June 9 – Rejoice or Retreat?
Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 14:1-15:12 / Acts 5:12-42 / Proverbs 14:15-24
Do you welcome persecution? For United States Christians, persecution seems to be something that we rarely think about or encounter. We live in a nation of religious freedom that allows us to practice and proclaim the message of Christ. Even though we may not experience severe persecution, statisticians report persecution is greater today than anytime in history.
Third world Christians face extreme adversity. Those who renounce family gods and national religions to follow Jesus Christ encounter excommunication, imprisonment, torture and even martyrdom. How would we handle that type of intense persecution? Would we retreat to secrecy or renounce our faith?
We can glean much from them and from the early church. They remain faithful to the cause of Christ despite the consequences or retribution. The early church faced persecution that was designed to destroy their faith, message and movement. Instead, the church flourished and many came to faith in Christ. No matter how hard and difficult the Jewish leaders tried to make it for the disciples, God thwarted their efforts.
God proved Himself faithful to the early church and gave them great boldness as they faced crippling persecution. In fact, after the apostles were threatened and flogged, it says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41) They were passionate and experienced great joy in their witness. Their faith in the Name of Christ was worth living for…and dying for.
We obviously do not look for or provoke persecution but we do not need to fear it when it comes. Persecution will intensify in these last days and heighten for us. May God find us faithful to rejoice…not retreat.