November 8 I Thursday
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” —John 15:18
The life of Jesus Christ was characterized by persecution, and the church of Jesus Christ was built on persecution. There are two basic reasons: one intellectual and the other volitional.
Intellectually, the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make sense to the natural mind. It is not that the Gospel is intellectually untenable, but rather it is spiritual truth that needs to be spiritually discerned. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” In John 14:17, Jesus says of the Spirit, “The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.”
Here is the dilemma. The most wonderful message ever to be heard cannot be understood simply by intellectual process. There has to be spiritual discernment and revelation in a person’s heart that comes from God. This is part of the evidence of the Gospel’s authenticity. The natural mind does not make sense of it, but when we are seeking the truth, the Holy Spirit gives understanding of spiritual truths and as we come into relationship with Jesus Christ, a beautiful world opens to us. On the other hand, people are usually afraid of what they do not understand, which explains why many deny the Gospel and consider it foolishness.
The will of a person is also involved. The heart of the Christian message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus said to the people, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own” (John 7:17). To discover what is true, we have to do the will of God. This involves the submission of our lives to Him, but many people choose to retain their independence and freedom to do as they please. Consequently, many resist, fight and oppose the church.
In Peter’s first letter to Christians scattered across the world, he writes about suffering grief in all kinds of trials. He says, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Persecution reveals a genuine trust in God, and where it is taking place there is usually a work of God being accomplished. Rather than an adverse effect, God frequently uses persecution as a force that has proven throughout the ages to expand and empower the church of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord, when faced with persecution, I pray You will be my strength and courage, for I would like nothing more than to see Your church expand to the ends of this earth. Thank You, Lord.