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Embrace Persecution, 7/23/16

Truly mature spiritual leaders like the apostle Paul exemplify spiritual life.  The pattern of their life is to be respected and emulated and their words of instruction to be taken seriously, followed and obeyed.  Paul shows us that being persecuted is part of a normal, healthy, truly christian life:

2 Timothy 3:10-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

So if we are not being persecuted we are not living a truly godly life.  The vast majority of the American church does not live godly enough to invite persecution.  We are so lacking in courage and character that we are terrified of and resistant to the idea of it.  But all the truly of great saints all throughout history have endured persecution.  And Jesus taught us that we are to embrace persecution as a blessing and rejoice over it:

Matthew 5:10-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Persecution endears us to Jesus.  How so?  Think of it this way: if you were being attacked by a gang of thugs and a friend came and stood with you in the fight, wouldn't you have a great appreciation for that friend from then on?  Sure you would. Jesus is a grateful friend too.  He very much appreciates those who allow themselves to suffer with him.  He comes to us in a deeper intimacy a than he does to those who don't walk more deeply with him and who refuse to allow themselves to be persecuted.

Paul exemplifies the godly attitude for us, embracing suffering with Christ so that he could know Jesus better:

Philippians 3:10 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

God wants to teach us to thrive on persecution and welcome it as the early church did:

Hebrews 11:35 New King James Version (NKJV)
35 Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

These people actually chose to be tortured more so that they could have more of God.  Now THAT is an overcoming attitude.  It comes from really believing and embracing that persecution is a BLESSING, something desirable, not repugnant.  If this is not our attitude then we need to gut check ourselves about whether we are truly living a biblical christian life.  Serious persecution is coming and many will fall away from the faith because of it.  May you and I not be among them. Let's learn to embrace and thrive on Suffering for Righteousness.  The intimacy we gain with our Beautiful King is worth it, and he deserves friends who have his back in the fight. God bless you and may you grow in this grace more and more as the times get more serious.

Steve Pursell, 7/23/16