We hear the word persecuted, and we think of martyrs from olden times who have been faced with the tip of a sword, or a modern day teen forced to stare down the barrel of a gun. Souls at the ultimate crossroads, commanded to make the choice to either stand in faith for our Savior's name or deny Him once and for all.
Those are moments we all hope we never have to experience for ourselves. The gravity of such situations cannot be measured, and have earned their rightful place in our hearts and memories. We hope that we would do the same if given the same ultimatum; we pray that if ever we were forced to cross the same line, we would do it with dignity and honor to God.
Though the stories like those mentioned remain in our minds forever, we often forget that persecution still goes on today. Around the world, there are many pockets of civilization where Christians are still persecuted. These are areas where Godís children have gone to spread the good news of the gospel, but have even in our day and time had to deal with the sometimes dire consequences of their well intended actions. Missionaries who journey to a foreign land only to find the village hostile to their message. Groups that travel thousands of miles to plant a new church in an area where there had never been one before but are then harassed at every turn. Those who have spent numerous hours and resources to help a community seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world, only to have their efforts destroyed before they could even be finished. We must always remember to hold those in such precarious areas in our hearts and prayers.
But, there are often smaller instances of persecution for Christ's name that occur right here in America- even in our own back yards. How, you say? Where?
Maybe we look at most of these situations as inconsequential, and compared with the sacrifices that others have made and continue to make, they are insignificant in a lot of ways. But I don't believe that God finds even the smallest attack that His children go through for His name or in His service to be trivial at all. The love He has for us is even greater than that of an earthly parent; His heart aches just as ours do for the trials that our children go through. Yes, we may get more upset depending on the seriousness or nature of what's going on with our child, but we never become uncaring about the sticks thrown at them at the playground, the bad names a bully might call them, or the scraped hands and knees they've received from being pushed from their bike. Our first instincts are still to throw our arms open, run to them, and to embrace them with all the love and comfort we can muster, while telling them that everything will be alright.
So, what is the spiritual equivalent to sticks and stones? First, there are times when we are looked down upon, talked about, and made fun of just for being Christians. People who call us freaks or holy-rollers. Those who won't listen to anything we have to say because they've experienced one or two who were hypocrites and now they believe that we all are. Family that won't come to visit because they know they're going to be face to face with your Christian lifestyle or the lack of Christ in their own lives. All of these are common occurrences that hurt our hearts from time to time.
Sometimes the persecution can even come from fellow Christians. Ever had anyone to tell you that something God had told you to do was crazy? That you shouldn't be doing it? Or how about hearing that some are saying you're trying to run everything or going overboard when you're just so on fire for Jesus that you want to be involved in any way you can? Ever known someone who always seems to find some petty reason for being against everything you attempt to do for the Lord? Who make comments telling you that you're taking this religion thing too far? Even make you feel bad for tithing or not wanting to miss a service?
These, too, are instances of modern-day persecution. Not serious enough, admittedly, to have live or die consequences, but they are matters which hurt us, nonetheless, and the hurt we feel has been imposed upon us for His sake. We've all used the old school-yard reply that words can never hurt us, but we all know that this is far from the truth of the matter, even though we hate to admit it most of the time.
Especially when your motives and actions are based upon the joy you have in Christ, having someone go against that is hard. Discouraging and disheartening. Makes you wonder if anything you do is actually worth it. If youíre making any difference by following His directions. Sometimes, our response it to just quit. Give it all up. What's the use in trying so hard to please God when you're making enemies of the world around you?
Dear friend, donít give in to words or people that are trying to bring you down when youíre serving the Savior. Living for and working for Him is called The Good Fight for a reason: Most of the time, it involves struggle. There will probably never be a time during your journey here on earth when the going will be easy or critic-free. Those who wish for your failure may be temporarily happy if they succeed in hindering your progress, but you, and more importantly God, will definitely not be. Neither will the unseen souls that are waiting to hear the message that you are offering or living.
Set your head and heart on Him, and your eyes straight ahead of you in the direction that He has shown you to go. To the right and left you may hear jeers more often than the cheers, but always remember that the race is worth running, and Heís counting on you to win!