Even members of your own household can oppose you!
Do you perhaps think Christians are only persecuted in some distant non-Christian country? Do you see persecution only as situations where Christians face life-threatening circumstances or perhaps extreme oppression?
However true this is for many believers, we may lose sight of the opposition many Christians face from their own families, their circle of friends and workplace even in countries where there is religious freedom and where Christians are in the majority.
In this article we will look at how believers who face opposition and ill treatment for their faith in Christ and their commitment to live in obedience to Him, can remain standing in their faith.
How is Christian persecution defined?
According to Open Doors, Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world, because of one’s identification with Jesus Christ. In Luke 22:6 Jesus also defines the word for us using four verbs. He says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
Scripture is clear that those who follow Christ and desire to live godly will be persecuted (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). This means that it can be quite normal for any Christian to experience oppression and resistance to a certain degree for being committed to live in surrender and obedience to Jesus Christ.
The sad reality is that this opposition is not always from unbelievers but often also can come from those who ‘call’ themselves Christians yet are following the ways of the world and not the ways of God according to the Word. Sometimes they may even manipulate the Word to fit an interpretation that mimics the spirit of the current times and their own desires.
What can you do?
If the opposition is from your spouse who is willing to stay with you, then you are to stay with the spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). If the opposition comes from others, you can remove yourself from the situation if it becomes unbearable. This might mean finding another job, ending a friendship, or moving to alternative accommodation. Whichever decision you take, be sure to pray and consult the Lord beforehand.
Should you be called of the Lord to persevere amidst such difficult circumstances, there are sure guidelines that will help you to remain standing in your faith in the Lord Jesus despite afflictions by those who oppose your faith.
How to remain standing
1. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus
Jesus is your Lord and Saviour who saved you from a life of futility on earth and eternal death by becoming the sacrifice for your sins – you belong to Him. He has promised to always be with you until the end of the age and is at this very moment interceding for you at the right hand of our Father in heaven (Romans 8:24). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you stay focused on Jesus.
2. Stay in the Word
Spending time in God’s Word will fill your heart with His truth and equip you to remain standing amidst opposition. Memorising Scripture is one way in which to recall Bible truths in moments when you face opposition – to be encouraged and remain standing. (Psalm 119:11).
3. Grow deeper in your prayer life
Experiencing God’s nearness is vital to remain standing. It is vital to talk to Him, listen to Him and fellowship with Him daily – preferably throughout the day. Such sweet times in His presence will strengthen you and allow you to experience Him amidst opposition. (Isaiah 40:31).
4. Rely on the Holy Spirit
The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit as our Helper who also intercedes for us (Romans 8:26b). Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding in your situation, and to strengthen you with might in the inner man. He is the One who can give you the right words at the right time (Luke 12:12).
5. Fellowship with believers
Being surrounded by people who oppose your commitment to Jesus in your household, in the workplace or circle of friends, can have a detrimental effect on your faith life. Be sure not to isolate yourself from other committed believers, but pursue fellowship through a home group, church attendance, online groups, etc. (Hebrews 10:25).
6. Consider yourself blessed
Matthew 5: 10-11 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
7. See the cloud of witnesses
In Hebrews 12:1 the author tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (those who have gone before us) who were commended for their faith even amid suffering (Hebrews 11). Read these and more modern-day accounts of those who endured opposition and persecution because they followed Christ and pursued obedience to God above friendship with the world. You will be greatly encouraged!
8. Set JOY before you – as Jesus did
1 Peter 4: 12-13 – Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
9. It is working for your good
We only have a limited perspective on our lives and do not see the bigger purposes of God (Proverbs 3:5-6). What we do know is that He is ultimately in control and He said in His Word that He will make ALL things work together for our good, because we love Him and He has called us (Romans 8:28). So take heart! God is making all things work for your good.
10. Worship with song
Worshipping God with music is a wonderful way to strengthen and uplift both your soul and spirit. Worship drives faith into your heart and helps you connect with Him on a very personal level. God is glorified and shown worthy when you worship and praise Him while facing opposition for His name. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14).
11. Do good
1 Peter 3:15-17 – 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; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Your life speaks
Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14). The more He shines through you, the faster people will realise their own sin and need of Him. Those who love the darkness (who enjoy fulfilling their own desires that are contrary to the Word of God) avoid the light – also the light of Christ that shines through you. But you may be the very person that God will use to convict your ‘opposition’ of sin, righteousness and judgment – bringing them to salvation (1 Corinthians 7:16). So, keep praying for them and let your light shine for Christ in all circumstances!