Section 8
Lesson 5

PERSPECTIVE  ON  PERSECUTION


          Matthew 24:9, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake"
          We know the Bible teaches that Christians will face persecution. But, when the subject comes up, we primarily think of it in the extreme sense of Matthew 24:9. Even the term "persecution" when it stands alone sounds severe and frightening.
          But the persecution of the Church isn't just about killing, beating, or imprisoning Christians. We can see in Mark 4:17 that Jesus said brand new Christians will fall away quickly from the faith the moment they face persecution for their newfound belief in Christ. Though He doesn't define the intensity of the persecution in these scenarios, we can imagine that, because these are new believers, at least some, if not most of the persecution Jesus says they endure is your standard backlash from family and friends.  One of the most common problems new believers have is if they come from a family that is of another religion that's at enmity with Christianity. They are verbally or physically abused, and sometimes put out of the family. Some have even been murdered for choosing Christ over the family's faith! However, persecution is not limited to these extremes. In Mark 4:17, Jesus was also reflecting on the new believers that quickly abandon the faith on account of simple flack they receive from someone they esteem. It could be one single moment of being made fun of for their newfound belief that makes someone turn from Jesus. It's, therefore, my contention that persecution is far more rampant than we realize. It's a common, often subtle, occurence. 
          Since Ephesians 6:12 declares that our battle isn't with man, but with the powers of darkness, and since Jesus said Satan was the one that stole the seed that fell by the wayside in Mark 4, then we know it's the powers of darkness that are litrally and strategically orchestrating all types of persecution. Whenever any type of persecution comes against Christians, it's the adversary behind it. 
          That may be stating the obvious but here's the thing I'm getting to. Even if the persecution isn't the imprisonment, beheading or kick you out of the family type, the enemy is still at work in the lives of believers, striving to persecute them to whatever degree possible. And what I've found is the dark kingdom cohorts infiltrate your circle of influence looking for someone through whom to antagonize, abuse, mock or offend you. I'm talking about your family, neighbors, friends, coworkers and aquaintences. I'm even talking about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! What I'm trying to say is the persecution doesn't have to be direct, obvious backlash concerning your faith. The author of persecution, the devil, is behind every offense, every violation, every insult, every eye-roll, every plot, every accusation, and every blatant assault against you that may have nothing to do with your faith. I'm telling you I have seen with my eyes and discerned with my spirit evil spirits working through all sorts of unsuspecting people through all the various circumstances of life. We're all well aware that wherever the devil can get away with it, he'll taunt and torment believers in an effort to thwart their mission or focus. But what we fail to realize is that this is actually the most common persecution of all. It's time to connect the dots that it's through these day to day pokes and jabs whereby the devil is trying to mess you up so you will lose heart, question God, and potentially dodge the faith - or atleast your earnest pursuit of it!
          You don't even have to have "shared the Word" with someone to be persecuted. If you're a proactive believer, the devil knows it and does not like it. And he doesn't like you! You don't have to be in the act of preaching the Word, you could be persecuted for something as silly as how you poured your cup of coffee! It doesn't matter what you are doing. Satan is just looking for any means to bring you down. So, depending on what he can get away with (pending your prayer life and alignment with Christ) he'll provoke and entice whomever he can to do whatever he can to give you a hard time. I call it "poke and jab" persecution.

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          There're a few reasons I'm going into all this. The first is the necessity for all believers, even seasoned saints, to fully get the fact that all the injustice or low blows against you - or whatever - is the work of darkness against you because there's something about your level of commitment and determination for Christ the dark kingdom is afraid of. This must be understood and clung to so that a) you aren't so gullable to take offense, remembering it's a spirit, not the person.  And b) so you're actually in sober anticipation of it, ready to say within yourself (not out loud), "The Lord rebuke you, devil. This isn't her/him. It's you. I know you're the one that doesn't like me which is fine. I refuse to take this personally." 

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          Another reason I went into all this is to point out that... if you aren't experiencing this (or some other unusual disturbances in your life) once in awhile, you may not be ruffling Satan's feathers. That's right. I'm telling you if irritating disturbances in your circumstances or through people aren't vying for your attention every now and again, then your walk in the kingdom of God is not a threat to darkness. Sincerely, if you are going along your Christian journey never facing trials or basic persecution, then the devil might just be pleased with where you are in your "lack" of commitment to God, and he has no reason to poke and jab at you every chance he gets trying to discourage or thwart you. The devil is better off leaving where you are, content in mediocrity.
          And just what is it about a Christian that ruffles Satan's feathers?  It's my personal experience that when I am earnestly seeking and desperately pursuing God the most, that's when things happen through whomever that's around at the time. This is when a bit of chaos will ensue or the pokes and jabs will occur. Insults or even people pulling away from you, taking offense over nothing, etc. The devil will use the soul wounds of your loved ones, enemies and everyone in between, to send them on tangents that you're literally just sitting their saying, "What. Is. This?" And then you remember.
"Oh yeah, the devil is mad at me because I'm pressing in to my King". If you understand that this is what's really going on and you expected the enemy might start kicking up some dust, then you won't be taken off guard. You'll remain in the kingdom's peace.
          In Mark 10, after the rich, law abiding man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him, essentially, to stop loving his possessions more than God, and the guy walked away sad because he couldn't, Jesus said it is more difficult for people to give up their riches than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Then Peter states how he and the disciples had given up their earthly pursuits (including family, jobs, possessions) to follow Him, to which Jesus replied, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's. But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Amen.
          Just what does He mean we'll receive a hundred fold of all that we gave up? I believe it means we will inherit a sea of souls, homes and buildings for ministry, and lands where the Gospel will thrive. In other words, for everything we give up to literally do the work of the Lord, that's how much ground we'll cover in the earth, bringing souls into the kingdom of God. And we'll acquire everything we need along the way. With persecutions, nonetheless.
          All this to bring perspective. Indeed, the promises of God's goodness for this life are real, but they come in correlation to obedience, and with affliction and persecution to one degree or another. That's the overall picture. That's the bottom line.
          Jesus never promised life would be a bowl of cherries for any of His children, this side of Heaven. No. Though He did say He desires that we prosper even as our soul prospers, and though He does speak of blessing us, He clearly told us that in this life we would have troubles but to take heart because He has overcome it all! John 16:33. And He told us to put our eyes on the eternal and that we would be so greatly rewarded for not putting our hope in this life but, instead, storing up treasures in Heaven - which happens by taking care of poor and all else, putting others first; not ourselves.  Yet this is not the Gospel people want to hear. Most want to hear only about God's favor, healings, miracles, plans and blessings for their lives. Meanwhile, all these blessings are strictly a result of truly desiring God first. 
          The point is, though there will be blessings and goodness this side of Heaven as followers of Christ, the REAL walk with Christ also includes much adversity - especially the more single-minded for the Living God we are! The dark kingdom sees such believers as trouble makers. So, we will face persecution one way or another. The closer we are to God, the more we look like Him, and the more the world and even casual Christians won't like us. And we have to be okay with that because our hope is not in this life.
          So... As you resolve to truly love God above this life, above all your possessions, hopes and dreams, do be prepared for a bit of chaos over in one corner and some backlash in another. However, do NOT be afraid of any of it - including the painful pokes and jabs you may face.  Don't dread anything the devil does. Even if the carpet is pulled out from beneath you. Sure, you'll be stunned from time to time; even distressed. But resolve to deal with things according to God's government policies: in righteousness, peace and joy. Not repressing the pain, mind you, but going to God with it so He can give you supernatural joy and peace within in. Keep your eyes on the prize of eternity with Jesus. Resolve that the only thing that matters... is God. And, as your true lover, He will keep you in those painful times of persecution, whether they're just the average poke and jabs... or far, far worse. 

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          One last reason I went into all this was to advise believers that do go through such affliction and persecution on a regular basis, even an entire lifetime, that it might not be oppression via some kind of curse, evil spirit or something attached in your soul as many believe. Though this is often the case, indeed, other times, such oppression might primarily be a result of the anointing and call on your life - regardless if the enemy has legal rights against you in a matter. That, perhaps you have an extreme resolve for Christ, truth and righteousness which surpasses the norm, and possibly the potential to impact thousands of lives for Christ dramatically. So the dark kingdom seriously needs to work hard to break you down - which requires that they offend and harass you as much as they can through the people in your life.  If this is your situation, please hold on. Don't fret over the works of darkness. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, not every song and dance of the devil. Your reward is great. (If you have suffered severe persecution all your life, please read "Remember, They Will Hate You" if you already haven't - located in the section for the Severely Oppressed at the beginning of the Journey Program - found in the Member's Center.)
          In closing, let me just remind you that God truly is a jealous God, Exodus 34:14. He said to seek Him with your WHOLE heart. If you haven't been doing so, I hope you can resolve to obey this very plain instruction beginning today, once and for all. And in so doing, be prepared for the persecution; with everything from the subtle pokes and jabs to bouts of blatant assault and chaos. Be ready and you'll be fine. Amen.