Tag Archives: Persecution

Remaining Faithful to God in an Increasingly Evil and Hostile World

As the world descends into darkness and escalates its embrace of evil, practicing the Christian faith and proclaiming the gospel grows increasingly difficult. And as government hostility towards, and intimidation of, Christians accelerates across the globe, those who despise Christianity are emboldened to threaten, malign, and discriminate against believers without the fear of recourse. And it’s not hard to imagine a future where society marginalizes and cancels believers who refuse to conform to its morality, businesses refuse to serve Christians who reject their extremist ideology, and employers terminate those who dare to follow Christ in their personal lives.

In such depraved and disturbing times, remaining faithful to Jesus will be more challenging. The dark forces of this world will align and make every effort to eliminate every expression of faith, biblical truth, and the gospel. To persevere through these rapidly evolving times, Christians must prepare now! Here are four actions you should implement in your life immediately (if you are not already doing them) to stand steadfast with Christ in this evil age and advance His agenda in a hostile world.

1) Study the Bible daily. This sounds so obvious and yet is so critical for your faith to endure the troubling trials on the horizon, or perhaps even at your door. Scripture tells us to “study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8). Though most of us are familiar with this verse and some have even memorized it, too few put it into practice consistently.

God wants us to study the Bible on a regular basis, not just read it. Allow Scripture to soak into your soul and nourish it. And when the Holy Spirit lays a passage on your heart, as He often will, reflect on it throughout the day.

Of course, this commitment requires you to free up considerable time on your schedule, which will mean scaling back on hobbies and investing less time on entertainment and leisure activities. Doing so may be challenging but remember the words of Jesus: “If anyone wants to be My disciple, he must give up his own way, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Beginning today, choose to prioritize Bible study over worldly activities.

This is an inflection point in your faith journey. You must decide whether to take God’s Word serious or ignore it and continue to pursue the passing pleasures of this world. But beware, choosing the latter will leave you unprepared for the spiritual battles that lie ahead.

2) “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As with the verse from Joshua, Scripture challenges us to implement another ongoing spiritual discipline into our lives; this time prayer. Going through life in a state of constant prayer accomplishes several things.

First, it sharpens our awareness of God. The Lord opens our eyes to how He is at work around us. Second, it magnifies our gratitude for God. We see more clearly the blessings He provides and refrain from allowing momentary trials to derail that gratitude. 

Third, we respond to people in a more Christ-like manner. It is very difficult to curse the driver who cut you off, sabotage the colleague who took credit for your hard work, or snap at the rude and unhelpful post office clerk when you are in continual prayer.

Fourth, prayer heightens our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s presence, His leadership, His power, and His wisdom. He equips us with the strength to confront evil and share the gospel with boldness.

A cultivated prayer life also requires discipline and focus. There is no right way to pray. Prayer can include words of worship, expressing our love for God, acknowledging His glory, and praising His name. It may include intervention for the sick, the lost, the needy, the hopeless, and the dying. Pray that God softens the hearts of those who oppose Him, and that those with power, influence, and leadership positions in this world would use them for good and not evil. 

Pray for revival; that God’s Spirit would ignite the hearts of those living in your town, region, and country, and that He would draw them to Him. Pray that God would give you an understanding of His Word, boldness to share that Word, and discernment to distinguish between truth and deceit.

3) “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2a). The world is perishing and everything in it. As such our lives should not reflect the world, but Christ who transforms us into His likeness.

We are a light shining in a world that loves the darkness. Any time we compromise God’s standards and truth with the world, our light shines a little less bright. We yield God’s moral authority to the world’s depravity. 

Moreover, compromising God’s Word lends legitimacy to the world’s wickedness. Essentially, we give the world ‘a license to sin’ when we follow their example instead of modeling Christ in our words, behaviors, and decisions.

That is why it’s critical we represent Christ faithfully in every aspect of our lives, as His ambassadors in this world. This includes areas where much of the church mirrors the world: how we spend our money, how we invest our time, and how we chase ‘the good life.’

Ask the Lord to reveal behaviors, decisions, and priorities in your life that conform to the world. Request that He transform you in those areas to better represent Him, His standards, and His Word. Doing so will not only mature your faith, it will provide the world an attractive and accurate reflection of Jesus Christ.

4) Count all things as loss for Christ. For most of us, this action will likely be the most difficult to implement on an ongoing basis. It is rooted in the apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi. “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things as loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8). 

Paul recognized that a genuine commitment to Christ results in losing many of the things we value in life. If we are not prepared to suffer the loss of those things, our faith may flounder when we must choose between Jesus and that which we cherish.

For your faith to endure the coming trials and tribulations, you must count as loss all things you value in this world: career, reputation, comfort, home, safety, freedom, and life itself. If you prize any of those above Christ, you jeopardize your faith. For when society demands you renounce Christ or risk being unemployed, unpopular, uncomfortable, unsafe, homeless, incarcerated, or executed, you will likely turn your back on the Lord.

This action will seem unreasonable and unacceptable to those who professed Christ with the understanding that no demands would be made of them. They will reject these verses and deny that Jesus expects them to count as loss anything they cherish. 

But for those who counted the cost before coming to faith in Christ, the opportunity to sacrifice those things they value in order to know Him more deeply will resonate with their souls. They understand that nothing is of greater value than eternity with the risen Lord who sacrificed His life for them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, a season of unimaginable darkness and depravity is drawing near, which will unleash unspeakable acts of violence, oppression, and destruction across the planet. Hate, greed, corruption, and lawlessness will increase exponentially. Love, generosity, justice, and holiness will diminish drastically. Consequently, the world will need believers to speak the truth and live like Christ more than ever, though doing so will incur the world’s wrath like never before.

But remember, the war the world wages against Christianity is spiritual in nature, though the world does not acknowledge that. For that reason, prepare for the battle by immersing yourself in Scripture, establishing prayer as a daily priority, refusing to confirm to the world, and counting all things you value as loss for Christ.

And now I leave you with these words from the apostle Paul:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:12-18, NLT).

Counting All Things as Loss for Christ.

Society is hurtling down a path of rebellion against and rejection of God at an alarming rate, perhaps unprecedented in modern history. We have arrived at an era where culture labels good evil and celebrates the wicked. And in all likelihood things will get much worse before they get any better – perhaps not improving until Christ returns.

In particular, those who profess faith and fidelity for Christ will face increasingly daunting and difficult circumstances that will test their commitment to Him. And retribution for practicing Scripturally-sound faith will come not just from the government, as many fear, but from commercial and social institutions as well.

It doesn’t require much creativity to imagine businesses in the near future demanding all employees sign a covenant committing to the organization’s values, some of which will certainly contravene those espoused by the Bible. Those who refuse will be swiftly terminated and not enjoy the benefit of a favorable reference when they seek new employment.

Similarly, social media seems increasingly hostile to those who embrace a biblical worldview or have the temerity to share the Gospel. It seems reasonable that such opposition will intensify to the point of marginalizing and ostracizing to society’s periphery any who publically claim Christ as Lord. In fact, many believers will find themselves verbally abused, bullied, and rejected not just by online trolls but by former friends as well.

In short, the cost of surrendering to Christ, declaring your love for Him, and obeying His word will continue to climb. For many, the cost will become too steep and they will renounce their faith outright, or sanitize it so society no longer deems it offensive, or practice it in private to avoid the consequences. But Jesus expects us to stand firm, persevere in the face of intimidation, boldly proclaim His Word, and resist the temptation to compromise truth.

So how do we prepare for the pending tsunami of persecution? How do we avoid acquiescing to societal pressure out of fear and remain steadfast in our love for Jesus despite the coming consequences?

We need to adopt the mindset of the apostle Paul, who before his conversion to Christ enjoyed every imaginable benefit of this world. He was wealthy, powerful, admired, feared, and distinguished. He wanted for nothing and lived a charmed life.

But after his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul adopted a new view on those things he previously counted as gain (such as his reputation, influence, comfort, and authority). He tells us, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Indeed, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:7-8, 10, NKJV).

Paul endured significant suffering, deteriorating health, imprisonment, and the loss of all things he previously valued. Yet his faith never wavered. In fact, it thrived because he had come to terms with the cost of following Christ. He willingly exchanged those things he previously valued for “the excellence of knowing Christ.” For Paul, the choice between the world’s enticements and fellowship with the living God was no choice at all. And so he recalibrated his priorities, his plans, and his perspective accordingly.

What things do you count as gain in your life today: your career, reputation, financial stability, safety, or a life of comfort and leisure? Would you compromise, sanitize, or renounce your faith to preserve them? Or will your faith emerge more vibrant and mature than ever following the approaching onslaught of coercion, cruelty, and consequences?

Commit today to counting as loss those things that now hold your attention and distract you from your relationship with Christ. Commit anew to pursuing the excellence of knowing Him, following His example, and embracing His standard of holiness. As you do, you’ll not only know Christ more intimately but, like Paul, you’ll also know “the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering” so that you may “attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

 

Sharing Christ in Face of Opposition.

A friend recently shared the story of a local college coach having a profound impact on campus by sharing the gospel with many of the students he encounters each day. On hearing this, another friend expressed surprise the school’s administration hadn’t prohibited the man from sharing his faith with others or manufactured an excuse to terminate him, since their hostility to Christianity was well established. I couldn’t help recall a sequence of events in Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated why leadership at this college had failed to prevent the spread of the gospel.

The apostle John tells us that after Christ healed a crippled man, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. Then Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18, NKJV).

A short time later Jesus upbraids the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and declares Himself sent from God, infuriating the Pharisees so much “They sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him.” Despite their visceral hatred for Christ and desire to slaughter Him, the Pharisees do nothing, as if prevented by a hidden hand.

On another occasion these religious charlatans are enraged by the crowd’s reaction to Jesus who “believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (John 7:30-31). Their response prompted immediate action from Jewish leaders. John explains. “When the Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Christ, they and the chief priests sent officers to take Him” (verse 32). But nothing came of their effort. “The officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man’” (John 7:45-46).

After another encounter in which Jesus announced that “before Abraham was, I AM,” the Jews “took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:58b-59, NKJV).

A short time later Jewish leaders demand of Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In response, He informs them, “I give My followers eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-29, NKJV).

That He claimed to offer eternal life was bad enough for the Pharisees and priests, but His assertion that He and God were one was outright blasphemy. John notes that the Jews sought to seize and stone Him but He managed to evade their evil intentions. (See John 8:22-39).

Time and again this pattern is repeated throughout His ministry. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself, the Pharisees take offense and try to harm or detain Him, and Christ escapes unscathed. How is this possible? How could the chief priests constantly fail in their efforts to eliminate Jesus and end His burgeoning ministry?

John offers this insight: “His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). God had established a time for Jesus’ life to end and His earthly ministry to come to a close. Until that time arrived, nothing could prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose. No amount of scheming or intimidation could undermine His work. All efforts to arrest, incarcerate, or harm Him were destined to fail. Until, that is, His hour arrived. At that time the Jewish leaders would succeed in stopping His ministry and ending His life.

Have those antagonistic to the gospel ever threatened you harm? Ever encountered hostility when sharing Jesus’ good news with others? Do those in positions of power try to terrorize, bully, or shame you into silence about Christ’s love? Has vitriolic opposition to biblical truth paralyzed you from speaking boldly for Christ?

If so, take heart that such efforts will never come to fruition outside of God’s timing. God will prevent the wicked from undermining the fruitfulness of your obedience until your hour has come. Armed with that confidence, I encourage you to preach, proclaim, and share the truth and love of Christ with boldness and conviction.