Monday, February 21, 2011

Mental Vitamins: The Life of a Witness

 All of us who have made a personal decision to follow Christ and be a witness of His love and mercy are promised to endure persecution throughout our lives. We should not be surprised when we are hated or mocked by the world. God tells us that He was hated first (John 15:18) and if the world can hate the Creator who gave us life, the One who gave His own life so that we may live forever with Him in Heaven, the One who will love us even when no one else will, then what makes us believe that we, as simple followers of Christ, would be exempt of the same hatred and persecution? God Himself tells us that persecution is inevitable.

"Everyone who chooses to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." —2 Timothy 3:12

This is not meant to discourage us, but to bring awareness so that we can be prepared. We should expect adversity because of our faith so it is beneficial to know the following things when experiencing persecution:
  • Why are we being persecuted?
  • How should we react to persecution?
  • What are the benefits of persecution?
Let's turn to the source of truth for answers to these questions.

Reasons persecutors attack Christians
(persecution may be a result of one or several of these reasons)

1. Their goal is to stop the witness
 "That the Truth spread no further...let us threaten them." —Acts 4:17

“Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands” —Jeremiah 11:21

2. Truth is a witness against evil
"The world does not hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil." —John 7:7

"There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth." —Amos 5:10

3. Ignorance of the Truth
 "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart." —Ephesians 4:18

"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."  —1Timothy 1:13

4. Arrogance and pride 
"In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down those who are caught in the schemes he devises."  —Psalm 10:2

"Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your principles with all my heart." —Psalm 119:69

5. Misguided religious zeal
"I've told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he's doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I've told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you'll be well-warned and ready for them."   —John 16:1-4

Attitudes To Have Towards Persecution

1. Be fearless and unmovable:
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” —1 Peter 3:14

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." —Matthew 10:28

2. Have joy in persecution:
"Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—leap for joy!—because all heaven applauds your faith and your reward will be great. Know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this."  —Luke 6:22,23

"Therefore, among God’s people we praise your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." —2 Thessalonians 1:4

3. Do not be ashamed
"If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" —1 Peter 4:16

"Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."  —Isaiah 50:7

4. Endure courageously with faith and love
"All Your commandments are trustworthy. Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause. They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon Your Truth. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey Your laws."  —Psalm 119:86-87

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."  —1Peter 2:21

Benefits of persecution

1. The Lord is with and helps those in persecution
"The wicked lie in wait for the righteous but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial."  —Psalm 37:32-33

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us." —2 Corinthians 4:8-10

2. Heavenly rewards for enduring persecution
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." —Matthew 5:10

"Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us."  —Romans 8:18

3. When condemning God's messengers, enemies often broadcast God's message thus arousing interest in it
"When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive."  —Acts 25:18-19

"No one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this religious faith.”  —Acts 28:22

4. It sifts out those who are not whole-hearted
"The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away." —Matthew 13:20-21

5. God reveals good out of seeming bad
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" —Genesis 50:20

 I have endured my share of persecution over the years and I am not going to is difficult when you are in the midst of it. People can be vicious. "Friends" will reveal that they are only your friend as long as your ideals align or as long as you are benefiting them or their cause in some way. There are those who will write you off quickly and completely simply for standing up for what you believe in. But if we have enemies that just means that we actually stood up for something sometime in our life. We cannot please everyone and that should not be our goal anyway. We should live to bring glory to God not to ourselves and certainly not to others.

I want to encourage you that when you are out there sharing the truth in love, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Don't be intimidated by those who clearly are not showing consideration or reason. Stay strong despite opposition. Know and practice God's Word so when faced with persecution you will have the weapon of truth and love to protect and defend your convictions.

When standing up for our beliefs we should not resort to name calling or personal attacks. Yelling and name calling will only make the other person LESS likely to listen to us and/or hear and understand the truth. It's easy to let our emotions overshadow our reason. I have spoken out of anger before and it's not something I recommend. Stick to the facts because the Truth is on our side...God is Truth.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1

I should also note that not everyone who disagrees with your faith will persecute you. There are those who have separate beliefs than our own that are kind-hearted, respectful people. This was meant to address those instances when you are faced with adversity due to your faith.
I hope this found you encouraged. You can be assured of my prayers.

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