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.
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