Held and Protected
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As I sit here, comfortable, in my climate-controlled home, my glass of clean, drinkable water beside me, I cannot, in any way, describe myself as persecuted. I believe I could describe myself as “bothered” sometimes, but not persecuted.

Image © Janet Hyun from GoodSalt.com

I don’t believe I can think of anyone I know that could be described as being persecuted right now.

Persecuted is defined as, “to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.”1

I’m living in a “first world country” and experience “first world problems” which, to most people in the world, are not problems at all. On the internet are pictures of people who appear to be absolutely devastated – weeping bitterly – captioned with things like: “one pillow is too low – two pillows are too high” “There’s nothing to drink in the house – except a virtually unlimited supply of tap water.” “I forgot the show I was watching was on DVR and ended up sitting through the commercials.” You get the picture. First world problems are things we really should be embarrassed to complain about.

These people might describe themselves as “afflicted,” but that’s probably still too strong a word. The definition for afflicted is “to distress with mental or bodily pain; trouble greatly or grievously.”2

Having said all that, I’m left with a pretty important realization. Mrs. White says,

“There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that ‘all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ 2 Timothy 3:12. Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.” (E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 48)

Uh, ouch! Sounds like, we’re not experiencing hard times because we’re too involved in the world and not involved enough in God’s work. Now THAT’s a first world problem, isn’t it?

Does that mean that Satan isn’t trying every minute of every day to trip us up and turn us away from following Jesus? Absolutely not! Sometimes he uses comfort instead of affliction, though. And as we near Jesus’ second coming, complacency might be even more dangerous than persecution. Crazy, right?

History shows that when Christians are comfortable, the church becomes stagnant, but when Christians are challenged through persecution, affliction, or other trials, the church grows.

The church in Thessalonica must have been doing something right, because its members were being persecuted.

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure…” 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

It’s a sobering thought, though, that if we stay faithful through the fat times, not allowing ourselves to be lulled into complacency and stupor, that we will experience persecution and trials. I’m not just speculating – it’s a promise.

“The ‘time of trouble such as never was,’ is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, ‘as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.’ [Ezekiel 14:20.]” (E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p.622)

I believe we are standing at a pivotal point of earth’s history. Many of us who are alive right now will experience that time of trouble. How will we survive? How will we stay faithful to Jesus Christ? How will we, like Mordecai in Esther and the three Hebrew youths in Daniel, remain standing when the rest of world kneels before the beast? How will we stand when to stand means death?

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed …” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-6

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

His grace is our only hope. Through His grace we will be held and protected when that time comes.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21

  1. Dictionary.com, LLC. Copyright © 2012
  2. Ibid.
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Held and Protected — 10 Comments

  1. A miracle of God

    The Thessalonians had come from the depth of heathenism. Now they were persecuted and afflicted by their former countrymen. Commonly, outward pressure of this kind would crush all joy, faith, endurance giving way to despondency.

    But just the opposite occured. Paul says: "Your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." (2 Thessalonians 1:3 RSV) The word "hyperauxano" means "beyond measure". In connection with faith it says that their faith is growing limitlessly. Inspite of persecution they had accepted the gospel with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

    This is a miracle of grace. The apostle encourages other churches pointing at this supreme manifestation of transforming and uplifting grace (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Persecution and affliction may confront us in different degrees. Every believer has his cross to bear daily (Luke 3:23) So we need this transforming and uplifing miracle of grace every day.

    Winfried Stolpmann

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  2. A question..... The persecution that came to the early church was not due to their becoming more focused on themselves and having the perfect life, but was due to their undying desire to let others know their magnificent friend, Jesus. They could not stop talking about how he served, and loved, and overlooked their ignorance. There were many Jews who by our standards were not like the world.... perhaps?... who looked right, talked right, ate right, and worshiped right. But, they were not persecuted. Perhaps.., an odd thought, they WERE like the world. Were they caught up in status? lording it over others? looking out for their own interests? taking care of me #1? making sure there was a distinction between the "haves and the have nots" spiritually and finacially? Worldliness perhaps is not about living in or out of a particular christian cultural style. Perhaps it is in the paradigm one has about themselves, others and their purpose in life.
    Just a thought.

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    • Those are great thoughts and questions. I think sometimes we do get wrapped up in "fitting in" and doing and saying the right things, but our hearts aren't involved. It's important to remember that as that time comes we will be more and more different in thought and word and action. The difference will become more and more pronounced until there is no middle ground. I want to be on God's side, even if it means I don't fit in with the people around me.
      Thank you for your thoughts.

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    • Penny, I think your question regarding the Jews at Christ's time is "right on." They missed the King of Glory because they had the same interests as "the world," even though they lived in a very different religious culture.

      Should be a lesson for us.

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  3. Lilliane, thank you for this thought-provoking post. You wrote:

    History shows that when Christians are comfortable, the church becomes stagnant, but when Christians are challenged through persecution, affliction, or other trials, the church grows.

    And that's easy enough to see in the world right now. The prosperous West demonstrates slow church growth and stagnation. The areas of the world where life is much more difficult show much greater growth and more life.

    This year I've also observed how the Seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) keepers in Samoa have reacted to a mild form of persecution practiced by their church which now keeps Sunday. Lance Cutts, one of the lay leaders in Apia, Samoa, probably won't mind my quoting him when he wrote, "The more difficult things become, the more precious Jesus is to us." In fact, he says he wouldn't trade the difficult times for easier times, if he had the choice, because he would miss the closeness of Jesus.

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  4. Thank you lilly I needed that. There are too much middle ground in Christianity today. I think God has a standard and by his grace we should aspire to it.
    And like Daniel we would bring more glory to and save more of our fellow men from out of the confusion of Bablylon.

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  5. I had a bit of a revelation yesterday, when the preacher did a wonderful bit of bible study linking the persecution in Thessalonians with Acts Chapter 14. The "light switched on" for me when he said that another translation of the word for "to persecute" was "to pressure". Like Lillianne I cannot describe any of my experiences as persecution, but I am very familiar with the idea of pressure. While I am not saying that persecution and pressure are the same, I am all to familiar with the temptation that pressure brings on one.

    We are continually subject to pressure. Sometimes that pressure is to be quiet when one should speak up. Sometimes the pressure is to hide our Christianity because we feel embarrassed. Sometimes the pressure is to "walk on the other side of the road" when we should be stopping and sharing with others.

    Pressure, both subtle and overt is something that we all have to deal with, and maybe in the absence of life-threatening, livelihood-endangering persecution we need to apply these persecution verses to the pressures that we experience to think/behave in a way that does not reflect our relationship with Christ appropriately.

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    • You are so right, Maurice. The pressure to ignore the Holy Spirit when His leading seems inconvenient or uncomfortable is probably much more subtle and dangerous than overt persecution. The danger is, if we have not practiced listening to the Holy Spirit's urging when we are safe, we will not be able to follow it when the outcome might be much more dangerous!
      Thank you for your comments.

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      • I happened to stumble on this site and its been a delight to know that it was not an accident but I needed to be shown where I stand and to pray ernestly to make a change to stand up for God. Thank you.

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