Sometimes it comes, not in ways that threaten our lives, but from our own family members and friends. It hurts to be left out of family events or called self-righteous.
Yes … persecution and mistreatment will come. How can we be sure that God will give us the grace, ability and right words to say when we’re faced with it?
First, we shouldn’t be surprised by it! Instead, let’s see it as an occasion for sharing our testimonies and the truth about God. Let’s see it as an opportunity to walk in love and leave justice in the hands of God.
1 Samuel 4 & 5
Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Mistreatment
1 Samuel 4 & 5:
God is Always at Work
Here we have another sad time in Israel’s history where God withdrew His immediate presence and protection from them because of their willful disobedience and idolatry. But this narrative leaves no doubt that even when people may not make the connection, God is always at work in the affairs of men.
That is true today, as well as, in Old Testament times. I once read that the word “history” actually means “His-story” and I certainly believe that’s true. So the question is, “What is God doing today?” How does everything that’s happening in our world—whether politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other world events, play into His plan and purpose?
He is there in the blessing and protection, but also in the withdrawing of blessing and protection.
That leads right into our Luke passage, so we’ll go there next.
He Is Coming
This portion of Scripture, like Matthew 24, Mark 13 and other passages, talks about many of the events that point to Christ’s eminent return. Many of these things appear to be happening today, pointing to the possibility that He’ll be coming back soon. So, what can we expect and what did Jesus say we should be doing if that’s true?
A Time of Testing & Persecution
Verses 12-13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, … But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”
We should expect to be persecuted, do not be surprised by it! Instead of being upset or complaining, we should see it as an occasion for sharing our testimony and the truth about God.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Pet. 3.13-16).
If that sounds scary and you think, “I don’t know enough” or “I might mess it up,” remember verses 14 and 15:
“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”
That should be comforting and extremely encouraging.
Expect opposition even from your own family:
Verses 16 & 17, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”
Though it may not always be the kind of betrayal that costs you your life, it can hurt to be left out of family events and told you’re turning your back on your family’s religion or called self-righteous.
But we can trust God in all of this:
Verse 18, “But not a hair of your head shall be lost.”
We will not suffer eternal loss no matter the cost here on earth. In fact, there will be crowns in heaven for those who have suffered here for Christ and His cause.
Remain Patient & Humble with Your Persecutors & Critics
“By your patience possess your souls” (v. 19).
That means patience even with our persecutors, critics, or those who treat us unfairly.
As Paul told Timothy:
“… avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2.23-26).
So let’s be faithful and look forward to His return!
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22.20)
Today’s Other Readings:
Praying in Times of Distress
We’re often told to read and pray the psalms when we go through times of distress and trouble. As we do, we can pour out our hearts to God just as the psalmists did. Psalm 54 is a great example of that.
“Don’t Bother Me with the Facts!”
Verse 12, “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise.”
When someone is bent on going her own way, she doesn’t want to hear what anyone has to say about it. As the expression goes, “Don’t bother me with the facts!”
How About You?
How do you respond when someone rebukes or corrects you? Or when someone suggests you might be making a mistake? Pride makes us defensive and unteachable. Humility, on the other hand, accepts criticism, even unjustified criticism, with love, patience, and grace.
How do you respond to persecution? Do you respond with anger or with patience and love? Do you trust God to show you what to say? Are you focused on His glory in the midst of it?
Are you excited about His return? Or perhaps the question is, are you ready?
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