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What would you do if you knew the moment you accepted the gift of salvation it meant accepting a martyr’s death? What if identifying yourself as a Christian meant shedding any identity you had as a member of your family, your community, and your chosen profession? Would you still choose Jesus? Many Christians around the world understand from personal experience that to accept salvation means accepting the suffering of the cross.
Romans 8:17 And since we are his children, we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Underline that last portion of Scripture. Meditate on it. Rewind and replay that truth over again until it flows through your mind and begins to seep its way into your heart. The thought of enduring persecution for our faith is intimidating. Our faith can feel inadequate to face such adversity; however there are ways we can prepare ourselves for just such a time. The time to gain resolve however, is before persecution begins, rather than during.
6 Ways to Prepare for Persecution
1) Remember God’s Promises
What does the Bible have to say about persecution? Surprisingly, a lot. In fact, the Bible promises us that we will be persecuted for our faith. It’s a matter of when, not if. Studying God’s Word is a powerful first step to accepting the inevitability of persecution and preparing our hearts.
2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted.
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.
What a bleak and terrifying confirmation! While God’s Word confirms our worst fears, it also comforts our fears by reminding us that the God we serve is greater than any persecution we face and it is he who upholds and sustains us. He reminds us that we never face persecution alone. His Spirit is with us as well as the hearts and minds of the rest of the body of Christ.
In preparing to face persecution, we can take a lesson from Apostle Paul—that when we are at our weakest, we are truly at our strongest. It is when we are at our weakest point that we reach the end of our human strength and God’s power is magnified through us. His grace sustains us. It is comforting to know that we don’t have to worry so much about how we will respond when we are put through trials and tribulation because God’s Holy Spirit within us does all the heavy lifting.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2) Listen to the Testimonies of Persecuted Christians
A practical way to prepare for persecution is to hear the testimonies of our persecuted brothers and sisters. Some have left everything they own, escaping with only the clothes on their backs. Others have witnessed children and loved ones slaughtered before their eyes. Still others have been burned, maimed, shot, stabbed, and tortured—all because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
In spite of the horrors these ordinary Christians have endured, the Holy Spirit has empowered them with extraordinary courage, love, perseverance, forgiveness, and humility. In the midst of deprivation, ostracism, and uncertainty, our brothers and sisters have still remained joyful, hopeful, and faithful. In hearing their stories we see pieces of ourselves and are encouraged. We may never know the same level of anguish, but it challenges us to boldly stand for Christ in our own lives.
The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day sought to kill him, not because of the miracles he performed, but the truth he told concerning the condition of their hearts and their rebellion against God. As followers of Christ, we are called to stand for truth, and in so doing we expose the world’s evil, causing it to hate us. There’s no better way to get a taste of what persecution feels like in this politically correct society than to speak out against the evil of abortion, uphold traditional marriage, or to claim Jesus is the only way to God. These biblical truths go against the grain of secular culture and the backlash can be brutal—just ask the Klein’s, who lost their bakery for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex wedding or Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to sign a gay marriage license. For their commitment to biblical standards, they received death threats, had their first amendment rights infringed upon, and essentially wore the scarlet letter of public ire.
John 15:19-20 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you also.”
Jesus is our shining example, in whose footsteps we follow. We should not only expect to experience the same rejection he did, but we should also respond in the same manner he did when faced with intense suffering.
Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to his father in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he had reservations before his time of testing. The Bible says that ‘even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered and through obedience became the source of salvation for all those who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9)’. How do we obey even when every fiber of our being screams against it? We too, must turn to our heavenly Father. Jesus demonstrated for us the power of prayer in preparation for hardship.
In preparing for persecution we need to the power of God so that through our witness, those who persecute us might see God and receive salvation through the gospel being proclaimed and lived out before them. Prayer is the catalyst for changing hostile hearts.
Believe in the power of prayer. If not for yourself, believe in it for others. The world is weak, prayer is powerful and He can do anything. ~ Anonymous
There is a reason that prayer is the most frequent request of persecuted Christians around the world. Prayer opens opportunities for the gospel to be preached. His Kingdom comes; His will is done, on earth, as it’s done in Heaven. Our prayers help to advance the Kingdom of God as former enemies of the cross become allies and co-laborers with us. This is why Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Ephesians 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given so that I will fearlessly make know the mystery of the gospel.
Though it’s not pleasant, persecution is the means by which we are refined. We become laser-focused on what’s most important and we shed those things weighing us down and holding us back spiritually. While we gain things of eternal value, we lose:
Christianity isn’t easy and Jesus never promised us safety. Eleven of the 12 apostles died violent deaths, Stephen was stoned, and Paul was beheaded. The term “martyr” means witness and there are a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and have given all, even their lives because of their love for Jesus. They suffered imprisonment, stoning, poverty, and homelessness. No cost was too great. No sacrifice too extravagant. Their love for Jesus transcended the world’s comprehension (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Luke 14:25-27; 33 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, ‘If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Jesus suffered for our sakes because he loved us and the answer to us overcoming our own fears is through growing in our love for him. We may suffer persecution, but we can be confident in our preparation to face it, knowing we will be victorious, just as Christ has the victory!
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.