PERSECUTION & THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR
“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.”
(Revelation 12:4, Matthew 2:13-4)
To be persecuted literally means to be aggressively hunted down as prey – to be chased by an adversary possessing an earnest desire to overtake and apprehend. Throughout the world, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. They are fleeing daily across their country’s borders to escape their captors and to seek asylum. But many are caught, imprisoned, and even martyred.
Most believers in Western culture, who have never faced true persecution, do not know what it’s like to have to choose between death or imprisonment and renouncing their Savior. Normal reactions are to pray and even lobby that these brothers and sisters in Christ immediately be released from prison, that they be liberated from persecution and allowed to live peaceful, Christian lives.
Though these prayers are earnest and from the heart, the words of Jesus must be taken into account: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you as well.” (John 15:20). This is true not because the enemy enjoys tormenting God’s people. It is true because God uses persecution to greatly advance the Truth and Light of the Gospel.
It was unjust persecution that falsely imprisoned Joseph for over 15 years; and if he would have been prayed out or bought out of jail before he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, all of Egypt and surrounding countries would have starved in the famine. Also, not long after the Resurrection, it was persecution that scattered the new believers outside Jerusalem’s walls, taking the Gospel with them into the world. And if Paul wasn’t on the move planting churches, he was chained to a prison wall. It is there he wrote much of the New Testament.
It is very difficult to see and understand the purposes of God, but this is why we must pray fervently that His will be accomplished in and through the lives of persecuted believers – that they will have strength to stand firm in their faith – that God deliver them in His timing.
- During this Christmas season, make it a priority to pray for believers around the world who suffer because of the cross of Christ. And if this devotional has its reader thinking: “I wonder why I do not suffer true persecution”, keep in mind the writer wonders the same.