Sometimes, discussing the topic of persecution is like feeding spinach to a baby. The baby is happy to get banana, but with spinach, you just have to keep putting it back in! As Christians, we love hearing about the good stuff, but we have to realize that there’s going to be hard times as well. Are we prepared to go through the suffering of persecution? And are we ready to persevere?
The more we grow in God, the more our light will shine in dark places, and the more noticeable we will be. It’s like Isaiah 60:1-2 says,
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you,
and his glory appears over you.”
A city on a hill is not to be hidden. But anytime you’re out in the limelight for Jesus, you become a target for persecution. Satan doesn’t want your light to shine in those dark places, and he will bring persecution on you in one form or another, to try to keep your light quenched.
Sadly, persecution often comes from a place that hurts the most — from other believers who are being driven by a spirit of unbelief or jealousy or a religious spirit. And it doesn’t feel good! When it comes, you have to know your identity in God, and you have to have that intimacy with Him and that childlike faith.
When we undergo trials and testing of many kinds, we have to test out our faith. What do we really believe? Are we going to be able to stand firm? Are we going to be able to go through all kinds of things? What is our natural reaction when we receive these attacks? And what do we need to do to be victorious?
What do we tend to do in the flesh?
What we tend to do is get our feelings hurt, shut down, get offended, and lash back out. We get into our flesh and fight – right? And of course, this is just playing right into Satan’s hands. So, how do we partner with God and how do we continue to make the enemy pay for messing with our cities, our families, our ministries?
What do we need to do in the Spirit?
- We consider it “pure joy!”
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
We persevere through the persecution so that it will develop character. What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger! So, if that means I get name-called, I get rejected by the people in the world and by the so-called “God-fearing” people – then I’m a fool for Jesus! He’s using it to purify me. You cannot carry a “religious spirit” and go through persecution – it’s the fastest way to burn it off!
I’m certainly not saying, “Bring it!” I’m not inviting attack. I’m just seated in heavenly places, saying, “You’re beneath my feet!” The Lord is going to bring me through because everything we go through is Father-filtered.
- We remember we are being motivated, one way or another, by the spiritual realm. What spirit is motivating us?
We can be motivated by the Spirit of God, or we can be motivated by the powers of darkness. We are victors and not victims if we can stay wholeheartedly and fully engaged with the Spirit of God, recognizing that we war not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of this dark age (Ephesians 6:12). You have to pay attention to what spirit you are being motivated by in anything that you do.
- We can be not offended with God.
Persecution can make us question God. Even John the Baptist, after he was arrested, sent his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the One or not?” It’s like John is a little offended – he’d dedicated his whole life, in the desert, eating locust and honey, to prepare the way of the Lord. And then the Savior shows up, and John is thinking, “It’s time! I’m going to see the fruit of it all!” But then he gets arrested. So, he’s wondering – are you the One…or did I make a mistake? What’s up? Why am I in prison?
What did Jesus say? First, He reassured John that He was the Messiah, “Go and tell John that the blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the lame are walking…” But Jesus stopped short of saying “and the captives are being set free” — He was telling John that he would not be set free. And then Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who is not offended with Me” (Luke 7).
When it doesn’t look the way we think it’s supposed to…we must not be offended with God. When it’s not fair, and it makes no sense, we must not be offended with God.
- We must have an encounter with God, otherwise, we might fall.
How are you going to get through persecution? How will you persevere through trials and testing and struggles? You will persevere when you are convinced that He is good because you have encountered Him. Your faith is in a place where you can say, “I know good things are going to come of this because this is not my destiny, this is not what’s going to take me out, this is not what’s going to be the end. He’s that good! He’ll never leave me nor forsake me.”
When the Creator of the Universe touches you – you’re radically changed. This is more than knowing about Him – this is an encounter. When you know He is real and no one can argue it away – when you have that level of faith and that level of love and commitment in the Lord, you will be able to withstand persecution.
But if you don’t, you might fall away.
One of the scariest verses in Scripture for me is in Matthew 24:10, where it says that in the last days many will fall away from the faith because of persecution. Many will fall away from the faith – which means they have one! Why? Because they will become offended with God – when it doesn’t look the way they think it’s supposed to.
And believe me, you’re going to have those times when it doesn’t look like what you expected. Just read through the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters! Sure, there were times of triumph. But there were also the times they were beaten, they were in prison, they were harassed, they were put to death. It’s not all, “Yeah God!” Sometimes it’s really hard.
So, we have to heal up and grow up. We have to forgive quickly, heal quickly, and help other people realize where they can grow if they’re willing.
How surrendered do you have to be? Face on the ground. That level of hunger is what will propel you. Why? Because you have tasted and seen that He is good. And you know that you want more because you know that there is more. You’re ruined. You have tasted of the Kingdom, and you have seen the supernatural, and you know that God exists, and no one can argue you out of that point. You are able to stand in anything.
Finally, we stand side by side.
Sometimes, you will be the one being persecuted, and there will be other seasons when you are supporting your brothers and sisters, near and far, through suffering (Hebrews 10:33). We stand side-by-side. We rejoice when they rejoice, and we mourn when they mourn. Most of all, we intercede, asking God that they will consider it all joy, that they will remember that they are being motivated by the spiritual realm and that they will have encounter with God – that they will be overwhelmed with His goodness and His love – so they won’t be offended and fall away.
When we KNOW that He is at our side, and when we stand together with our brothers and sisters, we will overcome!
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