It has been said that there are more Christian martyrs in the just completed century than the 18 and 1/2 that preceded it. On April 20th of 99 Rachel Scott, Crissie Bernal and some of their classmates got a first hand lesson in being "faithful unto death" Rev. 2;10. Not too long after 7 people at Wedgewood Baptist experienced deadly persecution as well. No matter what you may have heard about this incident, the man that did it was anti Christian and there because of the "see you at the pole" rally they were having. What you may not have heard about it unless you live close to there (which i do) is that the next day at some of the area schools there were MANY more kids around the poles than the day it happened.
Most of you know that Christians have it pretty rough in places like China, and some of the Muslim countries, Russia and other places to a lesser degree, but in Sudan and Indonesia it is really bad. There is persecution around the globe and we should be concerned about it, even when there may be little in the physical that we can do to stop it. We CAN pray about it and ask God to help those in the middle of it, some day we may need those prayers ourselves.
If you study the Bible enough you will find that persecution and following God are close companions. In 2nd Timothy 3;12, Paul said "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution". Jesus said in John 15;20 "the servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you". So persecution seems unavoidable if you stay in the fight long enough. The kind of persecution most of us have experienced is more of the subtle or mild type. A friend who ignores you when you became committed to live the life, a family member who doesn't understand your commitment. Indeed Jesus said "A man's foes shall be they of his own household" Matthew 10;36. So what do we do about, and how should we respond when someone mocks our faith or otherwise treats us badly because of our faith?
Before we look at the answers in the word, i want to say that i still fall short sometimes in this area. The Spirit has to remind me Most of the time how to react and Most of the time i listen, but sometimes i don't and it always turns out better when i do. So then here is some of what the word says about it. Jesus said a lot about it, more than you might think. In the sermon on the mount he said "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" Matthew 5;10-12.
Now we all want to dance and shout when we are persecuted right. Yeah me neither but i am working on it. For an example of some who got it right lets go to the book of Acts. The Apostles were turning Jerusalem upside down with the Gospel and the high priest and his cronies had all they could take, funny how fame, power and wealth can blind someone who ought to know better. They took hold of them and held them overnight. The next day they interrogated them and demanded to know where they got the authority to preach. Peter gave them a short and blunt Gospel sermon and the rulers marveled at their boldness and scriptural knowledge. In Acts 4;13 it says "they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." It shows every time.
To shorten the story a bit, the council threatened them and told them not to preach in Jesus name anymore. Peter and John asked them whether it was better to obey man or God and they threatened them again and let them go. the apostles went and told the church about it and their response was to pray for MORE boldness, Acts 4;24-31. In the next chapter there is another episode with the priests, this time the apostles were beaten and left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus, 5;41. What an example they set of how to get it right, may god grant us the same courage and character if or when we suffer for Him.
There are many other examples but let me include some of the scriptures that deal with persecution in the Gospels. Matthew 5;44,10;23, Luke 21;12. Before this gets long enough to make you cross-eyed i'll close by saying that it has been my experience that the closer i was following Jesus the more intense the persecution got. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) one of the three categories that didn't produce was those who received the seed in stony places. They received it with joy, but when persecution came for the word's sake they fell away. So what i'm trying to say is to hang in there and don't give up. Persecution more often means you are doing something right than the other way around. Here is a poem that came to me once , maybe it will help one or more of you sometime.
I hear your voice a little tired,
you think your strength is gone,
but faith is not until it's tried,
so i say to you hold on.
Until your pushed beyond your strength,
you'll never be made stronger,
He knows exactly where your at,
so hold on a little longer.
The time will come when you'll look back,
upon these days of testing,
and realize the toughest times,
they were the greatest blessing.
God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you all week long.