake. Yes, He did pray for another way, but He knew this was the only way, as He had planned it from the beginning of time. He never had to come into this world and experience life as a human, subject to every trial, pain, emotional heart break and persecution that humans deal with. He could have just said, ‘meh, they’re not worth it.’ And let us go on until we destroy ourselves and the planet He created us for. Or, as in His words, He could have called legions of angels to come and rescue Himself from the trial that was to come. But He didn’t. He went, “as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” And He was absolutely blameless.
Are people able to suffer because Jesus is an example? Is that what gives them strength?
Surely none of the apostles or Christians all throughout history would be able to suffer if Jesus hadn’t have gone through it- so it may be part of it. But no, not really. There is still a certain amount of supernatural involvement surrounding His ordeal. We are too human, with human fears, aversion to selflessness, especially suffering pain if we don’t have to.
Jesus didn’t just die. He defeated sin and death, and then the Holy Spirit was unleashed in all those who believe on Him and that is the difference.
Notice how the boldness and courage of the apostles and disciples didn’t happen until after the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on them. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus, as the scriptures say, “The devils also believe — and tremble.” (James 2:19 b)
Notice it? The demons tremble. That’s the difference, because they know that He defeated their god, and that all who follow Him have victory too. Even over death.
It doesn’t mean believers will never experience death, and as so many martyrs over the centuries and more so now, following Jesus can mean a brutal death. But those who follow Him even into the darkest valley of the shadow, they know that He is with them and will welcome them the instant they step from this life into the next. The Holy Spirit empowers us to withstand whatever evil is thrown our way.
When someone trusts on Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence, and that, is why it is said that Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 1 John 4:4
Jesus is our example, for how to live, love and even how to suffer- but it’s the Holy Spirit of God that gives us the strength to do all of these things. His Strength is what the world sees when people trust in Jesus.
Yes the cost for our sins is a priceless one we can never repay, but it’s incredible to consider all the other extra things that cost bought for us,
I hope everyone has a blessed day.