“I know it’s hard to understand what it is like to be persecuted.” The minister began as he quietly cleared his throat. “We live in a society that is safe and secure and we have homes and jobs.”
This was the second time in two months I had heard this kind of message from clergy. I had to literally hold myself in the pew to keep from running to the front of the sanctuary and telling each pastor they were wrong! We are at War! Lack of understanding about our world is spreading confusion through the church and turning many people away from God. People do not come to church to find out how good they have it. They come to church to find out answers as to why bad things are happening to them.
A little girl with hearing aids in both ears was sitting next to me in the church pew. An elderly woman who could barely stand up during prayers and singing sat on the opposite side of the girl’s father. A man in front of me had a cold and was continually wiping his nose and covering his mouth when he coughed. Another lady was so bent over from osteoporoses that she could barely see where she was walking when she went to the front of the sanctuary for communion. There was a woman sitting on the opposite side of the church with a turban wrapped around her head because she had lost her hair while going through chemotherapy. Another man was on crouches. Another woman was suffering from mental illness. Grandparents behind me were beseeching God in prayer because their son’s family’s house was robbed and they lost many valuable possessions. A pregnant woman in the balcony just found out that her unborn child was sick. I was surrounded by people that were suffering and being persecuted from sicknesses, job loss and multiple problems that they were too afraid to admit to their friends at church.
Today’s church is longing to be fed the needed nutrition they need in order to hold onto God and believe that He is on their side. They need ministers to understand that even if they have a job and a home, they need encouraging words of help from the Bible. That is the reason why people go to church. They need ministers that can interpret what is happening to them so they can receive hope and enough strength to keep going forward even when it is hard.
John 15: 18-20, “‘If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: “No slave is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too.’”
If you follow Jesus you will go through persecution in the world that will lead to human suffering. We are at War! It is a war that tests us through every day life experiences. This is the reason that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He healed the sick, fed the five thousand, calmed the stormy sea and cast out demons. These were the problems the people faced individually. The people needed to know that God cared about them and that He would help them in their every day needs.
John 15: 5&6: “‘I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. Whoever does not remain in me is thrown out like a branch and dries up; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, where they are burned.’”
Jesus is the vine and Christians are the branches. Jesus is explaining the cost of living in the world. We are in a battle between right and wrong and the only way we will survive is by holding tightly to Jesus. An extraordinary thing happens when you follow Jesus, you bear fruit. Fruit is growth on the vine. That means when we are persecuted by going through something bad, we gain knowledge from the trials and become stronger because of our faith in Jesus. This is the reason why a woman with faith who has cancer never gives up. She trusts her life to Jesus and believes He has a purpose for her going through cancer. A man who has just lost his job is not afraid. He trust in Jesus and believes that He will help Him find a better job than he had before. The opposite side of this coin is what happens when we let go of Jesus. We become dead branches. Dead branches are used for firewood. These are the people who stop holding onto Jesus. They allow their sicknesses to become a reason to believe in nothing. The same thing happens when a woman loses her child to a disease. She is mad at God and refuses to trust her child’s life to Him. The people who let go of God die and become firewood.
We are at war! This is the reason why everyone that is following Jesus Christ is going through something. Satan wants to defeat us but Jesus wants to help us win the personal battles we face! Jesus wants to wrap us in his arms and comfort us. He wants to wipe away our tears and give us hope that we have a future life in heaven that is far better than our life here.
John 15: 7&8: “‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it. My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples.’”
Jesus is the Savior of the world. He came to help us understand that when we go through bad things, He will be there with us. Following Jesus comes with a cost because we will go through many tests in the world. We must pray for His help. We must listen to the Holy Spirit who is working in our individual lives. We must hold tightly to our faith and pray for protection from Satan because when we commit our ways to Christ; we are at war! This is the reason why we need to read our Bibles daily and pray to our heavenly Father.
Luke 3:16: “So John said to all of them, ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming who is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’”
We need God in our lives in order to win against the fire that is trying to consume our lives. Fire stands for tribulations. Fire is the persecution we come under when we are learning the lessons the world has to teach us. The only way we can win is with the help of Jesus Christ. This is the reason why Jesus came and died for our sins. He came that we would have life in a world that is ruled by Satan. This is the reason why bad things happen to good Christian people. When we endure the fire and overcome the test, we win the victory over the world, because we are at war!
1 John 5:3-5,”For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us, because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”