3 Things Faithful Christians Should Expect
Like many of you, I read the news and was grieved to hear 21 Egyptian Christians have been beheaded for their love for Jesus [if you haven't heard about this, you can read about it here]. I was filled with a mix of emotions: anger, resentment, fear, confusion, and bewilderment. The truth is, when something like this happens, it's hard to know what to feel. Sometimes it's easy to grow numb and just pretend it's not really happening, or at least, that it will never happen to you or the ones you love.
This time it hit a little closer to home for me because one of our missionaries in Uganda, Kimron Kaganda, was recently poisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ. We are only a few months into church planting and already our dear friend and brother in the Lord has been brutally martyred for believing and preaching the Gospel. Thanks be to Jesus our Lord that Kimron is sealed for eternity in heaven with Christ and died advancing the kingdom of God, bearing witness to the Gospel, and persevering to the very end. I am confident he has heard God say "well done my good and faithful servant." (Matthew 15:21) Pray for Kimron's family to be protected and provided for and for his ministry to flourish and grow even in his absence. We will be sending financial support to his family and will continue to partner with his ministry as we are able. If you wish to partner with us in this endeavor, you can always do so through the giving portion of our website and by marking your gift accordingly.
Don't be deceived my friends. Persecution is alive and well. Don't let the headlines fool you into thinking that it's only in the newspapers and not in our backyards. Denial of the inevitable persecution we will face as believers in Jesus Christ will not help us, our families, our ministries, or, more importantly, the cause of Christ. If you are a Christian, scripture makes it very clear that there is no way to avoid suffering in the name of Christ. At the current moment, our sufferings in the west are minuscule compared to those around the world; however, we must not grow weary of praying for those in need, providing for our suffering brothers and sisters, and preparing for the day where fiercer forms of persecution land on our doorstep. In the midst of all this, I think it is important to gain perspective form a larger Biblical framework and understand three things we can expect if we are to remain faithful to God and His Word.
"At the current moment, our sufferings in the west are minuscule compared to those around the world; however, we must not grow weary of praying for those in need, providing for our suffering brothers and sisters, and preparing for the day where fiercer forms of persecution land on our doorstep."
1. Persecution from the enemy.
Now a war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him... the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.... woe to you, oh earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! Revelation 12:7-12
The Bible makes it clear that we have an enemy and that he wants to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8) and that our true battle is with him and his forces (Ephesians 6:12). In fact, you might even say it's his "job." He is determined to persecute us and even considers it a responsibility. The more concerning thing is that God actually allows this! Don't believe me? Just take a look at the story of Job! Why would God allow Satan to distort truth, deceive people, and destroy souls? Well, the short answer is probably not what you want to hear: His own glory. God allows persecution and suffering because somehow, someway, He get's more glory in the end by having a people that have been tested and tried.
These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7
This is not to say that God creates evil or causes suffering, but that He uses it for greater good in the end. In His sovereign creativity God is able to take evil things and make them into glorious things. God did not cause Satan rebel or force mankind to sin, but used both to bring about the salvation of the world through the death of His own son. In light of the recent tragedies, it actually brings clarity to know that there is a source for all this violence. Satan is the evil leader in this dark war and the instigator of all this hatred. Satan is the one who manipulates mankind into self-destruction and he will come to an end. This is not to diminish our sinful choices, but simply to remind us that there is someone behind all of this and eventually he will be stopped. One day Satan's dominion and power will be no more. All those who make allegiance with him and do his bidding will lose in the end.
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:10
"In light of the recent tragedies, it actually brings clarity to know that their is a source for all this violence. Satan is the evil leader in this dark war and the instigator of all this hatred. Satan is the one who manipulates mankind into self-destruction and he will come to an end."
2. Perseverance in the faith.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
If Satan's job is to persecute, than the church's job is to persevere. All throughout scripture the call to those in Christ is to stand firm in the midst of persecution and even see it as an opportunity for growth. In fact, suffering and persecution are used as a filter to weed out those who are not really committed to Christ and His mission. God is looking for people who will endure until the end. This is why the scriptures use the analogy of a race to define our life on this planet. (Hebrews 12:1) How can you win a race if you never finish? This is where some have taken the "once saved always saved" too far. Yes, it is God who completes His work in you (Philippians 1:6), but God will not violate your free will if you choose to deny him and call it quits.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:9-14
I don't say this to discourage you, but in fact the opposite! It should be encouraging to know what God expects. Your responsibility is not to fight the persecution, end the persecution, save yourself from the persecution, or find a way to avoid the persecution. Your job is to hang in there and stay faithful to Jesus. Endure until the end. Fight the good fight. (1 Timothy 6:12) Finish strong. That's really all God asks for. He will put an end to all the violence. He will win the war. He will stop the suffering. The saving is up to Him. Jesus is the one that will preserve our souls for the day of judgement and ultimately grant us the inheritance of eternal life. All we've got to do is finish the race.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
"Your responsibility is not to fight the persecution, end the persecution, save yourself from the persecution, or find a way to avoid the persecution. Your job is to hang in there and stay faithful to Jesus."
3. Preservation of the saints.
The Lord knows how to preserve the godly through trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. 2 Peter 2:9
It should be relieving to know that the weight of responsibility for keeping the faithful for the day ultimate victory over persecution rests on Jesus and not on you. He is ALWAYS faithful to the end even when we are not. He was faithful to endure the persecution of the Sanhedrin, faithful to persevere on hill of Golgotha, and faithful to preserve His children by conquering death and providing eternal life for all who believe. We can trust that He will safely guide us as we trust Him and His Word. (Psalms 119:105)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-30
I am grieved by the pain of the families these men left behind and how their lives were cut short by the power of darkness, but I rejoice that these men have been faithful to follow the voice of their shepherd. The enemy failed to snatch them out of God's hand and they have been granted eternal life by the only man worthy to receive it and bestow it, Jesus Christ. They endured until the end and now stand glorified in the very presence of God. (2 Corinthians 5:8) May we always remember the testimony of those saints who have gone before us and the words of Paul in these coming days of continued persecution:
To live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21