Different Perspective in Persecution
Welcome! Today we are in part four of a message series called Different if you're just joining us. We're actually looking at high points from the book of 1 Peter. And as you look at the way Peter wrote he was very, very direct. He said over and over and over again that this world is not your home. If you are a Jesus follower you are called to be set apart. You are called to be different.
Today I want to talk about a different perspective in persecution and we'll start with the words of Jesus, then we're gonna dive into the book of 1 Peter. This is what Jesus said, John 15, verses 18 and 20. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. ... 20If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
Remember Peter is writing to Christians who are literally being nailed to posts, having wax poured on them and being lit with fire for use as street lights in Rome. For us in the United States the persecution may not be as extreme, but it is very real. What I hope you'll understand, that in the world today there is extraordinary Christian persecution.
In fact most people would argue that the persecution is at its worst level today in the history of the world. Let me say it again. Almost every article that you'll read will say that the last decade has represented the worst decade in the history of Christianity in persecution around the world. In fact just the statistics are staggering. In an average month, over 300 Christians are killed for following Jesus. On an average month over 200 churches would be burned or completely destroyed. In an average 30 day period there's upwards close to 800 followers of Christ who will be beaten, tortured, raped or imprisoned for following their faith. Our persecution in America may not be as severe, but it is persecution nonetheless Jesus said, "If you follow me, the world will hate you. "And you will be persecuted."
Let's dive into 1 Peter and look at what he said. Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 NLT
He's telling these people who are hurting, don't be shocked, that if you're living boldly for Jesus, that you would face opposition. If you are living boldly, don't be shocked when you're criticized, or when you face spiritual opposition. Many of you would say, "Well you know I can't really "think of a time that I ever really did face "opposition for my faith." And we'll start there and maybe try to understand potentially why that might be. For example, imagine I'm playing soccer. Imagine you are the opponent. Let's just say that you're on the field playing I'm on the bench. And I'm not even watching the game. In fact instead I've got a water bottle and I'm water bottle flipping on the bench. Then maybe I'm playing a little game on my computer or I'm posting a selfie on Instagram. And then I'm flirting with this really cute cheerleader named Lisa who's over there. And I'm not paying attention to the game. If you are my opponent, are you concerned about me impacting the game at all or not? The answer is not a bit. If, on the other hand though, let's say I'm a really good player, and I'm not water bottle flipping, playing games or flirting with anybody, but instead I get on the field and I am a threat to score. If you are the enemy are you then concerned about me? And the answer is yes you are! And you're gonna do anything you can to stop me.
The same is true when it comes to spiritual things. If you are on the Jesus team, you believe in Christ, but you're on the bench, in other words you've got the jersey, but you're not in the game. I mean, you'll come to church every now and then because you got to do that when you're on the team. You'll show up to the game, but you're not engaged. You're not praying for miracles and asking God to do something and interceding on behalf of others. You've got gifts and talents, but you're not using them to further the kingdom. You're not giving generously. You may tip a little bit here and there, but you're not strategically, prayerfully asking how I can use what God has given me, time, talent and resources to influence others and be generous and make a difference in the world. You could make a difference and you know it, but you let somebody else play. You believe in Jesus, but you're not representing Him boldly, you haven't invited anyone to church and you're not sharing your faith. You've got the jersey on, but you're not in the game. The same is true in that example that your enemy takes no notice of you. The moment though you engage, you have a spiritual enemy who takes notice and you will face opposition.
Imagine a warrior, a soldier enlisting in a battle, going into war and coming back to his commanding officer going, "Sir, sir, they're shooting at me! "I didn't think that was gonna happen!" What would the officer say, "What did you expect? "We're at war!" We have to understand, Christianity is not a playground. It is a battleground. We are at war against the forces of darkness and we are in a very real spiritual battle. When you engage in the battle you will face opposition. If you've never, ever, ever faced any sense of real spiritual opposition, maybe it's because you're not on the front lines engaging in the battle in the way that God would want you to do so.
That's why Peter said, Do not be surprised at the fiery trial that you're facing. You're in the game! You're on the front lines! You're making a difference and you're rattling the gates of hell. Don't be surprised if you face opposition. Then he says this, verse 13, Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:13 NLT
Is that different or what? Be glad. Be thankful when you're persecuted for your faith. \ Why is it that so many of us would say, "Well I've never really experienced anything like this." I don't think it's necessarily your fault, I think that culture is so convincing, that the most important thing for many of us is the pursuit of comfort. I mean how does that play out? Maybe you're at a party and you kind of give in and you smoke or drink whatever they're smoking or drinking, why? Because you don't want anybody to make fun of you, it's not that big of a deal, so you're just kind of gonna fit in. Maybe it is that you, you don't correct someone when they say a racist or sexist joke. You know it's wrong, but you don't want it to be uncomfortable, and so you don't say anything. And there we are pursuing comfort.
In fact what I want to do is I want to show you just a couple of cycles. And I want you to think about these two cycles and ask yourself which one most represent your life last week. Let me show you the first one it looks like this.
This would be kind of what culture says. Above all else we're going to pursue comfort, we want to be happy. And so when we pursue comfort then that forces us in many ways to avoid opposition. I don't want to upset anybody, I don't want to make anybody mad, you know I just want to have a good day. But the problem is when we avoid opposition our faith weakens, we're not standing for anything, we're not passionate about much. And then we wake up one day and we feel very, very empty. Life feels so empty, there's got to be something more, so what do I do? I'm going to pursue comfort, I'm gonna pursue comfort and maybe, maybe this thing, that place, this many likes, that relationship, whatever it is, maybe that will fill my void.
There is another way to live. But let me warn you, you have to be different. And the only way you really live like this is when you recognize that you are a foreigner in this world. You're completely different.
And there is a totally different cycle that looks like this. When you are living boldly for Christ, standing up, sharing Him, suddenly when you live boldly, guess what you do? You do face opposition. This is the most encouraging message you didn't want to hear, why? Because you're in the game! You're making a difference. But the strange thing is that when you face opposition your faith strengthens! Then one day you wake up and realize, "Oh my gosh, I'm so much closer to Christ.” And suddenly you find yourself living even more boldly than ever before.
Look at those cycles for just a moment, look at them if you will and ask yourself, which cycle, best represents your life in the last week? Were you comfortable, avoiding any kind of trouble, kind of not really close to Jesus, empty life pursuing comfort? Or instead were you living boldly? Were you facing some opposition? Were you going through and realizing, "I am closer to Christ because of my obedience," and it stirs you even more intimately to share your faith. Which one would you say best represents your life in the past week? The most encouraging message you didn't want to hear is that when you're different from this world, they will not always like you, but these trials will make you partners with Christ.
1 Peter, 4:19 He says, So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. 1 Peter 4:19 NLT
This is a principle that I try to live by, I don't always get it right. The principle is this. In every area of your life, in your family, in your finances, in your relationships, in your work life, whenever you're peer pressured, any area of your life, DO WHAT'S RIGHT AND TRUST GOD WITH THE RESULTS.
What do you do? How do you live? We as Jesus followers, we do what's right. And we trust God with the results. We don't cut corners, we don't take shortcuts. We don't try to do what we think will get us to the end result faster, we do what's right and we trust God with the results. We do what's right in our relationships and we trust God. As long as you're suffering for doing something good, keep on doing that and trust God who will never, ever fail you.
The most encouraging message that you'd never want to hear. If you are like this world the world will love you as its own, you will never be persecuted. If you are following Jesus you will not be like this world, you. You won't raise your kids like the world, you won't use your money like this world, you'll have different morals from this world, you'll have different values from this world, you have different types of conversations from this world. You'll be different at work than this world, and if you are not like this world, guess what? The world will hate you at times. Is that fun? It's not fun but the odd thing is, it does something to you and you recognize I am a follower of Christ.
And then this is how Peter is finishing his letter he says this, he says it's so beautiful He says So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to him forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11
After you've suffered for a little while, what will our God do? He will restore you! He will support you! He will strengthen you and He will place you on a firm foundation! All power to Him forever! Hear the word of God! Just because you're suffering doesn't mean you're not following Christ, the fact that you are suffering may be a direct indication that you are in the game and there is spiritual opposition. After you've suffered for a little while, what will our God do? He will restore you! He will support you! He will strengthen you when you are weak. His strength is made perfect and he will put you on a firm foundation. God has called you to be different, holy as He is holy. And when you are do not be surprised, brothers and sisters when people don't understand. But you continue to do what's right and trust God with the results and after you've suffered for a little while, our God will restore, support and strengthen you, placing you on a firm foundation. Therefore, all praise goes to Him.