Looking through the first few chapters in the book of Acts, we observe in the life of the early church that the apostles and new believers were met with little to no opposition.
In fact, in many ways, we could say they had been experiencing pure bliss.
They had received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, people were being saved and experiencing new life in Christ, powerful sermons were being preached, amazing fellowship was taking place, true worship characterized the body, and they were witnessing the miraculous.
Indeed, God was at work, and that truth could not be denied.
As is the case, though, when a move of God begins to take place, we can be sure our enemy will rear his ugly head in an attempt to derail God’s work.
Satan’s plans to disrupt come in many forms, one of which is persecution, and that is what we find taking place in Acts 4.
It still happens today, and it certainly happened with the church in its infancy.
Persecution is not a pleasant subject, but as believers, it is something we must be aware of and prepared to deal with.
As the Lord allows, over the next few articles, I hope to share a number of thoughts we would do well to consider in regard to persecution.
First, I’d like to briefly discuss:
The Reality Of Persecution
I’m not sure where this modern idea originated that suggests the Christian life is one of ease and that following Jesus will lead one into the lap of luxury.
Actually, I do know where the idea originated from; It’s a lie straight from the pits of hell. It just manifests itself in many false preachers and false gospels today.
I’m convinced those who peddle such nonsense have either never read their Bibles or just conveniently ignore significant portions of it.
Even a cursory reading by a child would be sufficient to convince one that the Bible is not silent on what one who determines to faithfully follow Christ can, and should, expect.
The fact that persecution is a reality is made evident numerous times in Scripture.
Jesus addressed the issue several times.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also (John 15:18-20).
He warned the disciples about persecution. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).
He also told them that because of their faith they would stand before the powers that be.
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and [unto] magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say (Luke 12:11-12).
Likewise, Paul warned young Timothy that persecution would be part and parcel of the Christian life.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Peter, likely recalling the words of Christ and recounting his own experiences, said quite a bit about the subject.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21).
For [it is] better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing (1 Peter 3:17).
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (1 Peter 4:16).
The Apostle John echoed Peter’s sentiments that we should not be surprised when we are rejected by the world.
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you (1 John 3:13).
There are many other passages we could point to, but these few mentioned leave no room to wonder whether or not persecution is a reality for a believer.
Aside from Scripture, history teaches us that the saints of God have suffered atrocities that reveal the depths to which man can stoop when controlled by evil.
From being burned alive to being thrown in arenas with wild animals to be torn to shreds, the first three centuries of the church saw brutalities against Christians our modern minds have a hard time comprehending.
Those of us privileged to have been born into the freedoms of this wonderful nation have experienced religious liberty like no other people or no other time in history.
However, in the past quarter to a half-century, attacks on our religious freedom have intensified, and from the looks of things are only going to get worse.
Most of us are familiar with the Klein family, Jack Phillips, and Barronelle Stutzman.
We’ve read the stories of teachers and doctors being fired for refusing to use a person’s preferred pronouns.
Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed the strong arm of the government trying to force churches to stay closed – and their unfortunate success in many cases.
And in the past six months or so, many of us have been affected by, or know someone affected by, the current administration's attempt to force upon people an injection that may violate their religious convictions.
The martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in 1937,
“Suffering … is the badge of the true Christian. The disciple is not above his master … Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.”
Kent Hughes said, “As Christlike virtue is built upon Christlike virtue in His followers’ lives, the reward is not fame or adulation, but persecution.”
Make no mistake! Persecution is a reality, and it does us no favors to ignore that truth.
Instead, may we learn to recognize it and pray for God to give us supernatural strength and courage to endure it faithfully when it comes.