When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you.
- Deuteronomy 30:1-7
Lord, you understand;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering—do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
- Jeremiah 15:15
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Matthew 5:10-12
“How can you keep your balance in the midst of a situation that is abusive and painful – a situation in which you know with certainty that God intends for you to stay and for which there seems to be no resolution?
“Such a situation can best be described as persecution, especially when you are receiving the abuse because of your witness for the Lord and your behaviors that are based on biblical standards.
“Persecution is the very situation I faced prior to my being called as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta. …
“The executive committee continued to run the business of the church. I met with them one day on a business matter, and as we were facing the decision before us, I said, ‘We need to ask God about this.’ The businessmen looked at one another and then at me, and they said, ‘Let’s leave God out of this. This is business.’ I said, ‘Oh, we can’t do that.’ That, no doubt, was the first sign they saw that I wasn’t going to be easy to control. …
“A Member of the original opposition stood and gave a speech about how we were running him out of the church, and then he said, ‘If you don’t watch what you’re doing, you’re going to get hurt.’ With that, he hit me with the back of his hand in the face. …
“During the Sunday morning service, we began singing the first song, and a man came rushing up to the platform, pushed away the song leader, and said, ‘Today, you haven’t come to hear a sermon. You’ve come to witness a funeral.’
“I motioned to our television cameramen to turn off the cameras. …
“In the wake of their leaving, the opposition made a vow to our television station that they would interrupt every service unless the station took us off the air. The station complied, and for one year (to the day), we were off television. What happened during the following year? The church began to grow rapidly. And when we went back on the air, we returned with programs on two stations. (Furthermore, those programs were in color …) …”
- Charles Stanley, The Source of my Strength
One note on what Rev. Stanley wrote, I, as a mere elder in the church, faced the same conversation, being told it was a business meeting and I should quit talking about God and faith. That church has shrunk in membership since then. And many who have left were strong believers.
Another note, when I was growing up in a strong Baptist population, I wanted to know the difference in Presbyterians and Baptists. One of my friends said that it is not a Baptist congregational meeting until the first punches are thrown. I thought he was joking, but here over fifty years later, I read what happened to Rev. Stanley and I wonder if my friend was telling the truth.
Persecution comes in many forms. Really, if there is no, or little, resistance, it grows in stages. They mess with you. They make noise and disrupt. They take away freedoms and try to silence you. And if they succeed, then no one will notice when you simply are no longer there. Will there be unmarked graves that follow?
In Rev. Stanley’s case, the opposition started with ignoring him and God and continuing their “good-old-boy” ways. When it became clear that the associate pastor, being considered for the senior pastor position, was not going away that easily, they spread their influence to ruin his reputation. Before the fist in the face, his support had dwindled to the point of only one small women’s Bible study, who prayed for him. But the immediate reaction from several at the church was “Do not hit MY pastor” and the support grew from there, enough to be called as senior pastor.
But the opposition was not finished, but no one can destroy what God has ordained. The proof of God’s ordination is the rapid growth of the church once the opposition moved their membership. And it is also proven in that his time as senior pastor lasted over fifty years, still pastor emeritus.
We all have our uphill battles in life. We all face resistance, but is that persecution? And if it is persecution, is it persecution for righteousness’ sake?
Regardless of the cause of the suffering, we should rejoice and be glad. We should learn from each trial of life and learn to grow closer to Jesus in the process.
Rev. Stanley lists several keys to enduring persecution:
“Key #1: Keep your eyes on the Lord.
“Key #2: Ask the Lord to sustain you and strengthen you.
“Key #3: Recognize that you are fighting a spiritual battle.
“Key #4: Keep looking for the victory.”
May all achieve growth in our suffering, growing closer to our precious Savior.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
How sad it is, and yet how common, that persecution of the Christian faith comes from those who hold membership in the congregation! (I say that as a believer who has faced that situation too.) J.
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It is hard to take from any front, but there seems to be an additional pain there.
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