A few months ago when we celebrated 10 years in Africa, I mentioned that I would share some verses that have encouraged us to keep going in ministry, even when outward results seem unimpressive. I have since shared one passage that encourages us that God will build His church. Today I wanted to share a verse that strengthened me during one of our darkest trials.
I appreciated the advice given here to Baptist Missionary Women on how to handle persecution. One of the things I most appreciated in that article was that the writer assumes that we will experience persecution. My life was fairly free from persecution in the States, so I have always felt cautious about claiming to be persecuted in any way. The word “persecution” seems like such a strong word for what most of us have experienced in comparison to what the early church experienced, or what some people in Communistic or Muslim countries experience today.
Nevertheless, when you enter a stronghold of Satan, where he has had free realm for centuries, you must expect that your adversary the Devil will seek to devour you, or at the least, to get you back out of his domain. Missionaries will almost certainly experience persecution, even if they didn’t in the States, because of entering another area that might not be so friendly to Christianity (perhaps even one of those countries mentioned above). I also appreciated the balance of the writer in showing how some persecution can come about because of our own faults or stupidity!
Late in our first term, we experienced what seemed like a Satanic attack from one of our friends and church members. It almost numbed me with fright. I couldn’t think clearly and was in panic mode. “Get me out of here!” was the dangerous reaction slamming through my brain.
By God’s grace, He kept me here. I was reading through Philippians, and the verses at the end of chapter one, especially verses 28-30 returned some calm to my soul and helped me to persevere.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
When you experience unexpected and “unreasonable” persecution that paralyzes you with fear, you are having the same conflict that Paul had, and you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Paul admits here that you may be terrified. This is the conflict, or the struggle. We will be terrified, but instead should feel encouraged and joyful! We should view persecution as a confirmation that we are saved, that we are His. The apostles and early disciples counted themselves unworthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. They felt joy to do so. The contrast between their attitude and mine illuminated my weakness.
As with so many other issues in Christianity, this struggle comes down to right feelings (orthopathy). You can’t control this kind of persecution, initiated by Satan and his followers; in fact, that’s sometimes why it’s so terrifying–it was completely unexpected! But you can in some ways control your feelings about it. It may seem impossible, but you must with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, somehow change from the extremes on the feelings spectrum of terror to joy.