MERIDIAN — Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. — Matthew 24:9 (NKJV)
This week, I heard on Fox News a proposal from the Pentagon that soldiers could face court martial for sharing their Christian faith. The punishment could include imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge from the military. This is the latest attack on Christianity in our society.
Many Christians expressed outrage over this latest, citing the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In Christian circles, there is little doubt that opposition and persecution of Christianity are on the rise in our land. The biblical question is, “How should we face persecution?”
The book of “Acts” is a record of the early church and an unbelievable expansion. During the days recorded in those first 30-35 years of the church, the focus seems to be on the power behind the witness of believers wherever they went.
Yet another focus can be seen. That focus is on persecution. Notice the persecution and the results:
In Acts 7, Stephen is the first Christian to die for his faith. Yet, Saul of Tarsus who stood with approval of the stoning of Stephen will later become a Christian missionary reaching much of the civilized world.
In Acts 8, the Christians were scattered by persecution. Yet, everywhere they went, they preached the gospel so Christianity grew even faster.
In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus planned to imprison any believers in Damascus. Yet, he has a dramatic change in his heart after he is blinded by a bright light at noon day with the Lord appearing before him.
In Acts 12, Peter is placed in prison. Yet, God released him in a miraculous way that no one could explain. Herod, who called for Peter’s imprisonment, died and the word of God grew and multiplied.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were in jail when an earthquake hit. Yet, the jailer was saved after he saw that neither Paul nor Silas escaped but stayed behind.
In Acts 28, Paul is under house arrest in Rome. Yet, Paul preached the gospel to all who came to his house.
The fact is that persecution was the storm that fanned the flames of the gospel. Henry Blackaby once said, “What the American church needs is a good persecution.” I think he is correct. With the growing opposition Christians face in America, we ought to get excited! From a biblical standpoint, it announces that God is about to do something really big!
What we need is not less persecution but more conviction that God is in charge and will use all things. Stay faithful and don’t forget that it is by the way we love that all men shall know we are disciples.
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.