A SIDE OF CHRISTIANITY
WE DO NOT LIKE TALKING ABOUT
By Rodney W. Francis
For those who take the Scriptures seriously, it does not take very long before we discover that Christianity has never been “popular” in its teachings. All those who carried a message from God were misunderstood, persecuted, rejected and some even killed for their stand with believing what God has spoken to and through them. We seem to quickly read statements like:
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (“oppression, harassment, or maltreated” – Collins Dict.) (2 Timothy 3:12 , NKJV).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile (“to defame; expressing scorn, disgrace, or contempt” – Bullinger’s & Collins) and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My(Jesus’) sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12 ), and forget it also includes us if we want the will of the Lord to be done in our lives.
PERSECUTION DID NOT STOP THEM!
The establishing of the New Covenant Church was filled with persecution from those religious bigots who could not accept that Jesus is the only way to God. In fact, the majority of chapters in the Book of Acts contain examples of opposition and persecution against those believers. Persecution drove the early disciples out of Jerusalem. But it did not deter them from proclaiming the life-changing message of Jesus Christ! (They did not stay home having a “pity-party”)! Everywhere they went, they ceased not to preach and teach the wonderful revelation of Jesus Christ alive from the dead!
God’s word tells us that to live “godly in Christ Jesus” means “suffering persecution.” Our “stand for righteousness in Jesus Christ” causes us to be misunderstood, reviled, persecuted and have false, malicious and evil accusations spoken against us. We seem to easily forget that even Jesus Himself was “dogged” by opposition and persecution where ever He went. Should we who represent Him here on this earth expect any easier treatment?
THE SPIRIT OF ANTI- CHRIST IS AGAINST US
Why, then, is persecution a response to our faith in Christ? The main reason is because the Spirit of Christ within us is the opposite spirit to that which dominates those who do not know Jesus, or live according to His teachings. We live in an anti-Christ society; an anti-Christ society is opposed to anything and everything that has to do with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Have you noticed that more and more our politicians are adopting anti-Jesus teachings in the making of the laws of the land, etc.?
Those Christians who live in countries where there is open opposition and persecution against Christianity know a “refining work” of God through that persecution that many of us in the Western nations do not yet know (but it is happening more and more because of the prevalence of the anti-Christ spirit that is now revealing itself more and more).
GOD USES FELLOW-CHRISTIANS TO REFINE US!
One thing that I have noticed in nations that are not openly persecuted is that often God has to use other means to “refine” His people in order to get us to where He would have us to be. Have you ever considered that God has to use other Christians, Church authorities, etc., to “refine” us? We find that very hard to accept and handle. We can understand why unbelievers speak against and persecute us ~ but when it comes from our fellow-believers it becomes a difficult thing to accept. Yet, when I look back over 50 years of being a Holy Spirit-filled believer, I can see how God has done this with me. Those times of “crucifixion” from my Brothers and Sisters in Christ have actually worked out for the better in my life and ministry. I remember coining a phrase after one of my biggest times of “persecution” ~ “Before there can come a resurrection there first has to be a death or a crucifixion.”In those times death would be preferable, for there is a “finality” about death. But when we are being “crucified” we can actually see the ones who are nailing the nails into our hands and our feet! And that, in itself, often gives us a “shock,” as it can come from those we least expect it to come from! It is much harder to forgive someone who is crucifying you! Yet it can be done! Yes, it must be done! We will never amount to anything in God while we are harbouring any unforgiveness, hatred or bitterness toward a fellow-believer in Christ.
In those times of being “crucified” it is very important that we allow God to do the vindicating. It does not work to try and justify ourselves with those who have already made up their minds to believe, say, and do what they do. I have known times of being accused of all kinds of things, like being the father of the babies born in the church, being a homosexual, telling lies, being deceived, and on it goes. People have told me The GFM Ministry is all my own ideas and is not of God. Yet many thousands of lives have been impacted through it, and it has and is a very fruitful ministry. But because it does not satisfy other peoples’ believing of what I should be doing, they think it is “not of God.” Yes, we have come through many “persecutions” over the years. I’ve had death threats, three death contracts on my life, which I could understand. But then, in the midst of that, to be accused by my fellow Christian ministers that I should be “blacklisted” because I was deceived and these things were not true (i.e. the death threats, contracts, etc.), were like a “crucifixion” to me. Fortunately the blacklisting did not happen officially, but for several years after that I experienced going to Pastors Conferences, etc., and watching people who knew me avoid speaking with me. You just knew that they had been “poisoned” by those advocating me being blacklisted. Was I the loser in all these things? No, a thousand times, No! God used these things to do a refining work in me that has enabled us to become an international ministry touching multiplied thousands of lives in over 110 countries around the world. I do not want to be involved in anything else, other than what I know God has called me to do.
Yes, persecution from your fellow-believers is a very hurtful thing to go through. But, in reality, we need these experiences to help “put to death the old man” in us, so that we can be alive and walking in Christ’s resurrection life! (Romans 6 ).
Here’s another Scripture to consider: “And when they had preached the Gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations (“pressure, affliction” – Young’s; “pressure, compression, straitness; hence, pressure from evils, affliction, distress” – Bullinger’s) enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 ).
What about this one? “Many are the afflictions (“1. a condition of great distress, pain or suffering. 2. Something responsible for physical or mental suffering, such as grief” – Collins) of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19 ).
The true Christian is not going to get through life without some times of real opposition, persecution and suffering. Therefore we need to be very realistic as to Who we are serving, the reasons why these things happen to us, etc., and know that God does turn “all things together for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28 ). We are now living in days when the words of Jesus are being fulfilled, so let us not be ignorant of the times in which we live: “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them”(John 16:1-4 ).
Finally, with all that has been written in this article, we Christians should guard against developing what I call a “persecution complex.” We do not have to go about looking for and expecting persecution. It will find us when we are living the godly life and are actively seeking to fulfil God’s purposes in our life. Pray for wisdom and discernment to know what to do when these times of persecution come from our fellow-believers. There could very well be times when the “persecution” against us is justified because we have not done things right, said wrong things, or betrayed confidences, etc., and we must learn from those times and not simply “right them off” as being a personal persecution against us. At all times seek to let the Spirit of Christ have His own way within us. That way we cannot lose for winning! God Bless you.