Here is our church newsletter for August 2019. It contains an article on persecution.
Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category
This for Mez McConnell is worth 5/10 minutes of your time to think through the issues of serving the Lord. He addresses serving the Lord in the realm where Mez has been called, but it has much that generally applies to the Lord’s work.
Here are two quotes:
- If you’re serious about ministry then you’re serious about prayer.
- Nobody of note that ever accomplished anything for the kingdom did it without facing a cauldron of opposition and misunderstanding.
(This post is a spiritual application of point 1 from last Friday’s post which can be seen here)
When feeling the pressures of life through circumstances conspiring against us, we can very easily become introspective. We start to think that we are the only ones who are passing through difficulties. We think that no-one else is going through what I am am going through. How am I expected to keep living for God with all these things not going my way.
When this kind of thinking takes hold we are falling into the trap of the devil who would have us despairing and disconsolate. The readers who Peter was writing to were suffering and it seems that they were in this very same danger of descending into despair . So Peter says to them in concluding his letter: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings ( 1 Pet. 5:8-9).
Rather than being introverted and thinking about ourselves and our circumstances, Peter says to his readers get looking outside.
- First of all be aware that the devil is roaming around and is desiring to consume those who are self-absorbed. Those who have lost their heads in looking inwardly are vulnerable to attack. Therefore, the believers are to regain their composure. If thy don’t do this they will be taken away by the devil. All their more inward looking would have disastrous consequences.
- Secondly, what they need to do is that all those in the family of faith are suffering in a similar way. It is common for the believer to experience hard situations and circumstances in this world. So be strong, get wise and resist the evil who otherwise will render you useless.
So don’t just bemoan your situation, like Halep and Radwanska did ( see post from last friday). Get on and fight the cause of God like all other true believers are doing in their difficulties.
According to the testimony of scripture and historical records the normal experience of the church is to experience persecution from the world. The experience of the people of God in the UK over the past two centuries has, therefore, been somewhat abnormal. However, the atmosphere is changing and Christians are increasingly being marginalised and ridiculed. The anti-God, anti Christ, anti-Christian teachings that are becoming more embedded in people’s thinking are bringing this about. So how are we to respond? The church at Smyrna was a church undergoing vicious persecution and so their experience is helpful for preparing us to undergo persecution. Their story is told in Revelation 2:8-11.
We need to focus on our Saviour (v8). In the journey of faith we should always be looking at our Saviour. In Hebrews 12:2-3 we are exhorted to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Similarly the persecuted Christians in Smyrna, who faced death for their faith, needed to know that there is a Saviour who has conquered death. He is the living one who was once dead. Moreover they needed to know that their LORD is outside of time. They were about to pass away. But they knew a Saviour who would never pass away; He is eternal. He is the First and the Last. So let us focus on an eternal Saviour who is always there for us.
He knows our circumstances (v9a). He knows all about our situations, Sometimes we think nobody knows what I am going through. But let us remind ourselves that He always knows. The sufferings were known to Him. Their lack of money was known to Him. But the LORD gives them a beautiful reminder that they, although poor financially, actually had a vast spiritual wealth in Christ.
This reminds us that in this age the blessings of God are primarily known spiritually. So Paul tells the Ephesians of the God who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3b). In the Old Testament for the people of God of that day, Israel, the blessings were primarily earthly and physical. But for us today the blessings are in heaven and are spiritual. Therefore we know that God is with someone not through the prospering of their bank accounts, but through the prospering of their souls.
He knows the opposition (v9b). It must have been a shock to the Smyrnans to find that the professing people of God, the Jews, were the ones slandering them with vicious words. The Lord says He knows all about this and that these Jews are not really the people of God. In fact the place where they meet is not in any sense God’s place, but is the place of the enemy of God, Satan. This is a sobering reminder that it is often the religious who lead the way in opposing God’s people. Religious people hate those who have a living faith in the living God.
We should not be afraid (v10a). The Lord encourages us to not have fear about what is ahead. This is not some vain platitude. Rather it has meaning because of what the Lord has already said to these Christians in Smyrna. Our Saviour is the eternal death conqueror who knows all about us and our circumstances. Therefore we should not be afraid of whatever sufferings come our way.
The devil hates us (v10b). He wants to bring us down. He wants us to deny our faith. So he throws us into prison and takes us through severe persecution. However, let us be encouraged that Satan’s open-season has a fixed time. Ten days is the limit. This may or may not be literal. But whichever we are encouraged to know that it is of limited duration. It has an end.
We must keep trusting (v10c). Whilst the devil is seeking to destroy our faith God is using such trials to strengthen our faith. Accordingly, the urgings from heaven are that we must continue to be faithful. To keep trusting even if it means giving up our lives because of our testimony for God. Death may come to our bodies, but there is the promise of the reward of a crown; a victory garland which is full of life and that forever.
The true Christian has eternal life (v11b). Of course many in such situations will become apostate; they will turn away from God. However, for those who remain faithful there is the reminder that although the first death, physical, may take them; the second death eternal hell can never take them. We must say here, though, that none of us knows how we will respond under such intense pressure. We remember Archbishop Cranmer in the sixteenth century, who signed a statement denying his faith. But God enabled Him to repent so that he boldly went to endure the burning flames of fire from the pyre provided by his persecutors. And as he went to his death in Oxford, he put his right hand which had signed the denial into the flames first of all.
In the light of what may be potentially ahead for ourselves let us strengthen ourselves in the LORD. Let us now become so overwhelmed with passion for our Saviour so that we are prepared to stand fast in that day. Remember each one of us individually must take heed this is what the LORD says. We must each be ready to be faithful unto death.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of October 2008)
Are you an Alexander the Coppersmith? If so you are a person who is much to be pitied. But why is this? It is because this Alexander in some way or other caused much hardship to Paul, the Apostle. 2 Timothy 4:14-15 records Paul’s words to Timothy as follows: Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. The Lord will repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
There is much for us to learn here as we consider the way Alexander treated Paul. Let us first consider Alexander as the one who caused harm to Paul.
Harming God’s Servant
We do not know who this Alexander was; he is simply identified as being a man who laboured with his hands; a coppersmith. He was not a religious leader like the Scribes and Pharisees who opposed our Lord and yet he caused much damage to God’s apostle. This warns us that even the most lowly can cause harm amongst the people of God.
Whether Alexander was in the church or not we do not know; but we do know that he personally caused much difficulty to Paul. Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ who was sent forth to testify to the mighty workings of the mighty God. He was no mean individual. Yet, Alexander,in his wisdom (or lack thereof), took it upon himself to oppose Paul.
Resisting God’s Word
But what form did this opposition take? He opposed by standing against the message that Paul declared. He did not just calmly dismiss the words of Paul as irrelevant but he went further and vigorously resisted the message of Paul (and his associates). Remember Paul was specially chosen to bring the Word of God and this man specifically stood against the words,that he brought. What a terrible thing this was to do! Let us not be surprised though, if our words whether preached or spoken privately, are resisted by those who hate our Father who is the God of the truth.
And we need to be warned so that we never follow in the way of Alexander. He caused much heartache to God’s apostle. If someone is bringing the word of truth to us then we should be careful to never stand against that word. If you do withstand it, whether by your speaking acting or refusing to listen, then you cause harm to the declarer of the message; you cause that person to be pained.
Moreover, most seriously, you place yourself in a situation whereby you store up the judgment of God for yourself. Paul says that Alexander will be repaid according to his works. How sobering how terrible! How many people who regularly attend churches are storing up judgment for themselves by resisting God’s Words.
This raises the question about whether or not we should ever resist someone who professes to bring God’s Word. In this case we should be following the injunction of the Lord to Isaiah in Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony ! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. False teaching needs to be rejected or else it will spread like cancer with all the harm associated therewith. Hymenaus and Philetus are condemned along these lines (see 2 Tim. 2:17-18). False teaching must be resisted and rejected or else it will inevitably cause harm among God’s people.
But what of Paul? What can we learn from the way he responded to Alexander? The first thing we can observe is that he felt the hostility of Alexander. He was no hard-hearted stoic. And this is encouraging for us to know because even a great man like Paul felt the pain of hostility. So when we experience opposition and are pained by it, let us be encouraged that great men of God have been that way as well.
However, there is no sense of bitterness with Paul. He has learned that there is one who judges all. He is not being personally nasty towards Alexander. Rather he gives Alexander over to the God who always judges rightly. For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Heb. 10:30). We are not in the business of carrying out personal vendettas; we rather remember that judgment is His awesome work (see Isaiah 28:21).
Paul, though, ever has a pastoral caring heart and he does not want others to be harmed by Alexanders’ works. Accordingly he warns Timothy about Alexander. We do well to warn others of potential areas of harm in their Christian walk. This is part of caring for one another. When we have passed through a hard experience ourselves are we moved to want to warn others not to go in the same way?
Alexander briefly appears on the canvas of scripture and is then gone. Eternally he is remembered as a man who caused harm to the cause of Christ. How will we be remembered? We may not have our name personally in scripture, but we must all appear before the Eternal Lord God one day. And that day will declare all.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of January 2006)