Deeper Christian Life Ministry – Search The Scripture 2nd Sunday, August 2020 (LESSON 960)
Topic: Christian Attitude During Persecution
Memory Verse: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11,12).
Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Persecution is suffering for righteousness’ sake or for biblical principles which a Christian upholds. All categories of believers – young, old, as well as fathers and mothers in the Lord – suffer one form of persecution or the other at different stages of their Christian lives.
Persecution, therefore, is not a strange experience for the believer in Christ. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings…” (1 Peter 4:12,13).
Believers who suffer because of their unscriptural attitudes or wrongdoing should not hide under this Christian precept and claim they are suffering persecution. The Scripture admonishes believers to maintain good works before others. To suffer as a result of any sinful attitude cannot be for Christ’s sake. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.”
Christ predicted that believers would be persecuted as He was persecuted. “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:1-3). Therefore, no believer is exempted from it.
PERSECUTORS AND THE SCOPE OF PERSECUTION (1 Peter 4:12-19; John 16:3; Galatians 4:29; Acts 7:52)
Christ reveals the identity of persecutors as those who have not “known the Father, nor me”. Sinners and backsliders are the ones the devil inspires and uses to persecute believers in his attempt to dissuade them from continuing in the Christian faith. This is the uniform testimony of the Scriptures. “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” Persecution then can come from unbelieving relations, co-workers, bosses, fellow-students, teachers or anyone that a believer interacts with. Though persecution generally comes from people who are yet to be born-again, carnal believers also do allow themselves to be used by the devil to stand in the way of other brethren.
Question 1: In what ways can a believer be persecuted?
Suffering persecution can take different forms. One, it can be mild as a verbal assault or serious as a physical assault or critical as martyrdom. Two, believers can be evil spoken of or hated. Three, they can have their promotion withheld in the workplace or have their entitlements seized. Four, they can be denied jobs that they are qualified for. Five, one can be beaten for his or her principled stand on the word of God.
Christ suffered all forms of persecution during His earthly ministry. Thus, He is our Example, not only in conduct but also in suffering.
PERSECUTION: A COMMON EXPERIENCE OF SAINTS (Matthew 24:13; Mark 10:38,39; 2 Timothy 3:12; John 16:33; 9:28,34; Jeremiah 38:6; 1 Peter 1:6; Matthew 5:39,40)
Question 2: Mention some believers in the Bible who experienced persecution.
To prepare the minds of His disciples for what they were going to suffer when He eventually leaves the world, Christ declared that they would be persecuted. This was essentially part of the beatitudes He taught on the Mount. Persecution is the lot of every Christian. Old Testament believers had their share of persecution. Joseph was hated and sold by his brethren for relating his God-given dream. Moses was derided by some as he led Israel under God’s guidance through the wilderness. Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets were plotted against for upholding the sceptre of righteousness, as were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for their stance in worshipping the only true God.
Persecution did not end with the Old Testament dispensation as some erroneously believe. Truth is that, in any Christian assembly where persecution is no longer the experience of members, compromise with the world exists either in doctrine or lifestyle. The reason is, the devil who is the god of this world is highly intolerant of a holy lifestyle and truth such as Christ lived and preached. The Lord Jesus Christ was vehemently persecuted by the religionists of His day for declaring the good news of the Kingdom. He was spoken against, falsely accused and finally arrested and killed because He claimed to be the Son of God. His forerunner, John the Baptist, was given a similar treatment.
The early church leaders (and members) were also persecuted by the religious Jews as well as pagan Gentiles wherever they preached the gospel. While some were arrested, whipped and jailed, others were martyred for “speaking in the name of the Lord Jesus”. Paul went through similar experiences after his conversion and in the course of his obedience to the heavenly vision. Believers therefore, must bear in mind that doing the will of God or obeying His commands does not exempt them from being persecuted. The Scripture affirms that “…all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Question 3: Why are believers persecuted?
Christ, while addressing His “brethren” who did not believe in Him said, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). Since inception, the society has always hated anyone who walks contrary to the course of the world and its accepted norms. Religionists have always despised non-conformists to the existing tradition. As our lives and preaching expose and rebuke sin and its folly, we are bound to be persecuted.
POSSESSION OF A CHRIST-LIKE ATTITUDE DURING PERSECUTION (1 Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 24:13; 1 Peter 2:21-23; Luke 21:14-19; 21:28; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18; 1 Peter 1:3,4)
While going through persecution, certain principles of behaviour are expected of believers. They are to guard against falling into sin and remain holy. Two, there should be no thought of retaliating against the persecutor. Three, true Christians are to commit and submit their situation to God.
As believers, whatever we are going through in the world – hatred from neighbours, oppression from superiors or peers and misunderstanding from others -the Bible is clear as to what our attitude should be. As Christ our perfect Example endured, blessed and prayed for the forgiveness of those who persecuted Him, so we are instructed to forgive our persecutors. We are to bless those who curse us, rejoice for every opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake, patiently cleave to the Lord and His Word, and be ever conscious of the eternal weight of glory reserved in heaven for us (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; 1 Peter 1:3,4).
When we do these, we are promised divine help. As the Lord promised and stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniel, Paul and Silas, and many others, He will uphold us throughout our stay on earth (Isaiah 51:12,13; Daniel 3:14-30; 6:16-23; Acts 16:19-26). If we patiently hope and cleave to Him, love and faith will open the door out of every dungeon for us. Heaven’s windows for an immeasurable outpouring of divine blessings will be open to us. We must not allow persecution, which the Bible calls our light affliction, to becloud our view of the promised eternal inheritance. Rather, we need to renew our consecration and commitment to the Lord as we remain in unbroken communion with Him to see us through whatever we may be passing through. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Question 4: How should believers react to persecutors?
During persecution, believers must hold on to their Christian convictions. Since Jesus did not compromise with the world to avoid suffering persecution, believers must not. The period of persecution should be made a time of unceasing prayer for our persecutors and for grace to suffer shame and reproach for Christ without committing sin. We must not recant to avoid suffering; our conviction must remain intact because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
PROFITS OF SUFFERING PERSECUTION (Matthew 16:25; 5:10-12; Mark 10:30; 13:9-11; Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 124:1-8; 129:1,2; Daniel 3:8-25; Revelation 1:9-18; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8)
Though it is the will of God to suffer persecution, some believers are afraid of it, hence their resolve to be secret disciples of Christ. They are ashamed to identify with the Bible or Bible-believing people for fear of ridicule. They do not profess to know Christ openly because of the privileges they presently enjoy which might be denied them. Such people are not far from compromises that can affect their loyalty to Christ. Standing for nothing or being of a double standard smacks of cowardice.
Christ reveals that those who seek to save their lives will lose them, while those who trust in the Lord and lose their lives – opportunities and privileges that should have been theirs were it not for their profession of faith in Christ – will gain them. Again, those who deny Christ before men risk being denied by Him in heaven. The believer needs to note that persecution is part of his light affliction that cannot compare in any way with the suffering that awaits sinners in hell and those who deny Christ.
Question 5: Mention some blessings believers who endure persecution with Christ-like attitude stand to enjoy.
Believers who endure persecution with Christ-like attitude will have the Spirit of Christ and glory rest upon them. Theirs also will be the blessedness Christ pronounced in the beatitude. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake… for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:10-12). Persecution fires believers’ longing for our eternal home and opens rare opportunities for them (Mark 13:9,10). The Philippian jailor and his household, for instance, would not have been saved were it not that Paul and Silas maintained Christian attitudes of peace, endurance, prayer and praises during persecution. Thus, the gospel spread when believers endure persecution and stand firm on their Christian conviction.
Persecution provides opportunities for believers to enjoy the comfort of the Spirit as promised by Christ. Obviously, God does not forget His children in the fire of trials of faith. Those who endure will discover God’s promise of protection, preservation and provision to be true (Isaiah 43:1,2; Psalm 27:10). Special revelation and divine presence attend intense suffering and persecution of saints as witnessed in the cases of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace of fire, and John the beloved on the Isle of Patmos.
Above all, believers who endure persecution and continue in the race to the end will be saved and given the crown of life.
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Lord Jesus, come into my life. I accept You as my Lord and Personal Saviour. I believe in my heart You died and rose from the dead to save me. Thank You Lord for saving me, in Jesus name Amen.
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