Persecution – What You Need to Know
AUDIENCE WATCH: Persecution – A Price to Pay for Being a Christian (John MacArthur)
INTRO: DOES GOOD HAVE A WONDERFUL PLAN FOR OUR LIFE?
“The preacher promises a bed of roses for those who come to Christ, but those who are in Christ are evidently sitting on a painful bed of thorns.” Ray Comfort
“When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die” (Bonhoeffer).
What if promotional material for the Navy SEALS read, “Limited time to be stationed on Coronado Island. Free luaus, snorkeling, and cruises with nightly excursions–all paid for by the United States Navy.” How many would jump at the opportunity? How many would be shocked, disappointed, and disillusioned when they found out what really was involved?
Here is the key: our relationship with God does not hinge on trials, difficulties, and persecution – it hinges on who He is. He is our foundation in the midst of the storm. He is our peace in the midst of fear. He is our comfort in the midst of anxiety.
God ascribes to Himself names that we can identify with when trials approach:
Jehovah Jireh–our provider.
El Shaddai–all powerful
Jehovah Shalom–our peace.
Jehovah Rohi–our Shepherd.
Jehovah Nissi–our victory and our strength.
Jehovah Tsidkenu–our righteousness.
Jehovah Shammah–“He is there” in the darkest times. He will never leave nor forsake.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).
Please don’t misunderstand: God blesses His people–we should pray for, enjoy, and encourage His blessings. But a wonderful, comfortable life is not always a blessing – the presence and power of God in our lives is: “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
Strength in the midst of the storm is a true blessing.
Stephen Accused of Blasphemy [speaking offensively about God].
ACTS 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
Those full of faith and power will be persecuted.
– They are trying to STOP out the CONVICTION … God’s judgment is haunting them.
GOD WILL JUDGE THE SECRET THINGS IN MAN’S HEART ~ Rom. 2:16 – remove the Judge.
It begins with an offense – you offended me.
GOD HAS HIGHLY EXALTED JESUS [rank, power, and status] ~ Phil. 2:9
Scoffing takes place – mocking tones: “You really believe in the Bible? You believe a fish swallowed a man? . . . Why don’t you let your kids do this or that?”
The goal of persecution – silence the message and the messenger.
If you say: “You’re right – good point,” the persecution will cease – the heat is removed.
The battle-plan: truth, love, and power. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke
Wisdom confounds AND Love softens.
But truth isn’t always soft – 7:51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Lies are used to discredit and stir up – what we say is twisted.
“Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God’. And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. They also set up false witnesses….”
The father of lies tells lies – be very careful where you get your information from.
How did Stephen respond? Next week . . .
Physical persecution may follow – they turn up the heat.
The fruit of persecution.
It Renews our Relationship with God – many times when people fall away its because of comfort.
+ The truth that we once clinged to like a man clinging to a life-preserver, and a Savior that was everything to us, soon become insignificant.
We Growth Spiritually – persecution can remove Clutter and Distractions.
It adds Credibility to the Gospel – “your God is the true God.”
We reflect God – facial expressions: mood, emotion, and character.
“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”
CLOSING: You look like who you’ve been with.
What are you reflecting… Who are you reflecting?
1. Have you been avoiding persecution – are you an undercover Christian? Do you lack boldness?
Are you truly saved?
2. Do you need encouragement? “David strengthened himself in the Lord.”
Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “The Cinderella of the church of today is the prayer meeting.” Daniel Norris, “The prayer meeting, if she exists at all, is relegated to a dark corner somewhere in the church on an off night, so there is little expectation that anyone will pay her any attention. She goes about unnoticed, unloved, and uncelebrated, yet she is the one that keeps the house clean. She prepares the food in secret and makes the house ready for the guests. Day after day she kneels in humility and yet goes unappreciated. However, when the true Prince comes, she is the one He is looking for.”