– Paul Chappell
Spreads the Gospel
When the first century church was persecuted, how did they react? Did they give it up, thinking it wasn’t worth it? No, the saints persevered in the faith because when many of them fled from the severe persecution in Jerusalem that came against the church, they took the gospel into other parts of the Roman Empire like Samaria, the region of Judea, and even into Asia-Minor. After Stephen’s martyrdom, it was “Saul [who] approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions” (Acts 8:1), so the more they persecuted the church, the more it spread. The Devil doesn’t get it that his persecuting the saints helps the cause of God by spreading His Word.
Receiving a Blessing
Don’t we all want to be blessed by God? I do, so why not find ways in which we can please God so that He might bless us; however we don’t please Him just so we’ll receive a blessing, but we please Him because He’s given us the free gift of eternal life. We are forever in His debt, but seeking a blessing is not wrong in itself. Many of the patriarch’s sons did and Jesus promised a lot of blessings in the “Beatitudes” (Matt 5), and in particular, one for being a believer. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). That’s an abundant blessing, wouldn’t you say?
Pleasing to God
Something that is very pleasing to God is suffering for doing what is right. The Apostle Peter calls this, “suffering unjustly.” He wrote, “this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1st Pet 2:19), so “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled” (1st Pet 3:14). When we suffer from our own sins or poor choices, that’s not “suffering unjustly,” but when we are doing what God commands and we still suffer for it, that’s suffering unjustly and God is mindful of it.
In Great Company
If you’ve been faithful to the Great Commission and shared your faith, then you must have faced rejection by now. Some are even antagonistic or insulting about your faith but don’t lose heart. Jesus has some words to encourage you as He said, “when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt 5:11) then, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:12). Stephen stood up to the council and said, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered” (Acts 7:52), so Stephen joined the ranks of the prophets of old who were killed for the firm stand for God. We might never face death but we might face hatred, and remember Jesus said, that’s the same as murder someone in their heart (Matt 5:21-22).
Satan and his demons never waste their time on under-ground Christians, those who are living in the flesh, and those who have gone “underground” with their faith. One man called them “secret agent Christians,” but is that possible? Jesus warned that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33). If you’ve never been persecuted, you might be more afraid of what others might say or think than fearing God. I know…I’ve been there and done that.