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For most of church history, in most areas of the world, Christians have experienced persecution. But for most Christians in the Western world today, persecution for the sake of our faith isn’t really part of our experience. Even though the Bible says, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), these words do not often seem to match our lives. But, as in all cases where our experience seems to contradict Scripture, we should trust God’s Word over our experience. The fact that we are not experiencing persecution is by no means a guarantee that this won’t change. Indeed, we should expect this to change, and we need to be prepared for it. The great freedom and peace Christians have been enjoying in the Western world in the last few decades are an exception rather than the norm.

This peace might soon come to an end. We see early warning signs in some European countries and even in the United States. In Berlin, a seventy-one-year-old restaurant owner was sued for hate speech simply because she had Bible verses all over the restaurant walls. In the United Kingdom, a big, well-known bank recently closed the bank account of a Christian charity that offers therapy for those who want to leave homosexuality. These are just two of many cases where Christians have come under pressure. More likely than not, this trend will continue, and Christians will come under increasing pressure.

Yet, for most Christians in the Western world, all this still seems to be very far away. They have never experienced this kind of persecution. But could it be that we have been spared persecution simply because we have often opted to remain silent when we should have spoken up for Christ’s sake? Indeed, this might just highlight that we do fear persecution after all. The persecution we do fear is most likely not life threatening. Still, we do face real threats if we faithfully stand up for the truth.

We might face persecution in the sense of being publicly ostracized for being intolerant if we maintain the exclusivity of faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved.

We might face persecution in the sense of losing friends who turn against us because we dare to call sin sin.

We might face persecution in the sense of seeing our reputation in our neighborhood destroyed because we don’t join the local gossip.

We might face persecution in the sense of being overlooked for promotions at work because we are not willing to lie to customers.

Whatever happens, we can never be safer than when we are close to our Lord.

It might be worthwhile to think about areas of your life in which you might be tempted to shy away from standing up for the truth because you fear persecution. And then we would do well to remember whom we should fear above all else. The Lord Jesus has words for us that can help us overcome our fear of persecution:

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4–7)

Nevertheless, in the face of potential persecution, there might be a battle going on in our hearts between the fear of persecution and the fear of God. But in the midst of this battle, Jesus reminds us why it is good and right to endure persecution if this should be the cost of our faithfulness when He says: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As the ultimate victor, Jesus Himself has overcome the world, and He promises a rich reward for everyone who stands with Him:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11–12)

What’s more, even in the here and now, Jesus is with us to help us in the midst of persecution. He has suffered far greater persecution on our behalf so that we will be spared the terrible reality of hell. And the risen Lord has sent His Spirit to be with us as we face trials. He will provide the courage and the words as we face persecution:

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12)

As we walk closely with the Lord, the Spirit will grant us the wisdom to know when to face threats head-on and when to stand back. But in all things, we should seek to honor our Lord and Savior who suffered and died in our place so that we can be assured of final victory. Whatever happens, we can never be safer than when we are close to our Lord, who will bring all those who trust in Him to a place of perfect peace and eternal security.

Therefore, do not fear persecution.

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