When you give your life to Christ, Satan, who you formerly served in your life apart from God, becomes consumed with thwarting your plans to remain free from sin. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways and when you are targeted because of your faith in Christ, you can experience persecution. Every Christian at some point in their walk with God will experience persecution. If you are not experiencing it now, you will eventually. If you are experiencing it now, stay positive, hope has come for you already.
A lot of us think persecution is strictly for those who are in heavily populated areas of other religiously fruitful locations. Christians in the Middle East or Christians in China. Christians in America are targeted today like never before. This American culture we live in is evil. Persecution impedes on our human liberties on a daily basis. We are bombarded from every angle, backed into a corner to support ideals that spit in the face of everything our Jesus stands against.
Plenty of people in scripture felt the oppression of persecution in their day. Let’s look at a few examples.
The first example I want to mention in scripture is a man named Stephen. In Acts 8, Stephen is martyred for his faith in Christ. Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of Christians blinded on the road to Damascus, is believed to be responsible for the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 7:54-60 says, “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Of course we know Saul of Tarsus was redeemed on the Damascus road in Acts 9 and given the new name we know him lovingly by in the New Testament, Paul. He suffered immense persecution for the sake of the Gospel. He recounts his struggles in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28 and says, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Aside from all of this, Paul is believed to have been beheaded by sword after his last imprisonment for his faith.
Another amazing example is John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a cousin to Jesus and a great man of faith. In the first chapter of John he was baptizing men who came to him at the Jordan river. Many thought he was a prophet and he confirmed he was merely set to prepare the way for the true Messiah soon to be appearing to them, Jesus. He devoted his life to serving Christ and sharing of His miraculous works.
In Matthew 14, John the Baptist is thrown into prison after angering Herod the Tetrarch. Herod had a brother named Philip. Philip’s wife was Herodias. Herod wanted Herodias for himself, so he divorced his wife and Herodias divorced Philip. John was vocal about this union being unlawful, so because of his outcry, he was put in prison. Later on, the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod at his birthday celebration. He promised her that whatever she wanted would be hers for her lovely display of affection.
Matthew 14:8 says, “Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.”
Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” We want the world to like us, but the choices we make to follow Christ will always put us in opposition with the world.
Peter said in 1 Peter 4:13-14, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
I LOVE the power of this verse. If you are insulted, it is because the Spirit of glory rests upon you. When you face trials, persecutions and rejections from this world because of your faith in Christ, do not be dismayed but rejoice. This means the worlds sees Christ in you and because of that they shudder. They do not want to change so they will attack you because you expose their evil. Christ is always fighting on your side and the great heroes of the faith have shared in your same feelings. When you are rejected or cast aside remember God is glorified by your commitment to your faith.