Sermons

Summary: When the child of God is hard-pressed by the wicked, a cry escapes the lips, "How Long?" Let the Christian know that God knows their trials, and that He shall, by His mighty hand, reveal His mercy and grace in His time.

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” [1]

Almost twenty years ago, Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf dismissed evangelical Christians as “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” [2] In many respects, antipathy to the Faith has hardened since that time. What was at that time a push back against anything that appeared to express the Faith of Christ the Lord has grown into a frontal assault on all that is righteous and holy. It is indisputable that the modern world is awash with prejudice and discrimination against the Faith once delivered to the saints. However, I hesitate to say that we are experiencing persecution—yet.

How bad are things? And how should we who are Christians respond? Undoubtedly, there is more opposition to the Faith today than there was twenty years ago. Undoubtedly, supposedly knowledgeable people feel free to ridicule the faithful and to dismiss the Faith. Without question, people feel free to mount judicial attacks against any expression of the Faith. However, we need to keep things in perspective. We will do well to take to heart the admonition of the writer of the Letter to Hebrew Christians, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” [HEBREWS 12:4].

When I consider the cost of being a Christian in modern Iran, or in Syria, or in Cambodia or in any of a number of countries where speaking of faith in Christ the Lord will bring imprisonment, or even ensure the death of the one speaking of the Master, I am ashamed that professing Christians here would even dare speak of persecution. When families with one member who profess Christ in North Korea will be placed in prison camps for three generations, we should never speak of our pressure as persecution. Believers in China, Sudan, Burma and Nigeria can speak with first-hand knowledge of persecution because of the Faith—we can’t.

We have been spared the suffering our brothers and sisters are experiencing around the world today. Peter, writing to people who knew something of persecution, urged believers, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Then, he appended this notation, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” [1 PETER 5:8-10].

Note how Peter transitions to an appropriate response to real persecution; he instructs those who are persecuted to fix their eyes on the Master who permits us to experience such trials. We look to Him in full confidence that in His time He will personally “restore, confirm, strengthen and establish” us. Any suffering we now experience will be for but a short while.

I’ve studied history for many years now. One observation that appears to hold sway universally is that cultures in decline go through a period when they jettison the “old faith” that made them what they were. Our western world became powerful because of the Christian Faith; it was principles that grew out of the Christian Faith that underpinned our system of laws, the advance of modern science and even the manner in which western society conducts itself. However, this old faith must be discarded for that which is new. The tragedy is that contemporary people now embrace any weird, wild and wonderful belief—except the Jewish and Christian Faiths that that been central to the rise and dominance of the west. This has become for modern man an ABC moment—anything but Christianity.

What we as Christians must not do is respond as victims to the opposition we are now experiencing and which we will continue to experience in increasing measure until the Master returns. We are not victims; we are victors. We are not a small, persecuted minority; we are part of a great number of followers of the Christ, even in these dark hours. We are appointed to stand firm in the darkest hour, knowing that He who conquered death is still on Heaven’s Throne. Jesus Himself has charged all who would follow Him, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” [LUKE 9:23].

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