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ADD TO YOUR LEARNING - The Philippine Teaching Ministry

ARTICLES

YET THE LORD RESCUED ME
By Rolan Monje, for MMCC, Nov 2002, 2nd Ed.

An Article on Overcoming Persecution

It was an ordinary day in UP when I was sharing my faith at a softdrink kiosk. I told a student I was eager to meet people who wanted to study the Bible. Much to my surprise, the guy stared at me, squinted behind his glasses and with a loud, shrieking voice shouted, "No. Get away from me. Get away from me!!!" and walked away. Everyone around was staring at me. I just stood there aghast, but that's when I started understanding 2 Tim 3:12 in a deeper way… "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…" (NIV) What's encouraging is before that verse Paul triumphantly says "Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them." Time has passed. I now have a family of my own, and I still get persecuted for Christ. For over 12 years now I have encountered persecution of many kinds, and I am grateful for all those times, looking forward for more.

One of the most challenging yet common trials for disciples is persecution. This article for disciples answers to the ever-present threat of persecution. As disciples, we do not look for 'unrighteous' persecution where we bring trouble on ourselves because of our wrongdoing. Persecution is a fact of Christian life and it must be expected, understood, and prepared for (1 Jn 3:13). Being in a religious country, the Pinoy disciple should mature quickly to handle such things. Here are some things that may help us, whether we are presently undergoing persecution or not.

I. The Reality of Persecution

From the moment the serpent made his debut appearance in Eden, God's people have been under attack by the forces of evil. It is a fierce battle (Rev 12:7-12) because it is a battle for souls. Our souls. What's encouraging is in the New Testament's "Hall of Faith" in Heb 11, the Bible describes the faithful ones as those who are treated unjustly.

"Some faced jeers and flogging…they were stoned…put to death by the sword…persecuted and mistreated -- the world was not worthy of them." Heb 11:37-38 - NIV

What then is important for the Christian to understand?

A. You can be persecuted even if you do the right things.

This is true for God's people through the ages. Disciples can be mistreated for no reason at all! That's how people of the world are toward those in the light.

"…I beg you, you are only visitors here for a short time. Put away human evil desires. These things make war with the soul. You should live good lives among the people of the world. They might say evil things against you, as if you were doing wrong. But when they see your good deeds, they will give glory to God on the Day when He returns to take care of us." 1 Pet 2:11-12 SIMV

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." 1 Pet 3:14-15 - NKJV There are several ways in which Jesus and the disciples got persecuted:

1. Through lies (Mk 3:20-21), so don't believe everything you hear, especially on TV, text, or Internet.

2. Half-truths (Mk 3:22), so sift out each accusation or statement, as in Prov 18:17. Listen to the accused before you make a conclusion. Be prudent.

3. Intimidation (Acts 4:18-21), so be confident. Stand your ground. Disciples have nothing to prove in the ways of the world.

4. Gossip and abusive talk (Mk 3:30, Acts 13:45), so guard your heart. Don't talk back. In fact, there are times you don't have to answer to everything people say (Pr 10:19, Pr 26:4-5, Mt 26:63).

5. Confusing, poisoning of the mind (Acts 14:1-2). That's why we should always deal with issues biblically and as family. Be open about your feelings too.

6. Conspiracy (Lk 19:47-48). Don't be surprised! Many people waste time and money just trying to pull out Christians from the church. (Pity on them!)

7. Guilt trip (Acts 5:28) - trying you make you feel guilty for following God. Focus on God, not people.

8. Physical abuse (Acts 14:19-20). Put on your boxing gloves? (Just kidding.) Some of us will have to endure this for Christ. Even at this moment disciples in the Middle East are being harassed and threatened.

Don't be surprised with the number of sensitive, elusive, and creative ways with which people mistreat disciples. In the end, persecutors only judge themselves because of their own sin.

B. Persecution is part of God's plan.

Throughout the Bible, God has used persecution for the good of his people. For one thing, maltreatment seemed to strengthen true followers instead of harming them. Our hearts are tested, and our character is put through the fire. Have you ever prayed to become stronger? Persecution is one possible answer to that simple prayer!

Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Mordecai, Jeremiah and many others were mistreated but in the end were lifted up or justified. In Acts 4 and Acts 8, God used persecution to advance (not hold back) the gospel! When we think about it, many of the opportunities to share our faith or to let our light shine are offered in times of oppression.

II. The Response to Persecution

Ungodly responses

In general, the disciple is not to retaliate to persecution. He is to imitate the example of Jesus. Ultimately, justification is through what God sees and not what people see. Even in trials, Jesus should be our Lord. In the first century, it was death before denial.

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." 1 Pet 3:14-15 -ASV

Here are some other wrong responses to persecution:

1. Losing faith and confidence (Mt 13:18-23)

2. Being ashamed (Mk 8:38)

3. Being divided or divisive (Jude 19)

4. Anger, losing your cool (Mt 5:43-45, Rom 12:14 )

Notice that the Pinoy culture is not always helpful for disciples. Poverty, ignorance, family pressures, pride, and even our history of being under foreign dominance for centuries… these factors can make the persecuted Pinoy Christian either lose faith or fight back. Both of these responses are ungodly. In all these things we need to fight to be more spiritual than worldly. Satan is the ultimate foe, not people.

Remember also that persecutors don't bring judgment on Christians, they bring judgment on themselves. They don't really expose disciples, they expose their own hearts!

"…the Lord is coming…to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage." Jude 14-16 - NIV

"…in the last times there would be scoffers…Now they are here, and they are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They live by natural instinct because they do not have God's Spirit living in them. But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith…" Jude 18-20 - NLT Sooner or later, the persecution will pass, and godly life of the disciple is rewarded.

Godly responses

As in all trials, the disciple is an overcomer. You can come out of the battle wounded, but wiser and stronger!

Here are some proper and godly responses:

1. Praying and relying on God (2 Tim 4:16-17)

2. Don't be surprised (1 Peter 4:12-13)

3. Focus on heaven (Hebrews 10:32-36)

4. Endure it (Mark 8:34-36, 2 Timothy 2:10-12)

5. Don't worry & be wise (Mark 13:11)

6. Wait till the storm passes (Rev 2:10-11)

7. Leap for joy! (Luke 6:22-23)

8. Keep sharing your faith (Acts 5:41-42)

What about severe maltreatment? At times, Christians can make a mistake by thinking they are still in the realm of Matt 5:38-42 (mild or general maltreatment) when situations call for wisdom, not martyrdom. Matthew 5 doesn't give explicit directions about how to handle severe persecutions, but other passages do. When persecution gets dirty or severe, there are three things we can do:

A. Prayer. This was exhibited by the Israelites in Egypt, Daniel before the lions, and Daniels 3 friends upon the king's edict. Acts 12:1-4 records the church praying for persecuted Peter and God's providence.

B. Avoiding persecution is a legitimate move. Acts 8:1-4 records such a flight. Many Christians just fled, but they still shared their faith wherever they went. The Apostles stayed and endured. Some were killed. Sometimes Paul shunned danger. It seems also at times that Jesus avoided persecution by fleeing (Luke 4:28-30).

C. Lastly, you may also use your legal rights. This is when things get out of hand. In Acts 21:37-40, Paul used his education and Roman citizenship to gain better treatment and eventually a hearing. Later on he used his legal right to appeal to Cesar, avoiding trial and death at the hand of the Jews. He extended his life to serve more. Christians should use their rights as citizens to avoid persecution when necessary. Read Rom 12:17-19 and its links to Romans 13:3-4. It is the authorities role to protect its people (In this case the Phil govt protects its citizens) If Christians are being persecuted in criminal ways, they can use the power of the legal system to punish the wicked, not to roll over and allow the wicked to harm ourselves, our families and our neighbors.

Bottom line, because our purpose is to seek and save the lost, we must focus on open and responsive hearts. The Sower parable reminds us that there are many who want to absorb the word and be fruitful. Just wait and people will see your life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16) as the Bible describes. It is encouraging that some of the most intense persecutors of the church have become our brothers and sisters. God calls people within His perfect timing. Also remember that all our efforts to help others are seen by God and are worth it. May God continue to use you as a disciple for His glory. As we follow the footsteps of Jesus, let us keep the fire for God burning in our hearts, knowing the world is waiting to be evangelized.


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