Summary: Dr. Tow shares six keys to thriving in persecution. Persecution is discussed in context of personal struggle as well as through the lens of our cultural climate.
How To Thrive In Persecution
In Matt 5:10-15 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made statements that were contrary to conventional wisdom. This is one such statement. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake….” This is not the way people naturally think. Conventional wisdom says you are blessed and happy when everybody likes you and speaks well of you; you are accepted and respected by your peers; people admire you and want to be friends with you. That’s a sign of blessing. And there are times when God gives us favor with people in order to position us for His purposes and enable us to fulfill a mission. As a child and young adult Jesus had that kind of favor. The Bible says He increased in favor with God and men. But when He later confronted leaders with truth, they rejected Him and persecuted Him even unto death.
It is important to note this qualifier in Matthew 5:10 “…for righteousness sake….” There is no blessing in being persecuted for personal stupidity or abrasiveness. The persecution some people experience is simply the result of how they are treating other people. If we are disrespectful toward people in our words and actions, they will probably be disrespectful toward us. If we rob banks and take other people’s money, we will probably be persecuted, but rightly so. Persecuted “for righteousness sake” means it comes because of your commitment to Christ.
The decision made by the Supreme Court on June 26th positions Christians for a level of persecution that we have not experienced in America up until this time. More than ever before, we need a biblical understanding of persecution and how to deal with it. That is my subject this morning.
In Acts 4 we see the Early Church dealing with their first wave of persecution. In the first three chapters of Acts they had some awesome experiences in God. The Day of Pentecost came and they will all filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter preached and 3,000 people got saved. Acts 2:46-47 gives us a sense of what was happening. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” So there they were have a wonderful time in God, “praising God and having favor with all the people.” That’s the kind of church I want to join. It gets even better in Acts 3. Peter and John are on their way to the Temple and God heals a crippled man right there for everyone to see. Five thousand people get saved (Acts 4:4).
But something else happens. Follow with me as we read Acts 4:1-8 “Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked,’By what power or by what name have you done this?’ 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit….”
Six principles for thriving in persecution: