Rejoicing in Affliction: Blessings of Persecution

This will be the first of several parts in a series called “The Blessings of Persecution.” Since persecution is usually viewed as a negative topic, I want to turn the tables and show that God can – and I believe will – use persecution for our good. This series will also tie into our Blogging Through Acts series.

With the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that homosexual “marriage” is a right that cannot be refused, many Christians are talking about encroaching persecution. Some believe it will happen in the coming weeks and months, while others believe it is years, or even a generation away. Regardless of when it happens, as our country becomes more and more Godless, persecution of true Believers will come. These times are described in 2 Timothy 3:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In this context, verses 12-13 add:

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

But my goal is not to condemn the reader to doom and gloom. On the contrary, I believe we can experience great joy despite increasing persecution. We, as members of the Body of Christ, can shine in this dark hour. While suffering for Christ does not feel good to our flesh, I believe we can and will experience several spiritual blessings in the midst of our suffering, which will be both the root and the fruit of our joy.

But before I show how we are blessed by persecution, I want to show how our persecution relates to God. The first and most important aspect is that Jesus is glorified. Using Stephen (Acts 7) as an example, his accusers had attempted to blaspheme Jesus, saying, “For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us” (Acts 6:14). They believed Jesus was dead and could do nothing, let alone destroy the temple, discounting Stephen’s and the Apostles’ testimony (and the fact!) that Jesus had risen from the dead. They also took a shot at Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, having the same attitude as Nathanael when he pejoratively asked, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). However, despite their mocking, as he is dying, Stephen is granted a vision into heaven and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, the highest position of authority in the universe! In the same way, though we may not be granted a vision like Stephen, Jesus is glorified in our suffering for Him. And many of the remaining blessings will flesh out exactly how Jesus is glorified.

The second blessing of persecution – and another way God is glorified – is, the justice of God is plainly revealed. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-7 says, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels…” When Jesus returns (leaving the debate about exactly when He returns aside 😉 ), we will be vindicated and rewarded by Him, and His enemies will receive retribution. Then we will rejoice even if we have to endure temporary pain and suffering. “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke (reproach, scorn) of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” -Isaiah 25:8-9

Please stick with us as we continue this series on the Blessings of Persecution. God bless!