Summary: It’s the Power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live out Christ’s Purpose and this is what leads us into Persecution
Let me share something I received from Pastor Rick Gray at St. Johns Assembly of God Church. Rick is one of my prayer partners and someone whom I respect deeply. He emailed me that Mr. Verbout [Principal at James John School] resigned under duress from Dr. Bettencourt effective July 1, 2002. An excerpt from principal Verbout states, "From the time that Dr. Ed Bettencourt assumed supervision of James John School, and as recently as Thursday, April 11, 2002, he stated that he does not believe I am the right person to be the principal of James John School. Dr. Bettencourt also stated that there are significant numbers of staff who are of the same opinion. ..."
The recently released “Schools Report Card” shows state test scores were up. Rick writes “…I know that there are significant numbers of staff who do not like Mike because of his faith and they have made complaints about our national motto, “In God We Trust” and patriotic songs sung just after Sept. 11. They also have been very vocal about his invitation to the Salvation Army Band to play traditional Christmas songs while he also gives opportunity for other religious expressions of the holidays. I feel he has come under attack because of his personal religious beliefs…”
With that said let’s listen to Peter’s letter to those who also were attacked because of their religious beliefs--1 Peter 4:12-14 & 5: 6-11.
It seems that every culture has its idea of how and when the world will end. In 960 Bernard of Thuringia, a German theologian calculated 992, as the most likely year for the world’s end panic was widespread as the time approached. A German astrologer, Johann Stoffler predicted an overwhelming flood on February 20, 1524. Believers started constructing arks. The calculations were revised when nothing happened and a new date given—1588.
Solomon Eccles was jailed in London’s Bridewell Prison in 1665 for striding through Smithfield Market, carrying a pan of blazing sulfur on his head, and proclaiming doom and destruction. Although the end of the world did not follow, the Great Fire of London did, in 1666. In 1874 Charles Taze Russell, founder of what we know as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluded that the Second Coming had already taken place and that people had 40 years to enter his faith or be destroyed. Later he modified the date to "very soon after 1914." The 16th-century seer Nostradamus is said to have favored 1999 as the year of a Martian invasion, while an 18th-century French prophetess, Jeanne Le Roger, established the year 2000 as the definitive one. Even today this “entertainment” is as prevalent as ever. The “Left Behind” series are runaway best sellers. And there are countless guesses about who is the Antichrist and when all the Biblical prophesies will take place.
Don’t misunderstand me, the second coming is real to be watched for and expected at the most unlikely time (Mt 24:41-43; Mk. 13:33-37; Lk. 21:7-12). It’s a comfort for us to recall what it promises (1 Thess. 4:8-18). It’s just that the Body of Christ sometimes sounds an awful lot like those disciples who are asking Jesus, “Will you now restore the Kingdom to Israel?” With everything they’d seen and experienced a part of them still didn’t “get it”. Jesus’ answer is rather telling “It’s not for you to know the time and dates… but” (Acts 1:7-8).
The disciples hear Jesus’ words and remain standing and staring up into the sky. There is a part of me that believes the reason the angels came to the disciples was because they showed no sign of leaving. They didn’t understand that while they were waiting for God to return and establish His kingdom, they were missing Jesus’ point that their focus was on the wrong place. While we wait for God our eyes are to be on the crowds not the clouds; on humanity not the heavens; on people not “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by”. And when our attention is refocused in this way we can discover that waiting for God brings power; provides a purpose; and results in persecution.
Peter wrote his first letter to a group of Christians who were facing the backlash of Rome’s great fire. Nero blamed the Christians and suddenly the followers of Jesus Christ no longer enjoyed the protection of Rome. Instead there were various problems and persecutions taking place.
What Peter tells them and us is important. Persecution isn’t personal. They aren’t out to “get you”. Other believers too have suffered and are suffering for the sake of Jesus (cf. 4:12; 5:9). The suffering we go through is proof that we belong to Christ (4:13). The question for us as we go through such times is whether we endure or rejoice in the sufferings we face. Some church folks are really good about “gutting it out” when it comes to hard times. They put on a determined face. They don’t let anyone know what’s going on. They quietly endure what the world tosses their way. Unfortunately our human effort has the affect of stopping God’s work in our life.