Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Persecution and You - Are you claiming it!"

This is longer than usual but it’s been awhile since I have put out a devotion, and I believe this one has been put heavily on my heart for all of you. Please read! Thank you!

Mark. 10:29-30 We love “claiming” or saying the promises of God are for me. Well, today, I may be adding a promise that you more than likely haven’t been claiming. Now let’s look at our main scripture for today’s devotion: 29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother *or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. Mark 10:29-30
* “wife” taken out as it is NOT in the original Greek.

Persecution defined:
The act or practice of persecuting; especially, the infliction of loss, pain, or death for adherence to a particular creed or mode of worship. In the New Testament "persecuted" comes from the Gk. word dioko, which means: "to pursue" or "chase away." Over time it came to mean "to harass" or "treat in an evil manner."

Now let’s take a look at II Timothy 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 Jesus promised us, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20) Jesus did not promise us a rosy life. He promised us suffering. This is why he calls his followers to first “take up their cross” and then to “follow” Him.

In Matt. 16:24 “Jesus put the emphasis on self-denial and cross-bearing.”

Side Note: “I also believe our WORST day in Christ (as a Christian), is better than our BEST day without Christ (lost).”

As we look back into the Book of Acts we see the church was getting comfortable, even though they were told in Acts 1:8 (to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. In Acts 8:1-4, persecution came and the church then spread to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, through the earth.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)

I’d like to share some personal experience along this line:
I went over to India in 2006 for 3 weeks (one week travel time) and preached 21-22 times while there. The people were so hungry. I preached my heart out. Then, in one of the last meetings, as we were driving approximately 1-1/2 hours across dirt in the dark to return to the pastor's compound who invited me to India, he let me know we were being followed by Hindu extremists who had been following us to some of our recent meetings, and wanted the meetings stopped. In America the persecution is there, but not at this level. As we were followed (and our van was not running well), I had to ask myself if these people pull us out of the van and beat us or threaten to kill us (or ME), am I going to be a coward and cry "Please don't hurt or kill me"? I thought about it very soberly and thought of how boldly I had preached the gospel over 20 times in India. So I prayed to the LORD that if we got pulled over and attacked that He would help me to not be a coward. The van, though not running very well, made it back to the compound safely, but it seemed like an eternity as we were followed the entire way. That was a real lesson to me about how deep does my Christianity goes! It was very sobering for an American whose level of persecution is when someone refuses a tract, laughs at you, etc. That being said, I will be going back in 2009 - PTL! I also have an evangelist friend in Pakistan, who has lived in Pakistan his entire life – His response to persecution - It's NO big deal it's part of life as a Christian. Think of the persecuted church in China - heavily persecuted, beaten, tortured, thrown in jail, and killed for their faith – Yet there are more true Christians there than anywhere in the world. We feel sorry for all the suffering that Christians around the world suffer (and we should), but while we feel bad, sad, and sorry for them, and are praying for them (and we should), they are praying for a true move of God in America. China has more than 15 million Christians in government-sanctioned churches, but as many as 100-130 million in unregistered congregations (these are the saved). Fifty or more Christians were arrested in January of this year after communist leaders viewed a new video, "The Cross: Jesus in China," produced by a California-based group, China Soul for Christ Foundation.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

Footnote from Life Application Bible on verse 11-12: Jesus said to rejoice when we are persecuted.
Persecution can be good because:
1. It takes our eyes off earthly rewards.
2. It strips away superficial belief.
3. It strengthens the faith of those who endure.
4. Our attitude through it serves as an example to others who follow.

Not only does Jesus imply that persecution is coming but you're blessed as a result of it. The promise we have is that when you choose to live godly lives, we can expect persecution! “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep (life) to gain what he cannot lose (eternity).” Written by: Jim Elliot wrote that in his journal shortly before giving his life (martyred) on the mission field. He knew that the cost of the cause of Christ is everything you have. How about you, do you know real persecution? If not, why not? It's promised in Mark 10:30 and II Tim. 3:12 and was (and still should be) a normal part of the true church's everyday life. The persecuted church has always been a growing church.

Maybe what we in America need is some real persecution!

I encourage you to watch a short clip (2 min. 45 sec. on China persecution at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=4GwEHibmCCk&feature=related

And a touching longer clip (30 min.) on China Christians at: http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=cec3d9fd68600c58ee43c3d9fd68600c58ee43

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In His Service, Jim Mazzulla (jim@biblefood.org)
Comments are welcome :-)