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28931
“Dealing With Shock and Persecution”
by Maria Kneas   
June 15th, 2016

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Persecution is shocking. It’s cruel and unfair. Why do people punish us for doing good? Why do they hate us for loving Jesus? It just doesn’t make sense. It seems crazy.

It certainly doesn’t make sense to reasonable people who know God and have a biblical standard of right and wrong. In contrast, the devil’s values are upside down, and he is literally insane. He had to be, in order to think he could fight against God and win.

As Christians serve God, they increasingly see things from His perspective. Those who serve the devil (whether knowingly or unknowingly) wind up thinking more and more the way he does.

Many people blame God when cruel and unjust things are done to them. But they are accusing the wrong person. They should be blaming Adam and Eve instead of God. Everything bad that happens to us is initially because Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (see Romans 5).(Editor's note: Maria K. is not saying here that we are not responsible for our own sins. Her main point in this article is that God is not the author of sin, and He created a perfect world. Sin began with Adam and Eve, but we are each responsible for our own rebellion and sin against God.  Man’s sinful nature and his responsibility for his own sin is clearly illustrated throughout Maria’s book, How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution, from which this article was extracted).

Try to put yourself in God’s shoes for a moment. He created a perfect world in which everything was good. Adam and Eve were created as mature adults, ready for marriage. They never had a troubled childhood. They didn’t have any old wounds or scars. They had a closeness to God we can’t begin to comprehend, walking and talking with Him every evening. Their world was beautiful and safe. They were healthy and had wonderful things to eat all around them, waiting to be picked and enjoyed. All of their needs were met, and all of their desires were fulfilled.

Then along came the serpent, who was the world’s first con artist. He talked them into rebelling against God.

When everything was perfect, both Adam and Eve fell into sin. That is a hundred percent rate of failure. Now, if having everything be perfect doesn’t work, then what is the only alternative? Suffering. Hardship. Death. Discovering we desperately need God.

My mom wrote a poem about the shock and challenge of having normal life suddenly be radically changed in painful and confusing ways:

TRUST
(by Frances Morrisson)

Suddenly the Everyday
is wrenched away.

Lord, please guard and grow
the fullness of my love and trust in You.
When all I know is set afloat today,
pilot my boat and nudge me to
the harbor of the Narrow Way

There let me find a clearer, newer view
where all that’s upside down
resolves; makes sense; steady in the light of love and Trust in You.

“Wrenched away” is a good description of what persecution feels like. This applies to a Christian baker who has been threatened with prison because he refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual marriage,1 and it also applies to a Christian in the Middle East who is beheaded because of his faith. It’s shocking, and something inside us cries out, “This can’t be happening!” There is distress and grief, pain and confusion.

Obviously, what the baker suffered is not as serious as being beheaded, but it’s still a shock. There is a difference in the degree of severity of the persecution, but it’s a gut-wrenching event for the people involved in both situations. Comparing it to animals, it is better to be attacked by an angry bobcat than by a man-eating tiger. However, either way, there is a lot of suffering involved.

The best antidote for shock, pain, and suffering is the Word of God. It is also the best guide for how to respond to the challenges of life. Therefore, I am going to quote a lot of Scripture in this chapter.

The Bible tells us that Christians should expect to be persecuted. However, until recently, American Christians were usually treated well. This feels normal for us, but it is unusual in terms of the world today since many countries have serious persecution. Now Christians in the United States (and Canada too) are suffering for their faith. For Americans, this is shocking, but according to the Bible, we should not be surprised:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Remember the word that I said unto you. The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

The good news is that God enables His people to endure persecution. His grace is sufficient to get us through the trials and tribulations, and if we love Him and put our trust in Him, then He will make whatever we go through work out for our good:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

According to the Bible, God uses trials and tribulations to build godly character in us. This is good fruit in our lives, and it will be a blessing for us and for others. The suffering is temporary, but the rewards will be eternal:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

[W]e glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Jesus told us it is a blessing to be persecuted for His sake. Now in terms of my emotions, I have real difficulty with that. I want to avoid suffering, and it pains me to see others suffer. However, God sees the big picture. I don’t. God knows what He is talking about.
My perspective is limited by my natural fears. Therefore, I need to take God at His word and believe Him, in spite of the fact that what He says goes against the grain. Here is what Jesus said:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

I am not at the point of being able to “rejoice” or be “exceeding glad” if I am persecuted, or if people I know and love are persecuted. However, I can tell God, “This does not feel like a blessing to me, but You say that it is a blessing. Please change my heart, and enable me to see it the way that You see it.”

There is a story about a little boy who was with his father during a terrorist attack. There was gunfire, shouting, and confusion. When it was all over, the father asked his son, “Were you afraid?” And his boy answered, “No, Daddy. You were holding my hand.”

That’s the way we need to be with the Lord.

God is faithful. He loves us. He promises He will always be with us. And He knows what He is doing. He sees the really big picture. We can’t comprehend it yet.

GOD’S LOVE
(by Maria Kneas)

The God who made the earth
Has always loved us.
Before we drew a breath,
Our heart was known.
God created us
To live with Him forever,
To sing and dance
With joy before His throne.

Our time on earth is hard,
But it is fleeting.
No matter how things seem,
God’s always there.
He’ll guide us and protect us
And watch over us,
And take away each tear and fear and care.

And when the toil and pain
And fear have ended,
When sorrow’s gone,
And all we know is love,
Then we and God
Will celebrate forever,
Rejoicing with the saints in Heaven above.

(This is an excerpt from How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution)

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