Summary: This sermon considers several aspects of persecutions and trials: author, purpose, assurances, response.
Aspects Of Persecutions And Trials
The Church’s Reaction To Adversity
1. Since the establishment of the church God’s people have endured various persecutions and trials. Even in times of comparative rest a church may face discouraging trails from a variety of circumstances and sources.
2. It is such persecutions and trials that can either ‘make or break’ a church. It is my conviction that all such persecutions and trails are permitted by God for a purpose.
3. In this lesson, we shall consider the following points:
a. The Author Of Persecutions And Trials
b. The Purpose And Benefits Of Persecutions And Trails
c. Seven Assurances That Sustain Us In Times Of Persecutions And Trails
d. The Proper Response In The Face Of Persecutions And Trials
I. The Author Of Persecutions And Trails
A. The book of Revelation is a mystery to many but it is necessary that we study chapter twelve if we are to understand the source of persecutions and trails that face the church.
1. The spiritual remnant of God’s people gave birth to the Messiah (12:1-2, 5).
2. Satan sought to kill the Child as soon as He was born (12:4).
3. The Child, however, was “caught up to God and His throne” (12:5).
4. Before continuing with the fortunes of the woman, the writer describes the spiritual warfare which has been going on from the beginning, but reaches its climax in Christ’s victory over Satan (12:7-12).
5. Unable to defeat the Man Child, the Devil now persecutes the ‘woman,’ i.e., the church (12:13).
6. However, God protected the church from His onslaught (12:14).
7. Being frustrated yet again, the Devil turns and makes war on “the rest of her offspring,” i.e., the rest of the saints that keep the testimonies and commandments of God (12:17).
B. Satan, of course, is not seen in person persecuting individual members of the church! Let us consider the mediums and agencies through which Satan works:
1. There two basic mediums through which Satan seeks to destroy the church:
a. Worldliness: a broad term that covers all those things which are of the world and of the flesh. Some examples – false religions and philosophies, materialism, and fornication.
b. Coercion: a term that covers threats, trials, and persecutions (both mental and physical).
2. The agency by which Satan brings trails and persecutions on the church:
a. People of the world: these include atheists, agnostics, and adherents of false religions, and the organisations that they control.
1) Coercion: the following verse states what Satan is able to do, but it is equally clear that men are the instrumentality by which he would achieve it.
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10; cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5)
2) Worldliness: The apostle Peter was not immune to the pressures of the world. In the company of worldly people he denied knowing Jesus three times:
"Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew" (Matthew 26:69-74)
b. Believers: this includes both those who are sincere and insincere (cp. Philippians 1:18).
1) Worldliness: the following verses show how Satan uses believers to lure the church into sin (Note in particular the first passage where the cause of this sin is attributed to Satan):
"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:1-4)
"Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols." (Revelation 2:20)