Another mass shooting took place last week, and it seems that Christians were once more a target.
This incident sparked a touching conversation with my daughter that still lingers in my mind.
At the risk of sounding either paranoid or depressing (or both!), it has occurred to me more than once over the past several years that I just might be raising kids who will be persecuted for their faith.
I’ve thought about it as we’ve memorized AWANA verses.
As we’ve prayed for the countries of the world.
As we’ve spent time with missionaries.
As we’ve talked grace and goodness in the midst of hard and messy.
The truth is, we might face the reality of Christian persecution someday.
Are we prepared to be imprisoned for our faith? Tortured? Killed even?
I don’t write these words lightly, and I don’t say them to you now because I’m trying to stir up fear in your heart.
I just wonder whether maybe you sense it, too.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a pressing need to prepare for any number of hard things that could cross my path, so I’ve been pondering some ways to do just that.
Preparing for Persecution
Know God deeply.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3
To know Him is to love Him. And loving Him deepens our devotion toward Him as we taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8); as we experience the truth that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30); as we see for ourselves His steadfast love and endless mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23); and a host of other attributes that make Him the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing Person we could ever know. Yes, One even worth dying for.
Develop a sense of God’s presence.
“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
I continue to be inspired by Brother Lawrence, who was as keenly aware of God’s presence in his kitchen scrubbing dishes as he was in the grandest cathedral kneeling in prayer. Ask the Lord to grant you a constant and conscious awareness of His presence with you. That’s the source of unquenchable joy and unexplainable peace we all long for.
Live out the gospel.
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” Romans 1:17
How do we practice dying for our Savior? By living for Him. But not in a “by the bootstraps” kind of way. It’s more like a “hurl myself at His mercy and beg for His grace every day” kind of way. Relying on His grace, refusing to depend on my own strength even in small ways, prepares me to rely on His strength in big ways.
Practice joy in trials.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to trials, my own tendency is to complain instead of rejoice. But I’m learning that this response is a sure sign that I’ve dethroned my King from rulership in my heart, and have taken up the reins – and the right to call the shots – once more. When I remember that nothing can touch me that has not been allowed by God for my good and for His glory, I am comforted. And when I consider that knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection requires participating in His suffering (Philippians 3:10), I am humbled and encouraged to press on.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
Prayer is part of knowing God deeply, and it lets Him know that I want Him to know me, too. It’s how I align my heart with His and redirect my gaze away from my circumstances and back toward Him, the solid Rock on which I stand.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8
There have been times in history when God’s Word hasn’t been readily available, and there are places around the world today where that’s still the case. I don’t know if that’s in our future, but I don’t know that it’s not in our future, either. And I also know that time spent hiding Scripture in our hearts is never wasted time. Hiding God’s Word in my heart never fails to produce fruit, as His Spirit brings it to my mind and helps me apply it in my time of need.
“But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Psalm 13:5
You and I and all Christ-followers – including our children – have numerous opportunities every day to practice trust. To choose trust instead of worry. Instead of fear. Instead of doubt or shame or self-sufficiency. I’m learning to ask God to open my eyes to opportunities to practice trust and to claim His promises. To believe Him in a way that affects the choices I make and the attitudes I harbor.
Change your perspective.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34
It’s rather easy to get consumed with my own little world. But the more I open my eyes to the world’s realities, past and present, the more I get caught up in the Kingdom plan God is carrying out. This brings such joy as I observe God’s work in the midst of persecution. Learning about God’s work in the world as He draws all nations to Himself inspires me to look for His return. I must not give in to the temptation to bury my head in the sand and ignore what’s happening in the world. Instead, I look around and consider the events taking place around the globe, and then look up and remember that God is always greater.
Look for examples.
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” I Thessalonians 1:6-7
Reading about missionaries inspires me to be willing to put my all on the line. Learning about other Christians enduring persecution prompts me to learn from their example. The Bible itself is full of people who were persecuted for their faith. Time spent studying these saints is time well-spent.
Strengthen relationships with other Christ-followers.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Friends, we need each other, perhaps more now than ever. We need encouragement and insight. We need transparency and accountability. We need the fellowship and the support. We need the outstretched helping hand and the comforting embrace. All of these things can be found in our participation in God’s design for His Church.
Heavenly Father, how I thank You for placing me on this earth at a pivotal point in human history, for such a time as this! Thank you for the assurance that as the One who began the good work of salvation in my heart, You will be faithful to complete it and to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish me. Lord, I don’t know what the future holds, but I trust Your goodness and Your love. I trust Your strength and Your power. If You are for me, who can stand against me? What can man do to me? Please draw me close and help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I may honor Him all the days of my life. To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.
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