Summary: Many times when we present the Gospel we fail to share that there will be times of suffering and persecution for our faith. In this message Pastor Steve shows how that is part of God’s plan.
Festo Kivengere, a leading evangelical minister in Uganda, wrote a book called I Love Idi Amin. In this book, he described the history of the church in Uganda, and in the following excerpt he told of the first Christian martyrs in the nation’s history:
"Earlier that same year, 1885, three Christian boys had shed their blood for Christ in Uganda. The king had ordered the arrest of these page boys in an effort to stamp out Christianity. The eldest was fifteen and the youngest was eleven-year-old Yusufu. They held fast their faith and staked their lives on it, though people were weeping and their parents were pleading with them. At the place of execution they sent a message to the king: ‘Tell his majesty that he has put our bodies in the fire, but we won’t be long in the fire. Soon we shall be with Jesus, which is much better. But ask him to repent and change his mind, or he will land in a place of eternal fire and desolation.’ They sang a song which is now well loved in Uganda as the ‘martyr’s song.’ One verse says, ‘O that I had wings like the angels. I would fly away and be with Jesus!’ Little Yusufu said, ‘Please don’t cut off my arms. I will not struggle in the fire that takes me to Jesus!’ Forty adults came to Jesus the day the boys died. This was a new kind of life, which fire and torture could not control. We have a memorial near Kampala where these youngsters are remembered as the first Christian martyrs of Uganda. By 1887, the end of the first decade of the church, hundreds had died. There were martyrs out of every village that had believers. They were only beginners, they knew little theology, and some could barely read, but they had fallen in love with Jesus Christ. Life had taken on a completely new meaning. The value of living and of living eternally had been discovered. They were not hugging their lives, but ready to give them for Jesus. During these dangerous days, there was an immediate and steady increase in the number of those embracing Christ." (Quoted by John MacArthur, The Hallmarks of Discipleship, p.25).
Persecution is a Fact for the Believer
Jesus promised it. He said in John 16:33 - "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Verna Chambers said, "I was wearing a T-shirt with the words: BE NICE TO ME. I HAD A HARD DAY. Little Eric looked at the words and said, "How can you tell this early in the morning?" -- Verna Chambers, Willcox, Arizona. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."
There are two truths that are noteworthy: (1) "In Me you may have peace" and (2) "In the world you will have tribulation."
"Tribulation" is the word Gr.thlipsis, which means, "a pressing, pressing together, pressure" Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995. It is translated in the AV 21 times as "tribulation" and 17 times as "afflication."
Gerhard Kittle said, "Christian suffering, then, is inseparable from the Christian life" Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1985.
John 15:20-21 - "Remember the word that I said to you, ’A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Paul reiterated it. He said that it has been granted to us to suffer. Phil.1:29-30 says, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me."
It will happen as a result of godliness (2 Tim.3:12). And because of this we are to respond a certain way. Mat.5:11-12 says, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It happened to other believers it will happen to you. It happened to the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), James and Peter (Acts 12:1-2), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:50), Paul and Silas (Acts 16:22-23), The believers at Thessalonica.
1 Thess.1:5-6 says, "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit".