Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, – 2Cor. 1:3 NIV
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Reading through the books of the New Testament, there is the feeling that persecutions, trials and temptations remain major features of the Christian life. In every location where the gospel was introduced, the people who decided to accept the gospel experienced so much of these negative reactions from the people around them, the type that would make anyone feel a tinge of regret for identifying with the new teaching. From the Church in Corinth to all the other Churches in Asia, the story remains the same and this negative experiences were not limited to the new inductees into Christianity alone, as even the founding fathers of the church, starting from the twelve disciples to all the other Apostles that were with them or came after them, had similar experiences. This should therefore, be the expectation of the Christian today and so, the approach to helping the brethren remain in the faith will be for each believer to be introduced to ways of handling such acts of persecution, in their various forms, as the Christian will have such experience at one point or the other.
Unfortunately, the opposite is what is being preached today as converts are promised peace in this world, like it just comes automatically once one has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Nothing can be farther from the truth, as peace in this world and in the world to come will only be the reward of perseverance in the face of expected persecutions, trials and temptations that will definitely come up, once the individual has taken the decision to be a Christian. It is in this perseverance that the comfort of the Lord is made available to all those who are able to remain in faith till the end – Matt. 24:9-13.
This is assured because some people who are human like us today, were rewarded with peace and comfort of the Lord when they remained in the faith, despite their being persecuted like Jesus Christ was, not only in this world but also in the kingdom of heaven – Matt. 5: 11-12; 19:27-29. This they achieved because they remained faithful to their decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour through whom they accessed the support of the Holy Spirit.
The role played by regular fellowship with the brethren, in sustaining them through the various persecutions, can also not be ignored as it made available to them, the following information that further helped to sustain their faith.
- They were made aware that persecution was not strange to the faith that they were introducing them to, if anything, it is an integral part of what they must experience as it is the way of sharing in the suffering of Jesus Christ – 2Cor. 1:5-7. Jesus Christ who is the foundation of the faith was equally persecuted and just as he told his disciples at that time, all who follow him should expect persecution – Jn. 15:20, 16:33. The Christian who is yet to experience persecution should actual prepare for one just as the one who is going through persecution should be consoled in these parting words of Jesus Christ to his disciples. He assured them of victory because just as he overcame, they will definitely overcome if they remain in him – Jn. 16:33.
- They were made aware of the comfort that was available from the father of Compassion, who is Jehovah, in such situations – 2Cor. 1:3-4. The suffering of the true believer is never without hope for comfort, because the Lord in whose name the persecution is being implemented is a compassionate god. He will never leave His children hopeless – 1Pet. 4:12-19. Jesus by his death had conquered the devil and all his angels making a public humiliation of them all – Col. 2:14-15. All that the devil can do now is to flatter and deceive, as he has been rendered powerless due to that defeat by Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary. He may indeed appear in one way with his army but will definitely run in several directions – Deut. 28:7; Isa. 54:15-17.
- They were made aware that the experience was not unique to them as even they who introduced them to the faith are having similar experiences – 2Cor. 1:8-10. The Apostle Paul was never ashamed to let his children in the Lord know about his travails as a messenger of the Word. On several occasions, he revealed his chains to them so that the Christian today would not consider persecutions as an indication of unbelief or low spirituality. To give the impression that the true and honest Christian being successfully persecuted by the devil and his agents is an indication that such has lost position with the Lord is actually a lie from the pit of hell. All will be persecuted and the one who has not faced persecution today should be in expectation of such a time, to avoid it coming suddenly on him/her – 1Cor. 10:12.
- They were introduced to the only solution that should be applied at such critical times, which is the support of fellow brothers with prayers – 2Cor. 1:11. Even the Apostle Paul with all the grace he enjoyed still acknowledged the role that prayer support from fellow brethren would play during such times. Acknowledging that he could have being a victim of his persecution, he highlighted the role that the prayers of the brethren played in rescuing him. This he said was God’s way of ensuring that everyone, including himself, rely on no other but on Him. The supplication of the brethren were presented to Him, and He, in turn provided the means for the miraculous escape. Same was the case with the Disciple Peter – Acts 12:5-19.
The Christian today like those who were being advised by the Apostle Paul in the Church in Corinth, should actually learn to give praise to the Almighty God in the face of persecution because He is the god of comfort and the father of compassion, and He will surely manifest in both ways, in the situation of the one who remains in faith, during persecution, either directly or through a fellow brethren. That is why the constant association with fellow brethren will be the primary tool to overcoming persecution – Heb. 10:25.
The Church today will continue to have high numbers of back-sliding members if all it wants to present is a false picture of comfort and prosperity without stress and tension, as it is been done today. Christianity is about battling a spiritual being who is in a contest with the Almighty God for supremacy. He is very angry for losing his position in heaven and being hurled into the earth and so has the determination to hurt the Almighty God more by taking as many souls as possible with him into destruction – Isa. 14:12-20; Rev. 12:7-12. It should therefore not be the expectation of anyone, that the devil will just stay back and watch souls re-tracing their steps back to God. The tool he has chosen to deploy in order to achieve this ignoble objective of his, is to persecute the Christian but package such as tests from Yahweh, to discourage Christian from remaining in such decisions.
Until the end of life, the devil being who he is, will not give up on those that have decided to return to Yahweh, and will continue to be the one behind all those persecution s that the Christian but wrongly accuse fellow human beings called “enemies” of being guilty of – 1Pet. 5:8. Those human beings are only tools of the devil as the only enemy is the Devil and in addition to seeking spiritual ability to counter his deceptions, the brethren will succeed if they unite together in fellowship to counter all his deceptions – Heb. 10:25. That remains the only way to be victorious in persecution and have peace in the Christian life in this world and in the world to come. May Jehovah Shalom grant us the Grace to run a race that will earn us peace in this world and the world to come in Jesus name. Amen.