Therefore, we must consider not whether persecution will come, but how we will act when it does. Although the church in the West has yet to experience what believers in the East are experiencing, the Western world is gradually becoming more aggressively secular, and so we can see a day of suffering slowly approaching. Christians are beginning to face enormous social and legal pressure. Issues that only a hundred years ago would not even have been up for discussion have now become a part of normal life. If we want to preach God’s Word without watering it down, we must embrace a proper perspective on persecution. But we live in an impatient and rebellious age, and sadly, even the church does not often have a healthy view of this subject. How, then, are we to find encouragement to preach faithfully in the midst of persecution?
We must first of all remind ourselves that as believers in Christ, we are comprehensively under the Lord’s superintendence in all our suffering and difficulties. In these hardships, we must completely trust God’s sovereign will and live in the knowledge that He has commissioned the church in a special way to declare His glory. This is a difficult assignment, but the fact that God is using us to save many gives great joy. As a result, whether in season or out of season, we must continue to declare God’s Word (2 Tim. 4:1–2).
Truthfully, more often than not we consider the time and place not convenient for proclaiming God’s Word. When it comes to explaining our beliefs to those around us, we are hesitant because our hearts are fearful of being mocked and we are afraid of making enemies. Those who wish to live out Christ’s gospel and proclaim it must confront these fears, because they will certainly be made fun of and mocked and will face persecution (3:12). However, God is using this suffering to spread His Word, instruct His people in holiness, increase their perseverance, and purify His church. Our struggle together in a single spirit for the sake of the faith made known in the gospel is evidence to the world of our salvation (Phil. 1:27–28). If we are insulted and persecuted for Christ’s name, we are blessed. We are citizens of God’s kingdom (Matt. 5:10; 1 Peter 4:14). As a result, we ought to be glad as we participate in Christ’s suffering and view the hardships we endure not as an obstacle but as a privilege. These are not empty words; Paul, encouraging the Philippian church concerning the difficulties they have suffered for Christ’s sake, explains, “It has been granted to you that . . . you should . . . also suffer” (Phil. 1:29). Believers who persevere in faith will see in the end that these sufferings will result in praise, glory, and honor (1 Peter 1:7).
It must be kept in mind that the church that proclaims God’s Word may have to pay a great price. It is not easy to remain calm in the face of persecution, but God’s Word must be fearlessly proclaimed and defended whatever the cost. For while we pass through the dark valley of death, our heavenly Shepherd’s staff is at our side to reassure us.