Summary: Paul Views of Persecution and Power Encounters
Paul Views of Persecution and Power Encounters
Paul, as many Christian leaders in Africa, have not been strangers to persecution, misunderstandings, and imprisonment for the sake of the truth. Part of the promise of living Godly in Christ Jesus involves abuse. Just as Paul suffered persecution so are many Christians suffering greatly for their faith throughout Africa. In the past one year in Nigeria, for example, there have been major religious persecutions in Bauchi, Katsina, Kaduna, and in Adamawa States. Thousands have been murdered, tortured, and stripped of all their worldly goods for their faith. Many western Christians have a difficult time appreciating the costs of belonging to Jesus like believers in Africa. Paul experienced harassment from both devilish and Judaistic zealots. Notice his response to threats, intimidations, and oppressive attempts from Acts 13:4-52):
Example - ``They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus who was an attendant of the proconsul, Segius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. The Saul, who was called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ``You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.’’
Here Paul finds himself in the ``Happy Isle’’ of Cyprus where the climate was so perfect and its provisions so abundant that many people were finding contentment in the things of this world. Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, prefers to take a more conciliatory approach to his own people, but not Paul. He chose to confront the forces of darkness directly, as many Godly African evangelists successfully do today. Paphos, the capital city of Cyprus was known for its infamous worship of Venus, the goddess of love. This immoral goddess image motivated many people to live open lives of immorality, promiscuity, and debauchery. Sensuality also gives rise to a great amount of demonic idolatry. As a result, the governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus kept a wizard handy in order to be sure and cover all bases with connections to the spirit world. Many African leaders today commonly resort to spiritualistic powers through charms, amulets, and sorcerers in order to maintain their positions. It is a known fact that many African church leaders have also dabbled in the occultic practices of idolatry to reinforce their powers, status, and rank in the society at large. Many of these sooth-sayer assistants to leaders are used for telling fortunes, revealing secrets of their enemies, offering protection, and even occasionally providing healing. Their abilities of leadership are often supplemented with these demonic powers in exchange for sacrifices, offerings, and inside deals. They somehow believe that any means to obtaining power and gaining advantage over their competitors is justifiable.
In many African leaders, there is this similar gnawing insecurity that beckons them to call on as many spiritual powers as possible to preserve their authority. They are continually looking over their shoulder to see who might be planning a coup against them. Since very few things are at face value, many African leaders, in the state and church, are plagued by doubt, fear, and anxiety. Bar-Jesus was a sorcerer employed by the governor for such evil purposes of helping to preserve the governor’s power by hook or by crook. Paul saw that if the governor were won for Christ, the entire social, political, economic, and spiritual climate of life would soon change for all. He effectively brought him to a saving knowledge of the truth through a power encounter exhibiting his courageous faith and forthright confidence. A approach that usually assures an effective response in modern Africa as well.
In the same way I recently read of a influential Christian leader of a growing church in Lagos Nigeria say the following:
``It will take paying the price of persistence and courage to see miracles from God. Look at the sevenfold persistence that God requires in Namaan’s healing, and relate that to our own problems, in 2 Kings 5:9
Example - So Namaan (The commander of the army of king of Aram) went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ``Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’’