American Christians are spoiled. When was the last time a Christian that you know actually prayed to God for safety because their life was in danger? Many Christians go to bed in foreign lands not knowing if they will awake in the morning to see the sun rise. They have fears of disease, dangerous animals, and persecution from pagan god worshippers. Their prayers are seasoned with a realness that most Americans don’t know anything about. Their prayers are real. Their dependence upon God is genuine. And in most cases, their faith is stronger, their worship is pure, and their faithfulness is solid – even in the midst of persecution or famine. Why then do we have professing Christians in America who must be pampered and petted just to get them to come to assemble for worship?
Consider the truth of how all of the apostles died as they served the Lord Jesus Christ:
All of the apostles were insulted by the enemies of their Master. They were called to seal their doctrines with their blood and nobly did they bear the trial.
Such was the fate of the apostles, according to traditional statements.—Christian Index
- Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia.
- Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
- Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece.
- John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward banished to Patmos.
- Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward.
- James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
- James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club.
- Bartholomew was flayed alive.
- Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died.
- Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies.
- Jude was shot to death with arrows.
- Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded.
- Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica.
- Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.
Consider the Words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:10-16:
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Paul warns Timothy of the fact that all people who seek to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. These words were not coming from a man who had never known of such trials. These words were coming from a man who had lived them and experienced them personally. Paul wanted to warn his young preacher to remain faithful and to turn to Holy Scripture for the sufficiency to endure in the faith that God had placed in his heart long ago – through the Holy Scriptures. According to Paul, the Scriptures had been inspired (God breathed) by God and are good for the perfecting of the saints.
The New American Commentary on this passage of Scripture says the following:
Persecution “may vary in degree and take different forms in different countries and in different ages, but the basic hostility of the world to the godly man remains unchanged.”41 Christians will suffer because the world is hostile to the kingdom of God. Both Christ (Matt 5:11–12; Mark 8:34) and Paul (2 Cor 12:9–10; 1 Thess 3:4) had prepared their followers to anticipate such hardship. Paul’s words about the expectation of suffering were frightening to a timorous disciple. They are also a reminder to every Christian to expect opposition for devotion to Jesus. Such forewarning allows the thoughtful Christian to be armed with commitment for spiritual battle.1
John Calvin wrote:
There is singular consolation, moreover, when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. For our thought should then be, How high the honour which God bestows upon us in distinguishing us by the special badge of his soldiers. By suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake, I mean not only striving for the defence of the Gospel, but for the defence of righteousness in any way. Whether, therefore, in maintaining the truth of God against the lies of Satan, or defending the good and innocent against the injuries of the bad, we are obliged to incur the offence and hatred of the world, so as to endanger life, fortune, or honour, let us not grieve or decline so far to spend ourselves for God; let us not think ourselves wretched in those things in which he with his own lips has pronounced us blessed (Mt. 5:10).2
The New International Greek Commentary says:
Paul now states a general principle regarding persecution and attaches it to what he has said about his own experiences of persecution with postpositive δέ and καί, which together have the force of “and also”: Just as Paul has endured persecutions so “also” this will be the case for Christians in general. πάντες … οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus,” is not a designation of a subgroup of Christians who desire a more godly life but rather a description of real Christians in distinction from those who follow false teaching. εὐσεβῶς ζῆν, “to live godly,” is a description of the condition that grace brings about in the life of the one saved by Christ.3
As we consider the fact that persecution is a normal thing for the Christian life, we should realize that our American Christianity is far from normal. We often become blurred to the reality of Christianity in the world in which we live. It is easy to be a professing Christian in America, but how many professing Christians are real Christians? Real Christianity is revealed when the trials come and all of the impurities float to the surface and are taken away like the dross is taken away by the metal worker. If real persecution came to America – the majority of the professing church would disappear leaving a small percentage of true Christians who would be happy in Jesus – no matter what trials come their way! Even in such dark moments of suffering, true Christians in America could gather in a room and sing Before the Throne of God Above!
In Isaac Watts’ time, much persecution was inflicted upon the English Dissenters—those who had split from the official, state Anglican church. Stalwarts such as Isaac Watts became resolute and fearless in their proclamation and defense of the gospel. “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” was written in 1724, following a sermon by Watts titled “Holy Fortitude or Remedies Against Fears.” These words are still a challenge for us today:
Am I a soldier of the cross? A foll’wer of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed thru bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign—Increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.4
For the praise and glory of His name – forever and ever!
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1 Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (2001, c1992). Vol. 34: 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (232). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2 Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion (III, viii, 7). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
3 Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles : A commentary on the Greek text (440). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press
4 Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (314). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.