2 Timothy 3:12 - Yes, and all
who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer
Do you recall the first time you read or heard this
passage as a young Christian? Did it make you uncomfortable,
perhaps even afraid? Perhaps you tried to convince yourself
that persecution wouldn’t be something we’d
have to worry about in the US. How’s that working
Already in the US:
- A federal judge held that prayers before a state House
of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the
mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding
the wishes of the deceased’s families.
- It is commonplace for evolutionary and humanistic
lies to be praised, while Christians showing their support
for the Bible may be harshly attacked as narrow-minded,
foolish, and even guilty of “hate crimes”.
What are we going to do when the tougher persecution
Do we just plan to lay low, not rock the boat, and keep
our religion to ourselves… until we are forced
to confess or deny it? If that’s your plan, consider
what confession you would make when the pressure is
really on… if you’ve spend years not confessing
when the pressure wasn’t on?
Surely, no one likes to be unjustly mistreated. Yet
when we hear accounts of early Christians being greatly
persecuted, it was something they welcomed, and even
Let’s take a look at some of the persecution
that early Christians faced…
THE CHURCH HISTORY OF EUSEBIUS,
It would be impossible to describe the outrages and
tortures which the martyrs in Thebais endured. They
were scraped over the entire body with shells instead
of hooks until they died. Others being bound to the
branches and trunks of trees perished. For they drew
the stoutest branches together with machines, and
bound the limbs of the martyrs to them; and then,
allowing the branches to assume their natural position,
they tore asunder instantly the limbs of those for
whom they contrived this. All these things were done,
not for a few days or a short time, but for a long
series of years
And we beheld the most wonderful ardor, and the truly
divine energy and zeal of those who believed in the
Christ of God. For as soon as sentence was pronounced
against the first, one after another rushed to the
judgment seat, and confessed themselves Christians.
And regarding with indifference the terrible things
and the multiform tortures, they declared themselves
boldly and undauntedly for the religion of the God
of the universe. And they received the final sentence
of death with joy and laughter and cheerfulness; so
that they sang and offered up hymns and thanksgivings
to the God of the universe till their very last breath.
Now that is a different perspective on persecution!
Even if you acknowledge that the works of Eusebius are
uninspired and perhaps even a little biased, there is
no escaping that the early Christians suffered some
of the worst tortures in history, and yet they welcomed
Does the New Testament teach the same thing? Indeed
it does repeatedly:
Heb 11:35-38 – Others
were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they
might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others
had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of
chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they
were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the
sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins,
being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of
whom the world was not worthy.
Acts 5:41 - So they departed
from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they
were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
II Cor 2:10 - Therefore I take
pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s
sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
To quote Nicodemus in trying to grasp a spiritual concept,
“How can these things be?”
You cannot understand this behavior using worldly wisdom!
This kind of thinking is only spiritually discerned,
through an ever-increasing faith, which comes from an
ever-growing understanding of God’s Word
I can’t give you a quick, easy answer, but I’m
going to briefly touch on 3 reasons that may help to
explain this mindset. Like all spiritual truth though,
the real understanding is going to come from personal
Biblical study & prayer to God.
That devotion to personal study is a necessity. How
can we even begin to say that we’re ready to die
for Him, if we can’t even devote daily time to
1) God’s love & sacrifice
Probably the most obvious reason why one might have
a different perception of persecution would be knowing
God’s love for them. Undoubtedly, the more you
know about His love and His sacrifice for you, the more
you are willing to love and sacrifice back.
I John 4:19 - We love because
he first loved us.
II Cor 5:14-15 - For the love
of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that
if One died for all, then all died; and He died for
all, that those who live should live no longer for
themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose
2) Bigger life/death picture
Another reason for this kind of thinking would be having
a bigger picture of life & death.
We’re all going to die and we’re all going
to be judged (Heb 9:27).
Ultimately, how do you want to live & die during
your one chance on Earth?
Would you rather spend it chasing your temporary selfish
desires, or spend it standing firm in your beliefs,
loving & helping others?
Would you rather die from the destruction of your body
caused by sin, or be faithful to death for your Creator?
Take even the most extreme examples, keeping an eternal
perspective – which would you choose:
a) Dying in your sleep 20 years from now, without ever
sharing Jesus with anyone during that time - or -
b) Being tortured to death 20 hours from now for having
preached the Truth and having boldly obtained the crown
of martyrdom for Christ
Which would you want to choose, heading to eternity?
If we know we’d ideally want to boldly stare
down death for the cause of Christ, why do we find ourselves
shrinking back from confronting someone living in sin,
or even just sharing our faith?
I’m not saying you should go out and try to offend
people and hope to get killed. What we want to do is
speak the truth in love and not hide the truth in fear.
(more about speaking the truth & confronting error
next week, Lord willing)
3) Faith in promised reward
A third consideration is having faith that the reward
is greater than the suffering.
We can all put up with a bit of adversity if we know
the reward afterwards will make it worthwhile. Whether
it’s a child eating their green beans so they
can get chocolate cake for dessert, a family cutting
back on expenses so they can save up for a big vacation,
or training hard in a sport to try to win a championship,
we all recognize that the bigger the reward, the more
we are willing to sacrifice to get it.
Rev 2:10 - Do not fear any
of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed,
the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,
that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation
ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give
you the crown of life.
Mt 5:10-12 - Blessed are those
who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed
are you when they revile and persecute you, and say
all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your
reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets
who were before you.
Is there any sacrifice or suffering we could endure
that would in any way equal what God has done for us
or what Christ has prepared for those who are counted
THE CHURCH HISTORY OF EUSEBIUS,
Why need we mention the rest by name, or number the
multitude of the men, or picture the various sufferings
of the admirable martyrs of Christ? Some of them were
slain with the axe, as in Arabia. The limbs of some
were broken, as in Cappadocia. Some, raised on high
by the feet, with their heads down, while a gentle
fire burned beneath them, were suffocated by the smoke
which arose from the burning wood, as was done in
Mesopotamia. Others were mutilated by cutting off
their noses and ears and hands, and cutting to pieces
the other members and parts of their bodies, as in
Alexandria. Why need we revive the recollection of
those in Antioch who were roasted on grates, not so
as to kill them, but so as to subject them to a lingering
punishment? Or of others who preferred to thrust their
right hand into the fire rather than touch the impious
In these conflicts the noble martyrs of Christ shone
illustrious over the entire world, and everywhere
astonished those who beheld their manliness; and the
evidences of the truly divine and unspeakable power
of our Saviour were made manifest through them.
Mt 10:28 - And do not fear those
who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather
fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in
If you aren’t a Christian, but you want to know
more about the unshakable joy, confidence, and reward
that comes from living for something bigger than yourself,
come forward and let us know. We’d love to study
with you or help you however we can.
Christians, from what perspective do you view persecution?
Have you let the fear of other’s reactions keep
you from teaching the truth of God’s Word? Do
you need to make a change in your life in accordance
with the Scriptures? Can we help?
Please come forward and make your need known, while
we stand and sing the invitation song.