|We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. . . .|
There was a period in church history that extended from A.D. 100 to A.D. 314, during which thousands and thousands of courageous Christian men and women sealed their fate with their blood. Secular historians are in agreement that there were 10 great persecutions—10 major attempts to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth.
It started with the wicked Caesar Nero, who presided over the death of Paul. Christians were fed to wild animals. They were killed in the Roman arenas for sport. They were torn apart. They were tortured. They were burned at the stake. The Roman emperor Diocletian thought he was so successful at eradicating Christianity that he actually had a commemorative coin struck with the words, "The Christian religion is destroyed, and the worship of the [Roman] gods is restored." Well, things didn't turn out as well as Diocletian thought, because the church marches on. And what is left of Rome? What is left of Caesar? A salad, perhaps, but not much else. As Jesus said of His church, the gates of hell will not prevail against it (see Matthew 16:18).
When someone mocks us or criticizes us or wants to do physical harm to us because we are followers of Jesus Christ, we tend to think of this as the worst thing that can happen. But it is also a badge of honor. Because if you are being persecuted, then it means you are doing something right.
God will allow persecution in our lives. The Bible says, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
We're quick to remember God's promises of provision and protection. But we're not so eager to hold on to God's promise of persecution. Yet it can have a positive impact on our lives.