As the church grew from twelve disciples to thousands of believers, they met persecution from many groups. At first, it was the religious leaders of the community. These leaders were concerned that this new teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was full of error and leading people away from the one true God. They started by warning the Christians to stop preaching the gospel, but when the Christians continued to spread the good news of God the religious leaders became more violent – even to the point of murder. As the church grew in size and influence in spite of the religious persecution, the government leaders began to take notice and oppose Christianity. In the same manner, in order to appease the ruling parties of the community, the civil government began to arrest and even execute Christians.
Where is God when good people are persecuted and killed for doing what He commands? Just as the first church learned, so must we; God is right here and active. Even when faced with persecution and death, the power of the Holy Spirit continues to go before us and accomplish exactly what God wants to be accomplished. Our job is to stay close to God and walk with Him through the trials and tribulations taking the good news of Jesus to whomever will listen.
The truth of God is hard to accept. You live your whole life believing that your good work and best effort will earn you God’s favor only to be told that it’s all a lie and that the righteous will live by faith alone. Or you grow up thinking God is a fairy tale only to be told that without Jesus you can’t be saved. Imagine everything you believed in challenged by the teachings of Jesus. When Peter and John began preaching the good news of Jesus, the religious leaders of the day felt threatened. Not only was their position of authority threatened, but also their way of life. Peter and John spoke on behalf God. They declared men and women as forgiven. They even healed people in miraculous ways by the power of Jesus. The leaders and protectors of tradition didn’t like it and they demanded that it be stopped – even by death.
Truth always reveals opposition. The gospel of Jesus will bring relief and salvation to many but strife and anger to others. When persecution comes, remember to stand as Peter and John stood. They did not fight. They did not speak in arrogance. Rather they stood in truth and courageously said, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Rod continues a new series on the book of Philippians.
Knowing Jesus prepares you to live and prepares you to die. There is a boldness that you receive and that grows as you get to know Jesus. The boldness is not that of physical power, strength, or superior intellect. The boldness given to and learned by the Christian is found in abounding love. Paul found emotional, mental, and even physical strength in the abounding love of God. That abounding love pours into you and the boldness increases as it pours out of you into the lives of others. Intentional living is intentional dying; for you must die to all of your personal hopes and dreams so that you can find them again in Jesus. The more you intentionally live for Jesus, the more you are intentionally ready to die. You give your whole life to God for his good work and let him decide when it’s time to take you out of this world. He made and chose you for a specific task of showing love and truth to some part of this world. Therefore, find your life and death in abounding love.
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