I take as our subject this afternoon, “How to Handle an Unjust Attack.”
Have you ever been verbally attacked and it seemed to come out of nowhere? Have you ever been blindsided by someone you thought was your friend? Have you ever with all good intentions spoken the word of the Lord; and the response was an all-out attack toward you? If you haven’t, you probably will before you get to the end of your journey. The more you are interacting with people in ministry, the more likely you will have this kind of experience.
It is a part of walking with the Lord. It is a part of identifying with Him. And 2 Tim. 3:12 makes this promise to all who will live godly: you will suffer persecution! When that happens, it is very easy to respond in the flesh. It is very natural to become defensive. But much good can happen if you respond right. I want you to think about some of the challenges you have already faced in this area—jot down a couple of instances that come to mind. Why am I asking you to recall previous experiences? It gives you a practical point of reference for some of the principles I’m about to share with you. Is there anything to be learned from the experience? Is there anything you might have done better? What went right; and what went wrong? The incident may have happened in the context of family. It may have been in a work setting. It could have been in a ministry context. We have all had some past experience with unjust attacks.
Our text is Mark 10:29-31.
“So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."i
That last sentence is simply saying, you cannot look at the current status that people have now and project that in the future. People on top now may be at the bottom in eternity. Obscure, unassuming people may be elevated and honored above anything you could imagine. God will sort all that out at the Judgement Seat of Christ and when He does, many who are in elevated positions now will be in lower positions then and many who have low status now will be honored and promoted.
But here is a word from the Lord to those who have made personal sacrifices to follow the Lord. He wants to remind somebody of this today. “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly , [you can take it to the bank; it will happen this way. If Jesus says ‘Assuredly’ you can be sure of it] I say to you, there is no one [turn to person near you and tell them ‘that includes you’] who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, [that was the motive of your heart-to honor and obey the Lord] 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life.”
What a powerful, comforting word from the Lord.
However, there are a couple of words there that are a little harder to swallow than the rest: “with persecutions.”ii Even in this life there are abundant rewards to serving the Lord; but “all who will live godly will suffer persecution.” When the persecution comes, it will be easier to handle if you recognize it for what it is. It is actually a privilege to suffer pain, rejection, hardship because of your stand for Christ. We have to make sure those things are coming because of our commitment to the Lord and not just because of our obnoxious stupidity. I’ve suffered some persecution because my approach to giving the truth was not loving.
I remember one Saturday night in Amarillo years ago. I was sitting in a restaurant that evening. Several people were there. And a man who I did not know (never seen before) got mad about something, stood up cussing and calling people out and behaving like a bully. I don’t like bullies, so there was a response going on in my flesh. But I did begin praying about the situation. And as I prayed God gave me a word of knowledge. God told me this man had a godly wife who had prayed form him for years. That he had mistreated her and that he had better repent now! Instead of asking the Lord what to do next, I got up, walked up to the man in front of everybody, and gave him that word. It absolutely infuriated him. His first response was shock; and he just stood there. I had delivered my message and went back to my booth and sat down. Things started happening very quickly from that moment on. He said something like (but in worse language), “I think I got a skinny preacher over here that needs a good whipping. He stormed out of the restaurant. The guy was quite a bit bigger than me, so I’m thinking this is probably not a great time to go to the parking lot and get in the car. So I sat there a few more minutes. The man walked back into the restaurant with a pair of leather gloves on; I don’t think he wanted to mess up his hands with my teeth. But just as he was walking in, my brother (Darrell) walked in just ahead of him. Darrell did not know anything that was going on. He saw me and walk over to my booth. He didn’t even know I was in the restaurant. This threw the guy’s plans off since there were now two of us. In his confusion he just stood there for a few minutes evaluating the situation. Of course, by now everybody in the restaurant is getting a pretty interesting show. After a couple of minutes he said I’ve got something in the truck that will take care of this; and left. The way he said that, made me think he had a gun in the truck, so I was in no hurry to go out there and get shot. I drank another cup of coffee wondering what would be next. In time, my brother and I walked out into the parking lot and he had gone. End of story for that evening.
The next morning I went to church. After church some friends invited Jeanie and me to go out to lunch with them at a restaurant that was a good ways away from the one I had been to the night before. It was not a restaurant that I frequented. We all went in talking and fellowshipping. As I sat down, I looked up and there that guy was sitting in the restaurant. (Pretty strange feeling—what is going to happen now?) The guy looked over and recognized me and just stared for a few minutes. Then he got up and headed toward me. As he got to me he said, “Hey….” As our eyes met, he continued, “I just want to thank you for talking to me last night. I was in church for the first time in ten years this morning.” I said, “I am glad to hear that” and he walked back to his table.
Some of that conflict was due to his response to the message God gave him through me. Most of the conflict was due to the way I inappropriately delivered the message. God took care of me in my ignorance. But if I had gotten my own flesh under control more, delivered the message more humbly, and in a more timely and private way—it probably would not have escalated to that point; and the man would have repented anyway without all the drama. We need to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. Then if there is persecution, so be it.
Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [what people are reacting against is the Spirit of glory on you. When ungodly people encounter that glory, it creates an uncomfortable feeling called conviction. Conviction is the precursor to salvation. It prepares the heart to acknowledge transgression and turn from iniquity. I expect two things to happen in the days ahead (1) an increase in the Spirit of glory resting on the followers of Jesus and (2) more persecution from the world in response to that anointing.
Before I move on, let me just say this to those who have been persecuted by fellow Christians. The flesh of a believer responds to the Spirit of glory the same way the flesh of an unbeliever responds. The Spirit and the flesh are enmity against one another.iii If a Christian is walking in the flesh, he may lash out at a fellow Christian just like an unbeliever would. It can really throw you if you don’t understand that]. So let’s come back to Peter’s statement here. ” 1 Peter 4:14-16, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” Make sure the conflict is not because of something inappropriate you’re doing. But if it is due to your stand for the Lord, rejoice that you’re counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ.
The overall trend in our society is becoming more and more hostile toward Christianity. I think we are in for more persecution in the future than we have experienced in the past. Most of the persecution we experience now is some level of social rejection. You may have experienced it on the job where the boss gives more favor to those that don’t make him feel uncomfortable about his sin. Of course, a lot of you are on the streets preaching the gospel and you definitely encounter people who react negatively to the message. It may get worse rather than better. But I also anticipate a greater anointing of glory on us in the days ahead as well. Jesus promised to bless us in many ways as we follow Him—but with all that is this element of persecution—“with persecutions.” We need to know how to handle it when it comes our way. I had planned to talk about that further; but we have run out of time. Therefore, I will continue this message next Sunday.iv
I do want to ask you a question in closing. Jesus promised reward in this life and in the age to come for all those who sacrificially follow Him. But the promise comes with this stipulation: there will be persecutions for all who will live godly. When the “Spirit of glory” rests upon you it stirs up the enemy. We want the glory; we want the anointing; we want the power of God in our lives. But it comes with a price. My question is this: do you want the whole package? Will you accept the terms and conditions Jesus offers in our text? Some contracts are a “take it or leave it” deal. This is one of those. Take it on the terms God offers, or decline. But we cannot remove the clause that says “with persecutions.” The terms are not negotiable. There is coming a new season with increased anointing. The Spirit of glory will rest upon the takers. But the Spirit of glory will be resisted by some; and you and I may experience the brunt of that in the form of persecution. Will you take it and respond to it graciously. I want you to ponder that question for a few minutes as we wait before the Lord. Then I am going to ask you to respond to the question. Do you want an increased anointing in your life, even if it comes with increased persecution?
i All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
ii Matt. 19:29-30 and Luke 18:29-30 leave out the phrase “with persecutions.” However, the principle is taught in their gospels (Matt. 5:10-12; 24:9; Luke 6:22-23, 29-30; 21:12-19). John teaches the same principle in his gospel (John 15:18-21; 16:1-3).
iii Galatians 5:17; 4:29; Romans 8:7.
iv The second part of this message is entitled “With Persecutions” and was preached 10-30-16.