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.