Jeremiah 20:2: Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD.
The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah was dotted with various painful experiences. He once accused God of deceiving him (Jeremiah 20:7-8), because, when he called him into the ministry he was not presented with the full picture of the hardship he would face, for it.
Jesus, did not mince words, but came out from the onset to say that in the kingdom of God, great blessing accrues to those persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10).
Times of persecution were rife in the time of the first century church and also in many places across the world even now. Persecution may not be regional but personal, in your own particular situation, even in a place that seems tolerant to Christianity.
Why people persecute you, even if they claim to be Christians is because your changed lifestyle is a judgement against them, just as the words of Jeremiah was judgement against his persecutors.
Trails are not convenient. You don’t choose them but they are inevitable as Paul said that he that would live godly in this world WILL suffer persecution (2Timothy 3:10-15). Your righteous lifestyle means that people cannot influence you into their wrong ways just because you are present.
They get pricked in their conscience; because, whether you like it or understand it or not, you are the light of this world (Matthew 5:14). Nevertheless the people of this world do not want to come to the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:18-21). They may even call you evil (2Timothy 2:8-9, 1Peter 2:12, 3:16) for their own conscience sake, mislabelling you to justify their persecution of you.
They want to repress you to not have your voice heard. They want to remain comfortable in their sins and the best they think they could do, is to do away with you. By your presence, you present the alternative to their rule, so they fight you because they want to maintain a sway of influence on the people.
People resist change and your mere presence as a Christian is a passive force of change (Matthew 13:33). In the full pride of their heart they want to remain the way they are. Also they don’t have an explanation for you; as Jesus said, those who are born of the Spirit are like the wind (John 3:7-8) beyond their control. Therefore the unbelievers are afraid of you, you make them uncomfortable because they cannot unravel you; they don’t know what makes you tick. They are amazed that you are not running around with them in the riotous living (1Peter 4:3-4); and they hate because in a way, you are better than them; you are not bound by the sin which binds them.
They see a light in you but their minds are so warped that the only reaction that the have for you is rejection. That was the same response that the Jews have for Jesus. He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:9-11), they rejected him and condemned to the death on the cross.
The expression of your gift has the potential of drawing the ire of Satan and his cohorts. They hate your feeling of being special to God as to become used by him. They hate your confidence and your obvious air of sufficiency (2Corinthians 2:5, 9:8) and liberty in Christ (Galatians 2:4).
The impact of your spirit is what they reject or refuse to recognise because it is a threat, especially to the falsely religious, or those with religion that deny the power of God in Christ Jesus (2Timothy 3:4-5). You are a threat to their sphere of influence; you are an alternative influence, a judgement on the continuation of their power. Their pride, security in their position rather than in God, and resistance to change conspire to make them bent on persecuting you.
Stephen gave the reason such people instinctively persecute the true servants of God as their resistance to the Spirit of God. He called such people stick-necked (Acts 7:51-54), rigid in their pride and rejection of the will of God. That conclusion does not make sense to such people and their position also does not make sense to you, as it is written, what concord does light have with darkness (2Corinthians 6:14)?
Paul told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2Timothy 2:3, 11-12). This includes experiencing contradictions and confrontations from sinners (Hebrews 12:3-4).
Persecution is treated in the scriptures as the natural course of things for Christians. The apostles, after they were flogged for the course of Christ rejoiced for being counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ (Acts 5:40-42). They knew their own trial was small compared to the monumental pain Jesus endured at his own trial.
What we see from the persecution of Jeremiah is that there is always judgment on the persecutors (e.g. Jeremiah 20:3-4).
Jesus, while on the cross overflows with love for his persecutors and asked that they be forgiven for persecuting him (Luke 23:33-34). We should be careful to not harbour any seed of bitterness against our persecutors in us. This has the potential of growing a root of bitterness in us (Hebrews 12:14-15) that would starve the good seed of God in us from being expressed and that is what the devil wants.
The persecution he throws at us is not just to cause us to change our mind about God but to have us harbour un-forgiveness as we hold onto that pain rather than continue to look unto Jesus (Hebrews 12: 1-3).
When we look at the pain rather than looking unto Jesus, we become distracted from our journey with God and that is a plus to the kingdom of Satan. If he can’t cause you to turn back, he’ll be contented to slow you down. That is a good achievement for him if he can’t pressure into capitulating, to reject the truth you once embraced.
The writer to the book of Hebrews advised the believers to maintain the confession their faith, in the face of persecution (Hebrews 3:6, 14, 4:14-16, 10:23, 32-39).
In trial, don’t shift but dig deep in the understanding of the truth of your position. Don’t back down. Jesus said that in the world, we would suffer persecution but we should be of good cheer because he has overcome the world (John 16:33).
With that, Jesus is now saying He is one with you in that persecution and trial. When Paul was persecuting the church, Jesus had to tell him that it was Him that he is persecuting (Acts 22: 6-8). Therefore, you are not alone, Christ is with you in the trail, you are his body, and the same overcoming spirit that was in Him, is in you; darkness will not conquer light but light darkness (John 1:5).
Peter has a word of assurance. He said after you have suffered a while, God would perfect, establish and settle you (1Peter 5:8-10). The final answer is not with your persecutor but with God who has promised you a crown (James 1:12).
WordFromGod: depend on my inspiration in the time of your persecution.
- Pray for the Persecuted Church (athenammorris.wordpress.com)
- Bulletin Articles from October 27, AD 2013: The Pain of Verbal Persecution & Do Not Be Ashamed (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)
- The Sovereign Rule of God (fromthepreacherspc.org)
- I’ll run the race (ovds.wordpress.com)