There’s no denying the fact that one of the commonest things associated with Christianity is persecution. Since time immemorial Christians all over the world have experienced one form of persecution to the other, and the bitter truth is that the persecutions are not stopping anytime soon. Christian persecutions are to be expected. Jesus said that, if they persecuted Him, they will also persecute His followers (John 15:20). Jesus made it clear that those of the world will hate Christians because the world hates Christ. If Christians were like the world—vain, earthly, sensual, and given to pleasure, wealth, and ambition—the world would not oppose us. But Christians do not belong to the world, which is why the world engages in Christian persecution. Christians are influenced by different principles from those of the world. We are motivated by the love of God and holiness, while the world is driven by the love of sin. It is our very separation from the world that arouses the world’s animosity.
The Chamber’s dictionary defines persecution as to harass, hunt down or put to death especially for political or religious opinions. Persecution means hostility and ill treatments especially because of race, political or religious beliefs. As Christians, we must understand that as long as we believe and worship Jesus, the world would also continue to persecute us. The hostility meted out to us didn’t start with and won’t end with us neither. As long as there are other Christians who’d come after us, persecution will not stop.
BIBLE CHARACTERS WHO WERE PERSECUTED
As said, persecution didn’t start with us. Our fathers in the faith several years ago were persecuted. Some were insulted, fried in hot oils, stoned to death, killed, etc. A few examples of these personalities are:
Abel, one of the sons of Adam was killed by his own brother, Cain, just because he offered a befitting sacrifice to God. Out of jealousy on the part of his brother, Cain, he killed him because God had respect unto Abel and his offering.
David was also persecuted by King Saul because of his love towards God and the anointing of God upon him. King Saul persecuted David in ways he could end his life.
Jeremiah suffered all kinds of abuse and trials although he was a faithful prophet of God. Although it sounds gloomy, Jeremiah’s story can strengthen and encourage us. Jeremiah was a prophet in Jerusalem at the time of the siege and destruction by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was not only ignored. He was also mistreated, beaten and eventually left to die by those to whom he brought God’s message —persecuted by those he was trying to guide and save.
- Jesus Himself
Our own saviour suffered many things in the hands of the people he came to save. He was vilified, falsely accused, rebelled against and finally crucified for speaking the truths, preaching the word of God and healing all manner of sicknesses and diseases. John 5:1-18.
Stephen went “among the people” boldly speaking God’s message of a crucified Jesus Christ to a hostile Jewish audience and performing great miracles confirming his message. Stephen was stoned because he did not run and hide, he boldly stood up and spoke out contributing to the word of God to increase and a large of people obeying the faith of Jesus Christ. Acts 6:7
- Apostle Paul
Apostle Paul also suffered many things because he preached the salvation of Jesus Christ. He was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually killed. Acts 24:27.
BENEFITS OF PERSECUTIONS
As Christians we must learn to recognize the value of persecution and even to rejoice in it, not in an ostentatious way but quietly and humbly because persecution has great spiritual values. First, persecution shows that you’re living a godly life. It is those who believe in Jesus Christ and live godly lives suffer persecutions. So you must be happy that you’re persecuted for the sake of the gospel. Secondly, in times of persecutions, you receive grace and strength from God. God wouldn’t leave you to go through persecutions alone. He’s promised to be with you even in your difficulties. He will grant you His grace which is sufficient for you to triumph over your circumstances.
Thirdly, persecution draws you closer to God. One thing expected of you as a Christian is never relent in studying the word of God, praying and fasting, etc. during the times you’re persecuted. Our fathers of old never stopped communicating with God even when they’re kept in prisons. You must also continue to do same. Psalm 34:15-19.
Lastly, persecution gives us hope. Persecution comes to remind us that there are both earthly and eternal rewards that await us. After the struggles are gains. Do not succumb to the voices that tell you to give up in your difficult moments. Don’t be down or discouraged. Know that there’s hope for a glorious future. Mark 10:29-30.
HOW TO OVERCOME PERSECUTION
- When faced with a persecution, have patience. Don’t be in a hurry to run away from persecution just because you’ve professed a faith in Jesus Christ and living a holy life. The patience you exhibit during the times you’re persecuted is congruent with the rewards that await you. James 1:2-4.
- Also be humble and pray when you’re faced with persecution. How do you expect to overcome your persecutors if you don’t communicate with the overcomer Himself – the one who authors and finishes your faith? Present His word to Him and let Him know what His word says about your situations. James 4:6-10.
In conclusion, you must understand as a Christian that in all truth, Christian persecution is good for believers. Apostle James argues that trials test the Christian’s faith, develop endurance in his life, and help develop maturity (James 1:2–4). As steel is tempered in the forge, trials and persecution serve to strengthen the character of believers. A Christian yielding graciously to persecution demonstrates that he is of superior quality as compared to his adversaries.