The Apostle Paul was no stranger to persecution. Paul never laid down his armor when resistance to his ministry continued. In the midst he did consistently call believers to total and unconditional surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ. Even in persecution we see in II Corinthians, the Apostle Paul at one moment the pinnacle of joy, the next in despair but not forsaken. This is a good reminder for us as believers as we too are facing persecution worldwide of unprecedented proportions.
In 2013 alone, more than 100 million Christians face persecution in more than 60 countries around the world because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Almost 75 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high or some restrictions on religion, according to a study by the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life. Christians are the most widely persecuted faith group in the world according to OpenDoorsUSA.com.
In the past four years there has been a 40% increase in attacks against the church in the U.S. versus other faith groups with far less incidents reported as faith being a motivator of violence.
How are we to face the persecution of Christians around the globe?
According to Christian journalist Elizabeth Kendall, “The US International Religious Freedom Act of Nov 1998 was a direct response to escalating religious persecution. But the economic crisis of late 2008 ripped the teeth out of the Act and now persecution with impunity is the order of the day. To use Isaiah's imagery, the Church is facing a mighty "flood" of persecution.”
Yet, in most U.S. churches there is no public outcry of this escalating persecution as being relevant to their lives. Kendall goes on to say: “Such an attitude not only grieves the Lord, it can lead to judgment (Ezekiel 34, Matt 25:41-45)”
What does II Corinthians tells us about how to face persecution ourselves?
II Corinthians 1: 6: “But, if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.” Verses 1:9 “Indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.”
Just as with Paul we are to take encouragement that God will give victory of all things for those surrendered to His will, even in the midst of persecution. Paul was weak and frail as often we are. He faced difficult churches on his journey to make Christ known. He sometimes even agonized over churches that were more focused on quarreling and discord rather than biblical unity. So we are to walk, not as those without faith and authority, but with overcoming faith in our God who will deliver us. This strength comes only from the Lord, even in the face of persecution. The way to stand against persecution is to fix ourselves upon God, and share our sufferings so that the Gospel goes forth.
Persecution of believers is not new. And, it is not going away until the return of our Lord on that day when he turns tears into joy. In light of escalating persecution worldwide as evidenced by the sobering statistics of loss of life, and domestically with increased violence against churches, Christian marginalization and mockery, and an increased acceptance of Christian loss of life, how are we to deal with persecution of other believers and ourselves?
Scripture is clear how we are to face it – surrender to the Lord and Savior each day, share our sufferings to comfort others in their suffering so they may know Him, and trust in Him alone!
Prepare to face persecution – become a ReadyChristian today.
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:1-29
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunitesa came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.
Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom,b from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:
“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.
He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’ ”
Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of hisc holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothingd and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakahe to this day.
Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.
The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
What can we learn from King Jehoshaphat?
10. The victory was won, by the Lord, after Jehoshaphat and the people were obedient.
11. Jehoshaphat and the people were joyful, full of praise for the Lord, they demonstrated a grateful heart.
The result? “The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel” As the people were obedient, and then the Lord worked, others saw, and experienced His majesty. We can shine Gods light also when we follow this model.
As the snow storm returns to Atlanta these pictures are all too common as panic buying begins. Another reason to be prepared, rather then scrambling at the last minute at the store, and preferably having extra to share as needed. News reports documented a number of fistfights broke out as desperate people cleared the last supplies from some stores.
Why a full pantry is always advisable:
Above: Atlanta store bread shelf
Above: A Publix Market
Above: Another Atlanta supermarket
Above: Different store, they still had cookies
Above: Water shelf
Be Ready, Be Aware, Be There For Others
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