And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 NLT
About once a week I have to correct my young elementary kids for this specific action. “Pastor Greg, HE”S COPYING me”. They are telling the truth. Another child is saying everything exactly the same after the other child.
I respond in two ways. First, I tell the child to start saying some wonderful things about themselves, like “Jen is smart, Jen is kind, Jen is the best friend ever.” Usually the copy-er continues saying the good things. Then I include the other child who is doing the copying in some good declarations. “Ty is kind, Ty is a great student. Ty makes good choices.” Usually the one complaining will make the first confessions, but they refuse to speak the blessings over the person who is making fun of them.
Secondly, I tell them that copying someone is a way of saying that you “like” them. Being young, both students recoil at this comment. Other children will quickly ooh and ahh at the budding friendship.
Paul commends the Thessalonian followers of Jesus for their imitation of the Jewish churches to suffer well. Specifically they were being ill treated because of their faith in living like Jesus.
Suffering persecution is not the same thing as overcoming temptation or denying your sinful flesh. The latter are training grounds to denying one’s self in order to be obedient to following the Spirit’s leading in your life. Those who learn how to deny the flesh are preparing themselves to stand strong under persecution.
Jesus was clear that persecution would come to his followers. 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. John 15:18-21.
Aspects of suffering well for persecution in following Jesus
- Return blessing for cursing. Some of the hatred will be in the form of hurtful words directed at you. The devil will allow horrible accusations to be made about you, your motives, and your actions. Jesus said that we are to bless those who curse us, not get into an argument to try and prove that they are wrong.
- Physical persecution hurts the body and emotions, but Jesus draws ever closer to the heart. Jesus told us to not fear those who can hurt the body, but fear God who controls our eternal destiny. Saying and believing the right things while being physically abused will keep your heart focused on Jesus. Look at Stephen’s response just before being stoned to death. Acts 7:51-58.
- Enduring persecution builds faith for other believers. After Peter and John were rebuked by the Sanhedrin officials, the church (the other disciples and new followers of Jesus) prayed for God to give them MORE boldness to proclaim the good news to those who needed it.
- His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42
- Notice they did not seek lawsuits
- Notice they did not cry and complain about the ill treatment
- Notice they did not start a rally to show the injustice of the officials
- They prayed for more grace, love and boldness
- God leads some to flee persecution and some to stay. One is not more spiritual than the other.
- We are called to pray for those enduring suffering.
- Subscribe to organizations like Voice of the Martyrs to open your eyes to the persecution of the church in our world. Then learn how to pray and become imitators of their faith.
America has been blessed for a long season of peace for the church. Times are changing. But the lost are still desperate for the good news of Jesus, even if they are blinded to His love at the moment. We ask and seek revival and blessing for America. But we may learn something from our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted right now in the world – how do we suffer well for our faith in Jesus?
Blessings Love y’all