…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
It’s true that I have not yet faced what can truly be called “persecution” in my Christian walk. Oh, I’ve had a little mockery here and there, but unlike so many of my fellows, I have also enjoyed the luxurious freedom to read my Bible every single day. I am able to purchase numerous commentaries, Bible translations, and Bible study materials. Not only that, but I meet frequently and openly with others to discuss the Word, to pray, and to worship — and I am able to do all these things without fear of being arrested, beaten, slaughtered, or having my offspring taken into state custody.
Still, persecution has been on my mind lately. For one thing, my heart breaks to hear of the pain and the wretchedness experienced by so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. And while I live in a free land at present, I have enough of a grasp of history to understand the changeable and uncertain nature of governments, borders, and empires. My current freedoms are neither guaranteed nor even likely to last for many more generations, and I cannot promise my children that the relatively friendly world we operate within will be there for the remainder of our lives.
It is a sobering fact that one thing Christians are guaranteed in this life is persecution. In the same letter that today’s opening Scripture came from, Paul also assured Timothy, “Indeed,all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).
Does that scare me? If I am honest, I must admit that it frequently does. However, we who are in Christ are given another guarantee, one that should help us to endure even the most heinous of circumstances; one that I hang on to when fear constricts my heart. Summed up, it is the guarantee that whatever we endure here and now will be worth the hope of eternity we look forward to once we have cast aside these old tents and taken up residence in our true homes.
We have this guarantee in the words of Jesus, whose sacrifice ensured that the suffering of those who are in Him will not last for eternity: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 We also have it in Paul’s letter to another ancient church, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
So I keep these things in mind. For now, I enjoy my freedoms. I relish my time in the Word and savor public worship and prayer meetings. I am also preparing both myself and my children for what may come, knowing full well that we may or may not live to see true persecution on this hemisphere of the globe.
Whether we ever see persecution or not, we are still called to be a people prepared, and so I pray daily for my family: for our sanctification, for deeper devotion, for stronger, genuine faith. I also spend time reading and reveling in the Word and encouraging my children to do so. We actively memorize and rehearse Scripture, hiding it in our hearts both so we might not sin against God and because of the possibility that what we have stored in our hearts may someday be all we have access to.
I also remind myself constantly that my God has not given me a spirit of fear. I can trust Him. I do not look forward to persecution, but neither should I let the dread of it weigh on my mind, color my decisions, or keep me from living boldly for my God even if it someday means suffering unflinchingly for Him. He has already suffered unflinchingly for me.
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6