2 Timothy 3:12 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Let us continue with our discussion on thriving and persevering through persecution, that, which all who desire to live godly in Christ will face.
I. WE MUST LEARN TO BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
When considering this truth, we must recognize there are some (who are non Pentecostal or charismatic), who want to relegate being led by the Spirit to interacting with God through the written word of God alone.
This is an egregious error. Although we are led by the Spirit, as we are taught the depths of the wisdom of God in His word, by the Holy Spirit, that interaction is not all there is to being led by the Spirit of God.
Conversely, many Charismatics and Pentecostals believe themselves to have the market cornered on what is means to be led by the Spirit of God. Yet, much of what they preach and practice is not informed by or judged according to the word of God. This is also egregious error.
Being led by the Spirit of God begins with the follower of Christ taking the portion of the word of God they have been exposed to, through preaching or reading, and hiding it in their heart (Psalm 119:9-12).
This is not merely memorizing the text of the passage, although that certainly is a disciplined Biblical process designed to aid in hiding the word in one’s heart. One should memorize scripture as a necessary faith survival tactic, for one day those who fight against Christ will take the written word. However, they cannot take what is hidden in your heart.
That said, hiding the word in heart is more than memorization, it is to meditate on it, that the Holy Spirit may aid in rightly dividing God’s word and illuminating our understanding (Psalm 1:1-3).
Sadly, it is amazing how few “Christians” cannot find essential passages of scripture concerning the doctrine of Christ, sanctification, Christian living or spiritual warfare, let alone recite even one line.
The reason this discipline is so essential to being led by the Holy Spirit, especially in times of persecution, is that the Holy Spirit speaks in the voice of the written word, for our comfort, direction, correction and empowerment. This He does all day, every day, to all who trust in Him with all their heart .
Proverbs 3:5-7 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Interestingly, we see the word ALL in the passage above, indicating through out our day, we are to remember He is with us, acknowledge His sovereignty over us and let Him lead. Some will declare this a subjective experience, but it is not, especially when we have scripture throughout the New Testament that reveals this discipline of being led by the Holy Spirit.
Consider the question of whether one is allowed by God to run in the face of great persecution or need to stand and take it. Let us look to Acts 8.
Acts 8:1 1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Acts 8:4 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
How was it that the larger group was “scattered” or “sown” through out the region, while running away from persecution, and the other smaller group (the apostles and leaders) remained in the fire of persecution; and both were led by the Spirit?
Remember at the point of this passage the church was contained within the area of Jerusalem and had not yet reach beyond the first stage of Christ’s call to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost part of the world. With this understanding, we know those who fled were doing it under Holy Spirit leading.
On the other hand, the apostles, being led by the Holy Spirit, stayed in order to allow the “scattered” to escape and take gospel seed to other regions.
We see the importance of being led by the Holy Spirit, especially when we are brought before enemies of the Lord and accused.
Mark 13:9-11 9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Luke 21:12-15 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.
Both passages are records of the same communication to Christ’s original disciples. Some have suggested this was fulfilled in those original twelve. This is not the case. Consider Stephen.
Acts 6:8-15 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
If one were to review Stephen’s words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 they would see that no sane man would choose to inflame those who could condemn him, unnecessarily, yet the Holy Spirit was speaking through the martyr and declared.
Acts 7:51-53 51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
It was for these words he was stoned to death. Yet some still say this kind of thing is not for Christians in our time, yet we often ignore that Paul wrote “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter“(Romans 8:36); which has been lived and died by from Stephen until current hour around the world.
Therefore, ignore these admonitions at your own eternal peril. Christians who desire to live godly, must learn to be led by the Holy Spirit, in order to thrive and persevere in persecution.
II. NEVER CEASE PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
Let us turn to Matthew 24:9-14.
Matthew 24:9-14 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
For those who equate the tribulation period, as the wrath of God, remember this was originally spoken to the disciples, who faced almost every thing in this passage in their lifetime. Consider that Christians in every time period from the announcement of Christ’s church on the day of Pentecost, have faced times of horrific tribulation persecution, just as Christ describes above.
Now consider that none of those threats, including how in the last days we will be hated by all nations and people, should cause us to cease proclaiming Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
The passage above gives us specific emphasis concerning this, giving us the understanding that the world-wide proclamation of the gospel, is the last circumstance before revelation of antichrist.
Note Jesus declares the gospel would be preached in every nation, not every people group. Therefore, we are very close. We must keep pressing on as His witnesses.
The moment fear causes us to stop proclaiming Christ as Savior, is the day we are ashamed and potentially falling from Christ and from our faith.
Luke 9:24-26 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
During times of tribulation it is the testimony of faithful saints making Christ known, which encourage others.
III. NEVER GIVE IN TO FEAR
Let’s face facts, emotions outside of the Holy Spirit fruit of self-control, are a major risk in Christians falling short of the grace of God; and potentially falling away from the faith.
Fear of that what may come, is a serious factor, hindering our praying and walking in the faith. This is because it arises from out of control emotions. Therefore, it is incumbent we give not in to fear, even if our lives are at risk.
Matthew 10:28-31 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
It is fear of loss which the enemy uses to get Christians to turn away from their faith. Remember, fear of anyone other than God leads to disobedience in the Christian, if not overcome.
2 Timothy 1:7 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
We combat this fear, by casting our care on Him, in humility, being sober and vigilant, and remembering our brethren in the world are facing similar persecution. Remember God is with us (I Peter 5:6-10). We pray for God’s peace to persevere in fearful times.
IV. BEWARE OF THE COMPANY WE KEEP
Because of Christ’s words to us in the Mount Olivet discourse, concerning the last days, we must also be careful of the company we keep in the dark days ahead.
Mark 13:11-13 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will b hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
In addition to the passage above, consider Luke 21:16-19 and Matthew 10:34-39 where we read “A man’s enemies will be those of his own house“. This is perhaps the most difficult instruction in persevering persecution, for we want to believe our family and friends, even if not saved, will never turn on us. This is simply not true and scripture proves it out.
Prayerful consideration of who we stay connected with, in growing and difficult times, is essential to enduring to the end.
V. NEVER FORSAKE ASSEMBLING TOGETHER UNLESS DEAD OR IN PRISON
Finally, in order to thrive and persevere through persecution and tribulation, we must not only understand the importance of the body of Christ, but NEVER, NEVER, NEVER cease from meeting together, because that is to deny Christ Himself.
Remember the blessing of covid-19, which was to show the church how we took for granted the presence of God in His living stones. Whether we change the time, break up into smaller groups, change our meeting place, or all the above, we must never cease seeking to meet face to face; as it is God’s command until He comes.
Hebrews 10:24-31 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
If we continue in these five things, we will either give our life for King Jesus, or be waiting for the Blessed Hope, which signals our in-gathering in only a short time away. The times are upon us all, the time of our redemption is at hand, even so come Lord Jesus!.