Enduring Faith: Lessons from Persecution

Well, Joy, persecution is sort of like one of those words that is thrown around in Christendom as an ok, let’s get excited” word.

Welcome to Asked and Answered, the podcast series that answers all of your missions-related questions. With me in the studio today are Ron and Charis Pearce. Welcome back, guys!

Charis: Hi. Joy: Hi, so I have a question about persecution. Now, that is not a word that we like to use, but I’ll let you explain that. My question involves how the national church is experiencing persecution and what lessons are we perhaps learning from all of that?

Ron: Well, Joy, persecution is sort of like one of those words that is thrown around in Christendom as an ok, let’s get excited” word. It’s something that we want to hear about, but we don’t want to hear about it. We are sad for the people around the world who are experiencing it, but we sure don’t want any here ourselves. And then the third thing would be this, sort of like, well, I don’t even understand it. We’ve never experienced it all that much, and then we start delving into our memories over here in the western world thinking, Ok, now Joe said he didn’t like what I was saying about Jesus, and I got demoted the next week by another boss. Ok, maybe that was persecution.” In other words, we start to figure out how we over here are being persecuted for our faith. But what I want to do today is this, let’s back up to about 20,000 feet in the air and look at this on a larger scale, and then we can come down to the particulars of what persecution looks like in these countries in the world. Ok, so here we go. You have to start with Scripture, and you have to actually realize that Jesus actually promised us that we were going to be persecuted for righteousness’s sake. He says it in Matthew 5 and he talks about the whole thing of, if you’re going to follow me you better count the cost because there is a price to pay. The world doesn’t like me, Satan doesn’t like me, everything is stacked against you because you like me and therefore be prepared here.

Joy: That is a scripture we just like to glaze over maybe and not pay attention to.

You have to start with Scripture, and you have to actually realize that Jesus actually promised us that we were going to be persecuted for righteousness’s sake.

Ron: Yeah, we lighten certain words when we want to, and we make them heavier than normal at other times. So, this is the one that Jesus kept going over and over telling the disciples, count the cost, count the cost. So, then you’ve got other people and I like to go to Peter a lot. He says there in 1 Peter chapter 4, he says, if you are insulted for the name of Christ, insulted doesn’t carry the full weight of it but it puts it in the right realm of you are going to walk with a name tagged onto your chest and that is going to be the name Jesus and you are going to be known as the property of Jesus. Therefore, people are not going to like that. They are going to try to come around in various ways, and the word insult here means a backdoor sort of approach to persecution. You’re going to be insulted, not physically, but they are going to come at you in certain ways; verbally, intentions, attitudes, all these sorts of things, and that is what we are experiencing today.

Charis: It makes me think of when you wear a team jersey and if nobody else likes that team, you will have complete strangers coming up to you and making comments on that team.

Ron: That is exactly it! So, you are walking into a football game or a hockey game or something like that in a stadium where the home team is totally decked out in red for the color of their team, and then you come walking in in white and blue, and they know that is the opposition. Well, what do you think is going to be the attitude and the words that are coming at you? Some of them will be gentle, and there will be the odd time when someone really wants to pick a fight. So that is exactly, Charis, what we have got here. Another one, Paul says this, now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus, they will be persecuted. So, godliness, or standing apart from the crowd, is going to separate you out as being someone who follows Jesus because Jesus preached godliness. Start to act like and expect to change into people who follow after God. So, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is going to cause you a problem. And Paul was saying, all who want to do this, everybody who wants to, you are going to be persecuted. And then the last one, John, and this is where you go into the book of Revelation, and it says this; Now when the lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the Word of God and because of the testimony they have been given. So, in other words, it’s sort of in the end times it’s going to be stronger, but throughout all time there is a piling up of people. And this is what it talked about here, all those people who had been persecuted in times past for using the word of God, in other words, quoting scripture and everything of that nature, living by that, quoting it and secondly just basically because they carried that testimony proudly and they confessed, I’m a follower of Jesus.” So, for the testimony as well as following their lives according to the Word of God and speaking the Word of God, that is why they were persecuted. So, that is the big picture Joy, that you get as to what is historical, what is biblical and probably what is futuristic as far as, this is what it is going to be like in the end, only even more so.

Joy: Right, so, I wonder, the first question that comes to my mind is what if we are not feeling persecuted here? Does that mean there is a problem with our personal walk with the Lord? Should we be expecting more persecution? That is a tough question.

Ron: It’s hard because everybody is going to go to their own personal walk and feel guilty and everybody is going to say, I should be persecuted a lot, what am I going to do?” And then they are going to go out and become obnoxious.

Charis: Yeah, look for persecution (laughter).

Ron: Yeah, and they are going to put a sandwich sign on and stand on the street corner and start yelling scripture at everybody that is driving by. That is not really what we are talking about here. It’s our way of life, is going to, at times, cause people to feel guilty, convicted, envious, I could probably sit here for a while and think of other words. But there is going to be a separation. And that is the separation between light and darkness, sheep and goats, all of those separations. When that time comes in our lives, and it is periodic, you can get it from family and friends and neighbors, co-workers, and whoever else. But when that time comes, you’ve just got to be prepared not to run away from it but to stand proudly with that, and that may include physical persecution, yes, probably the verbal and the insulting more than anything else in a western context, but the days are coming.

Joy: I was going to say, it is certainly pressing down upon us more and more.

Ron: Oh yeah, and the more we start to stand apart because godliness is just coming away from ungodliness. It’s the move away, and so people start to see that you are more following after and more like God in your nature, and the world is becoming less like God in their nature, and as the Bible prophesies in the end times, this is going to get really serious. So, as time goes on, we are going to become obvious for what we believe, and that is going to cause friction.

Joy: And that godliness will be labeled as intolerance, right?

Ron: Yes, in all sorts of ways, and then sometimes you get people that are, I use the word obnoxious because they are going way past witnessing, and they are trying to make a point. They are trying to pick a fight sometimes. And Christians do that, Christians at times want to fight, they want persecution, they want that sort of thing. But that is not what we are talking about here, and that is not what the Bible talks about. It is talking about our godly lives, standing for the Word of God; that will cause a reaction.

They understand that standing for Jesus may result in physical harm and persecution.

Charis: And there are obviously different levels of reactions based on culture and location — countries, it all varies.

Ron: It varies within a country and within a culture. If you go over to Israel right now, for a person to leave Judaism and become a messianic believer following Yeshua, there is going to be a reaction. Family members primarily, and they may even be kicked out of their homes. These kinds of reactions happen in various ways and at various levels. So, yes, absolutely. Now, let’s move on for the sake of time and talk about the nationals around the world — these are the indigenous believers in the countries of their birth who are following Jesus. Churches are growing and multiplying in size, and the number of scriptures being put into their hands is increasing. They are starting to live by the Word of God, as we talked about in Revelation. Everything is starting to change, and now unbelievers are getting concerned. This has happened in India, China, Vietnam, and other countries. Suddenly, they are saying, We’ve got too many Christians here, I’m feeling uncomfortable now, we need to stop this.” And that’s when the persecution becomes heavier. That’s what we were told — success breeds persecution.

Joy: That’s like the story of Moses, when the Israelites grew in population and the Egyptians felt it was getting out of control.

Ron: Exactly, they got concerned and thought it was getting too big, out of control. So they tried to bring it down. That’s what they’re trying to do in certain countries — passing laws, using physical intimidation, or kicking believers out. There are various approaches to this. Here are some of the things we have learned, which are applicable across most cultures: national believers do not approach persecution for their faith flippantly or with a cavalier attitude. They are not looking for trouble; rather, they are looking for opportunities to share Jesus. They understand that standing for Jesus may result in physical harm and persecution. Before they open their mouths or pray for the sick, they count the cost and know that it may cause a reaction and pain. They walk into it with their eyes wide open, demonstrating maturity in their faith. When persecuted, their maturity in the Lord jumps to a brand-new level. They don’t just go out and talk to everyone all the time; they pick their spots and are intentional about their actions. They also understand that there will be long-term gain, and they are willing to endure the pain and persecution because they believe in the reward that awaits them in heaven. They don’t seek to accumulate treasures in heaven through their suffering. They approach persecution with pure intent. One brother from Vietnam once said, Persecution shows that we are doing the right thing and we are successful. Persecution is good, just not enjoyable.” This down-to-earth approach is common among believers facing persecution. Lastly, we have learned that some national believers prefer the term persevering church” over persecuted church.” They don’t like drawing too much attention to themselves or becoming prideful about their suffering. They focus on lifting up the name of Jesus and the cause of Christ rather than what they have gone through. They display maturity by embracing the meaning of being a bondservant, willingly giving their lives over to the cause of Christ without complaint. They don’t seek recognition or praise for their suffering.

The days will be coming when Christians will not have a good reputation in the eyes of the world, and therefore it’s going to be a matter of courage.

Joy: Would you say that persecution is more than, or can be more than just being persecuted for your faith? It could be in terms of drawing you closer to the Lord even closer. Because I’m thinking of, let’s say, the church in Serbia, for example. They are the Romani people, the gypsy people, they are a persecuted people, and yet right now we see them coming to the Lord. So, it makes me think that just the persecution in general might draw you closer to the Lord, not necessarily just because you are believers. Do you see what I’m saying?

Ron: Yes, you’ve got two levels of persecution — one is cultural persecution, and the other is religious persecution. When you put them on top of each other like you were just talking about, yes, I agree. You are going to get persecuted for what you are and then you’re going to get persecuted for who you are. That is the sort of thing that piles up on one another.

Joy: The Lord uses persecution, is, I guess, my question. It is a way to draw people to Him.

Ron: Oh, yeah. Persecution comes in many flavors, and it is all intended to show, by the Lord, what it means… it is proving loyalty more than anything else, and it is a testimony to other people that we are really willing to go through hardship, discrimination, problems, all these things because we love Jesus so much. Therefore, other people will look at us, and that is sort of another thing that sets us apart. The big thing within the church is that we were called saints, what does that mean? It means basically that we were the holy ones that were set apart. That’s it, these are the ones that follow after God, and people are going to notice that. The moment that you want to become like the world so that there is no difference between you and the world, and nobody can tell that you’re a Christian. If you are hiding it under a bushel basket, shall we say, the Gospel, then Jesus is very unhappy because he wants you to shine as a believer. He wants you to separate yourself from the world, he wants a different lifestyle, he wants different words coming out of your mouth. He doesn’t want Christians to be swearing or using foul language. He just doesn’t. Why? Because that is what the world does. We talk differently, we have cleaner minds, we have cleaner thoughts, we have cleaner everything because God is cleaning us up. Therefore, all of this stuff, the persecution and our words and our identification as part of the world, he doesn’t go for that at all, he wants us to be separate.

Joy: And so the climate that we are living in today in North America, that separation is absolutely going to be bringing us a little bit more of this persecution, and so if anyone had the intent of maybe hiding their light under a bushel, then that is just going to make things perhaps a little bit worse. So my question to that is, what advice do you have for Christians living in North America based on what the national church is doing if we are about to face more persecution?

Ron: Everybody has to make a decision in their lives. Do they want to be known as a believer? Do they want to be proud of Jesus or not? The days will be coming when Christians will not have a good reputation in the eyes of the world, and therefore it’s going to be a matter of courage. Peter, around the campfire, three times denying Jesus, he lacked courage. And it’s going to be the same for us in the end times, it’s going to be a matter of, do you make a decision consciously to follow the Lord humbly, and are you going to therefore stand up for Him, His Word, the Gospel? Are you proud of following that person who died for you, for your sins? Are you proud of that or not? Make that decision. The world is forcing us now to make that decision.

Charis: No matter the consequences.

Ron: No matter the consequences. This is going to be a great time coming.

Joy: And he says that with a really big smile, everybody, I just want you to know that.

Ron: No, seriously, from what I see around the world with the national churches in the world, the more they are persecuted, the deeper they go in Jesus, the stronger they are, the more mature they are, they have a better outlook on life. So, I think for the Western church, the best days are ahead, and you can say that is a cavalier attitude. It’s not, it’s a realistic attitude, this is going to hurt. But at the same time, like my brother in Vietnam says, persecution is good, just not enjoyable.

Joy: Alright, well, thanks, guys. Again, anyone listening who did not know this, if you would like to receive Ron’s situation reports, visit ron​pearce​.org or empow​er​min​istries​.ca, and you can sign up to receive all the updates on what is happening in the national church.

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